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April 13, 2021

Twilight of the White Boy Club

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Twilight of the White Boy Club
There Will Be Games

Might as well have a "No Blacks, No Girls" sign on the box...

Today’s piece was scheduled to be a review of Ares Games’ Last Aurora, a post-apocalyptic adventure game. I played it and thought it was decent, but it’s a game that has a huge problem. Our very own Matt Thrower pointed it out on Twitter with the photograph above. It should be readily apparent what is wrong in that picture. The “Leaders”, save for a token female, are all white men. The co-pilots are all hot white girls. In this post-apocalypse, only white people survived, and the power dynamic is clearly sexist. To be frank about it, “it’s a good game if you are a white guy” is not a review I care to write and ultimately Last Aurora is a failure. A game that cannot adequately represent as many folks as possible through a diverse, inclusive cast of characters isn’t worth the time or effort when there are plenty of games available that acknowledge that players aren’t just white males.

But here’s the reality of it. Hobby gaming has – until just very recently - been largely by, for, and about white males.  “Gamer” often meant a white straight male by default, regardless of the fact that pioneers like Jennifer Schlickbernd and Janelle Jaquays were present and often working alongside men that have received far more credit.  Also despite the fact that there have always been queer, non-white, non-binary, and female game players, the hobby has traditionally been a pretty white, male, middle-class thing from the industry down to the local gatekeeping white boy club overlords. I grew up playing games in the 80s and 90s and those were times when token representation was barely even practiced and racist, sexist, homophobic, and transphobic images, content, and attitudes were common- because gaming was rife with white male privilege and white male supremacy. 

It wasn’t even 20 years ago that Puerto Rico’s inherently racist narrative of brown “colonist” disks harvesting tobacco barely caused a brow to furrow. Today, we have “accidental” racists like Daniele Tacsini suddenly learning that racism is a thing and far-right scum like Robert Burke lurking in the fringes. The owner of Funagain Games is posting sexist retorts on social media. And then there’s the batshit Libertarian uncle of the hobby, Phil Eklund. There are still content creators that think it’s funny to put on ethnic costumes and adopt stereotypical accents to review games about other cultures. Publishers still use incredibly dated “Asian” fonts to impart a tone of “Orientalism”. There is still a huge demand for 4x games, where you Explore regions that aren’t yours, Exterminate whoever is there, Expand into them, and Exploit the resources. Noted rune goon, Aryan Ubermensch, terrible RPG designer, and convicted murderer Varg Vikernes locked horns a couple of months ago with Osprey Games and Scott Malthouse for daring to depict people of color in Romance of the Perilous Lands, a game about Arthurian-era fantasy England. 

And here I am calling out a brand new game and declining to review it for not bothering to acknowledge that the era of the white boy’s club is over. So the fight isn’t over. But there is progress.

The good news though is that all of the above- from Varg fucking Vikernes to Last Aurora- is on the way out. The recent explosion of hobby gaming is in no small part due to the increase in inclusivity, representation, and diversity. The audience is wider, the subject matter broader, and the content better represents more people. But the bad news is that all of the above are still being dragged along with the successes of the gaming community and industry because some folks just can’t stand to let the old white boy club baggage go. It’s time to cut loose the dead weight and move forward toward a hobby where everyone- apart from fascists- is welcome at the table.

Some of what needs to be cut loose is hard to acknowledge for white people such as myself, speaking from positions of privilege. For example, are you ready to come to terms with the fact that some very popular, very pervasive gaming subjects are by their very nature exclusionary? Are you willing to pass on that 8.5 BGG rated game that is about European colonization?  Will you stop supporting publishers that enable people like Phil Eklund? Can you stop making excuses and start taking action to shake free the ideas, attitudes, and concepts that have kept gaming a white boy club?

The truth of it is that I’ve run a white boy club myself, having worked in the industry. I’m thinking back to the time when I had a game shop. We were on the Georgia Tech campus in Atlanta, and we had what was probably an unusually high number of Black customers – and almost uniformly, they were all coming in to play, buy, and talk Vs. This was a Marvel and DC CCG and my shop was one of the top stores in the region running it. We had a great community and I loved having these enthusiastic, committed players elevating the shop. But this didn’t stop my business partner (the bad one) from commenting “maybe we should cut the hours on Sunday night, I’m a little concerned about the criminal element here”. Sunday night was Vs. night. Typical white fear of urban Blackness. Gotta keep the white boy club white. I shut that idea right down.

One day I was playing a game of Vs. with a kid who was waiting for his mom to pick him up. She came in a little before we finished the match so she looked around. She pulled a game off the shelf and had an incredulous look. I heard her say “what kind of games are they selling here?”. She put the game back on the shelf and I saw that it was one that at the time I really liked and played a lot, one that was hugely popular and still well regarded today. It was Martin Wallace’s Struggle of Empires. And there on the side of the box was an image of a black man in chains.

I want to be clear that I don’t give a fuck about historical authenticity in games, they are all fiction. Historical accuracy is often an excuse for white supremacist attitudes and even historical games with the best intentions are often problematic. As Hamilton has famously demonstrated, people of any ancestry or culture can participate in historical fiction. But at the time I didn’t think that way and up to that moment I probably would have defended it as “historical” myself. Regardless, I was phenomenally embarrassed. Absolutely mortified. Now, I could have gone over and made a big fuss about “historical games, blah blah blah” but the fact of the matter is that the image and the subject of colonization on a board game product immediately cast this mother and by proxy her son as marginalized outsiders in my store, it was a reminder that they were in a white boy’s club. I took the game off the shelf and I didn’t carry it anymore. I don’t think I ever even played it again.

This incident also made me think about why these Black kids were into Vs. but not into Warhammer, D&D, Magic, or any of the board games. Marvel and DC may have their own sins against diversity and inclusion, but as a gaming subject matter it’s not about destroying or subjugating another culture, white governments fighting over territory or resources, or European history. It’s no fucking wonder they were playing a game about Spider-Man punching Batman instead of Struggle of Empires or Puerto Rico, two of the most popular white boy club games at the time.  Game makers at the time were making virtually no effort to produce titles with diverse, inclusive subject matter or to adequately represent anyone other than white males.

But here in 2021, it’s a different gaming world and it falls on us to see a situation like Last Aurora and put a hard stop to it. “We didn’t think about it” or “In Italy it’s not a big deal” or whatever is not a valid excuse any longer. Neither is “we’ll fix it in the expansion”. And if the excuse is that the characters are depictions of the creators and friends, family or backers I'm still not letting it off the hook. When you design a game, you are engaging in an alchemical process whereby players transform the base material of rules and components into the gold of an executed, performed game. In order for this to work, every player has to be adequately represented and acknowledged. Maybe this means providing subject matter that does not alienate or marginalize, maybe this means supplying sufficient character options to support as many types of players as possible, or maybe this means avoiding stereotypes or caricatures. But whatever you do in order for a game to be successful today it simply must appeal beyond the confines of the last vestiges of gaming’s white boy club. It’s what we should be demanding and supporting, especially those of us who have spent decades in this hobby.

There Will Be Games
Michael Barnes (He/Him)
Senior Board Game Reviews Editor

Sometime in the early 1980s, MichaelBarnes’ parents thought it would be a good idea to buy him a board game to keep him busy with some friends during one of those high-pressure, “free” timeshare vacations. It turned out to be a terrible idea, because the game was TSR’s Dungeon! - and the rest, as they say, is history. Michael has been involved with writing professionally about games since 2002, when he busked for store credit writing for Boulder Games’ newsletter. He has written for a number of international hobby gaming periodicals and popular Web sites. From 2004-2008, he was the co-owner of Atlanta Game Factory, a brick-and-mortar retail store. He is currently the co-founder of FortressAT.com and Nohighscores.com as well as the Editor-in-Chief of Miniature Market’s Review Corner feature. He is married with two childen and when he’s not playing some kind of game he enjoys stockpiling trivial information about music, comics and film.

Articles by Michael

Michael Barnes
Senior Board Game Reviews Editor

Articles by Michael

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Jackwraith's Avatar
Jackwraith replied the topic: #318837 04 Feb 2021 19:55
Twilight of the White Boy Club sounds like a New Wave album, circa 1983.
Sagrilarus's Avatar
Sagrilarus replied the topic: #318845 04 Feb 2021 22:29
is worth a look, though very limited in its scope. I think there’s a pretty big debate to be had on the subject(s), and I don’t you can handwave away the role history plays in games depicting historic events. That said, the choice of historic events chosen for depiction in games continue to be white as hell. Frankly, most historians wouldn’t survive close scrutiny of their writing, where it is far simpler to present the broader spectrum of humanity because the reader isn’t forced into taking on a role in it.

Like it or not we’re in a deeply rutted road where breaking away from bad habits is hard to do. In a time where we’ve been brutally reminded just how many people are more than happy to continue oppression and stigmatism it will take concerted effort to break out onto a new path. That will require overt action carried out by leaders that get people to follow them.
ubarose's Avatar
ubarose replied the topic: #318846 05 Feb 2021 01:11
I think you are right. We don’t have to give these sorts of games the time of day. Certainly don’t need to waste reviews time , our money or the site’s bandwidth on them. There are 5000 games published annually. It is no longer difficult to find ones that are more inclusive. Personally, I never feel like I’m missing out on anything when I take a pass at yet another bland white boy fantasy.
Josh Look's Avatar
Josh Look replied the topic: #318847 05 Feb 2021 07:36
Thank you for writing this, Michael, very on the money and needed to be said.

I don't want to be the voice of doubt, but there is something that I find to be quite frustrating. Over the last several years, we've seen various people expose themselves for being complete shitbags, or the general course of the world pushes us away from problematic topics. We, on this side of the fence, like to loudly declare, "NO MORE," but I can't tell you how many times I've seen those same people bend over backwards to fit that new Harry Potter or Sandy Peterson game into their shelves. I've seen a whole lot of people announce their commitment to the cause but suddenly make excuses for themselves when it's something they want to CONSOOM. Just yesterday I saw someone who I really respect say, "I can handle bad opinions," after making it abundantly clear last June that racist bullshit will not be tolerated. No, it doesn't fucking work that way. These people also need to be taken to task.

The Tacsini games I owned are already out of the house, both of which I quite liked, but that's not something I want sitting on my self for all to see and that's not a message of exclusion I want anywhere in my life. I'm sure many will look at their copies of white boy club Struggle of Empires, transphobic Harry Potter and "What about white slavery?" Sandy Peterson bullshit fucking terrible Cthulhu Wars and say, "Well, I already bought it, the damage is done," or, "I've had too many good times with it, I can't get rid of it." Yes. Yes you fucking can.

I think what I'm saying is that there's an awful lot of rallying around a cause going on from folks who for a variety of reasons aren't willing to follow through or don't actually care when they get down to it. We don't get the change we want unless we stop giving this shit a platform, and that platform shouldn't be limited to the internet.
jason10mm's Avatar
jason10mm replied the topic: #318848 05 Feb 2021 09:11
I think Michael may have been a bit too hasty in his judgement or at least overreacted a smidge. Looking over the game, there are what appear to be minority characters ("renegade" for sure, "Travelers", possibly "Preacher", "guide", "scrap dealer" in the expansion). Plus the game is set in the arctic or near it, places that are like 95% white. So it is, IMHO, a bit forgivable if there aren't a ton of ethnicities other than white appearing folk (to the extent you can see anything in some of the characters with only eyes shown).

As for the co-pilot thing, if they are chosen by the leader for their sexiness then presumably the female leader is LGBT since she has a female co-pilot as well? I don't think these characters are even given names, much less any kind of backstory or any indication of their sexuality since even having different art for those cards was apparently a stretch goal. So you can imprint any persona you want on them. The game definitely has a "wintery Mad Max sexy" aesthetic (which, IMHO, is a MUCH more valid criticism against ALL media, not just this one game) that does sorta necessitate pretty people in tight clothing and rugged masculinity.

The game got less than 2 thousand backers on KS. I think we overestimate just how broad of an appeal most games get, or even need, to be 'successful". These aren't blockbuster movies costing hundreds of millions that need to be watched by billions in order to turn a profit. A board game can have an appeal only to a niche demographic and still be quite successful if the expectations are modest to begin with. IMHO this should be encouraged because it allows the designer and art team full creativity of their vision without having to resort to some type of checklist (often one that differs by the day).

I've said it here before, rather than lambast the game and the distributor for a couple of art images, why not go find a minority designed game with all POC art to signal boost? Why trash this game, especially with criticism that is apparently false, or at least exaggerated (that only white people survived in the game) instead of just ignoring it?

It is a good rant though, look forward to your criticism of my criticism of your criticism! :P
Rugerfred's Avatar
Rugerfred replied the topic: #318849 05 Feb 2021 09:33
I am male and Italian. Thank you a lot for this article. It's so frustrating to see your game scene being kept anchored to problematic behaviors and coming up with excuses. We need to change. The community and hobby CAN and MUST be better!
ubarose's Avatar
ubarose replied the topic: #318850 05 Feb 2021 09:47

jason10mm wrote: Plus the game is set in the arctic or near it, places that are like 95% white. So it is, IMHO, a bit forgivable if there aren't a ton of ethnicities other than white appearing folk


Saami, Nenets, Khanty, Evenk, Chukchi, Aleut, Yupik and Inuit are a few of the Arctic peoples.
jason10mm's Avatar
jason10mm replied the topic: #318851 05 Feb 2021 10:04
Some further thoughts, less playing Devil's Advocate like I did above.

I've often been curious at how much just some art can drive player engagement. This game is a good example.

The player isn't playing themself in the game, nor does it appear to have more than the most superficial and minimal amount of role-play elements to make the player feel attached to their leader and co-pilot. Yet there isn't much of any in the way of story or flavor text to explain/justify why these SPECIFIC art profiles are necessary. I.e. it isn't Tom, his sons Jack and Sven, and his daughter Luda (to explain the leader gender and racial mix) with the remnants of a nunnery (to explain the co-pilot genders). So in that sense the artwork is essentially meaningless in the game other than evoking a sense of cold post-apocalyptic scandinavian theme.

So does it matter to the PLAYER what their in-game avatar looks like? As a white guy it usually isn't difficult to pick an avatar that looks similar to me in almost any game, or pick one that appeals to me for whatever reason. So player engagement based on art is rarely, if ever, a concern. But it is an oft quoted statement that "the game had no one that looked like me" in a lot of female or minority interviews about gaming (at least the RPG ones I listen to) so certainly for at least some segment of the potential gaming audience this is a concern.

So to whom does the responsibility lie? If it is JUST game art, i.e. no game mechanic or theme really hinges on a depiction of ethnicity or gender (and quite frankly I've almost never encountered a game like this outside of an old RPG or some civilization game tracking dynasties) and it is really just the superficial art layer being focused on, why wouldn't art designers pick from more diverse character roster and conversely why are players so hung up on what their game avatar looks like on a 3 inch card?

For the former, I suspect it is just the product of a closed loop in game creation. There are still very few locations producing most of the games we see in english. Game designers, particularly individuals or small teams, are probably still in the "I'm making games for me!" mindset and they don't really need to deliberately broaden their appeal because they have little ability or requirement to reach it anyway. While a large game company with dozens of staff that thinks in term of scale far beyond even kickstarter will certainly want to hit all quadrants with either a diverse art design or an overly abstract one (or a licensed IP that takes all the responsibility away).

For the latter, again I've not had to butt up against it too often because if there is a game about polynesian island conquest that requires I play as a samoan then that is more of a novelty to me than the norm so I don't feel slighted or marginalized. But others do, especially when it is game after game after game of dour europeans doing stuff even when the game isn't set in europe. But even a POC game designer can create a fantasy game full of monoethnicity (Blood Rage, Rising Sun) so the temptation to play into a specific aesthetic at the expense of player facing representation is very strong.

How to combat this trend? I would argue that as board games (particularly non-abstract games where this is even an issue to begin with) have radically expanded their audience it is naturally falling away. Designers from a background that allows them the passion to design a game away from tried and true medieval europe are there. Artists that can paint skin with more than shades of light cream are there. Publishers willing to risk a theme outside of renaissance europe (and the savvy to market it) are there. The audience certainly is ready, they are nothing if not desperate for new stuff. Even if the conservative approach of "here is a lavish minis game about knights jousting!" earns more on KS than "here is a lavish minis game about flying carpet jousting!" at least in this era both games can get good exposure and a fair shake at it.
Josh Look's Avatar
Josh Look replied the topic: #318852 05 Feb 2021 10:22
First off, I didn't mean to give the above post a Thank You. It's the responsibility of publishers to knock it off and for us to stop giving it a pass just because it's a game that interests us. It's not just art, what we're given visually is the first level of immersion into a game world. When there isn't anyone who looks like you do on that surface level, that's not the most welcoming first impression. Not really a debate, we're past that point.

Representation matters. It works, I've seen it. People want to see themselves in important characters throughout popular culture, not just secondary, throwaway characters. That's where this game failed.
jason10mm's Avatar
jason10mm replied the topic: #318854 05 Feb 2021 10:48

ubarose wrote:

jason10mm wrote: Plus the game is set in the arctic or near it, places that are like 95% white. So it is, IMHO, a bit forgivable if there aren't a ton of ethnicities other than white appearing folk


Saami, Nenets, Khanty, Evenk, Chukchi, Aleut, Yupik and Inuit are a few of the Arctic peoples.


Very true, and they are also a tiny minority. The omission of indigenous people is a criticism that can be levelled at ANY game set in North America, northern europe, australia, or many other countries.

Plus perhaps the message is "see yah later whitey, don't let the snowstorm hit your ass on the way out!" as they drop mic and walk away like that guy on Quigley Down Under :)

Regardless, have you guys considered reaching out to the game dev or the art team? We appear to have a native Italian here that could help with any translation issues and I'm sure he would love the chance to explain his decisions since this is a game that otherwise seems like it would be right up this sites alley.
jason10mm's Avatar
jason10mm replied the topic: #318855 05 Feb 2021 11:11

Josh Look wrote: First off, I didn't mean to give the above post a Thank You. It's the responsibility of publishers to knock it off and for us to stop giving it a pass just because it's a game that interests us. It's not just art, what we're given visually is the first level of immersion into a game world. When there isn't anyone who looks like you do on that surface level, that's not the most welcoming first impression. Not really a debate, we're past that point.

Representation matters. It works, I've seen it. People want to see themselves in important characters throughout popular culture, not just secondary, throwaway characters. That's where this game failed.


You can't un thank you on this forum? I'll try not to take it personally :)

Anyway, to continue a discussion, your point about the importance of each character is a good one. Again, not to stan for this game though I'm sure no one else here believes it, it looks to me like in the original KS version there was only a white guy Leader and the red haired kinda olive skinned female co-pilot. Then they expanded the roster a bit as a stretch goal. So POC cards like the renegade could actually be pretty high on the original representation list, she just seems marginalized because of KS being KS. Naturally I know as well are the rest of you that KS "Stretch goals" are often pre-programmed parts of the initial game experience so this slight attempt at a defense is probably moot but it is possible that he hit that goal and then had to pull the "B list" art from the art team (Skeleton Crew apparently, whoever they are) which is what it is.

So an interview with the designer and art team might be pretty illuminating as to the choices folks have to make when planning a game and sorta kinda gambling on KS. They KNEW they wanted Renegade in the game and she is a POC, but they GAMBLED that the expanded leader/co-pilot roster would be reached, and those are all white appearing.

Anyway, Ares or Pendragon aren't paying me to shill and I think I've said all my points in regards to the value of art diversity WRT game appeal versus keeping a theme (however stereotypical or narrow it may be) so I'll bow out for now. I don't think this game is being deliberately exclusionary and I wonder if the design team would respond well to constructive criticism that folks out there disagree with their choices.
ubarose's Avatar
ubarose replied the topic: #318856 05 Feb 2021 11:14
Jason, I think you are lost staring at a single tree when we are talking about the forest. This game is simply a single example of the 100s, perhaps 1000s of games like it that are published annually. It just happens to have been Michael's last straw. Unlike the average consumer who can simply choose not to purchase a game that doesn't have adequate representation or is about a theme that offends them, the reviewer has both greater power and greater responsibility. Choosing not to review a game due to theme or lack of representation is a bold step.

I think the next step may be updating out review policies to state that we reserve the right not to review games with offensive or racist themes, or that lack adequately diverse representation. In the future if one of our reviewers receives a review copy of a game that does not meet our standards, we can contact the publisher and let them know that their game will not be reviewed due to the fact that it does not meet our standards, but that we would be happy to review other games in the future that do.

Of course, each of us as consumers will need to make our own choices about where we draw the line regarding what we feel comfortable buying, owning and playing. Hopefully, articles like this will raise some of our readers awareness. I know it raised mine.
Gary Sax's Avatar
Gary Sax replied the topic: #318857 05 Feb 2021 11:16
fyi, you can unthank you by pressing the thank you button again after it registers a thank you, for Josh or anyone in the audience. I've hit it by accident when I'm trying to hit a different button on occasion too.
Sagrilarus's Avatar
Sagrilarus replied the topic: #318858 05 Feb 2021 11:44
So Jason, yes, it matters. Most white people I know are scared to walk into the African American Studies section on Barnes & Nobles, so it's reasonable to assume discomfort in the opposite direction.

But here's my question -- is art so damn expensive that you can't produce 12 leaders to fill the 4 slots, 4 sets of 3 where each set has more or less equivalent stats and abilities? This seems like a really easy problem to solve that won't offend anyone, and frankly would give struggling artists more work. It would also be really cool. I'd love to see different shades (literally) of the same character that add a different flavor (not literally) to the game play.

Personalities matter to me. If the card in front of me says the character is rash and impatient it will change the way I play. 10,000 hours of role-playing does that to you. This zero-rule change addition could make the game play differently for anyone that immerses in the packaging as much as the rule set, making the overall package more inviting even for us middle-aged white males.

I know margins are tight in the industry and that Ares is a low budget operation. But jeeze, they're just cards. You generally have to purchase them in lots of 54 anyway, print one more sheet and offer everyone a choice, charge me $1 more. Put some personality into the game and open it up to groups that are underrepresented.

(And yes, I know, somebody is going to explain to me that adding 8 more cards is going to increase the cost of the game by $300 because "clearly, you don't understand how a small change to the physical components when multiplied by the printer/publisher/wholesaler/retailer mark ups results in blah blah blah blah blah." I call bullshit. Do the right thing, show leadership, get credit and expand your audience.)
Shellhead's Avatar
Shellhead replied the topic: #318859 05 Feb 2021 11:50
It seems like basic common sense that game publishers would embrace diversity in hopes of selling to a wider range of potential customers. The ones that fail to do so are either clueless or deliberately excluding people, and hopefully their sales will falter in time.
ubarose's Avatar
ubarose replied the topic: #318861 05 Feb 2021 12:15

Shellhead wrote: It seems like basic common sense that game publishers would embrace diversity in hopes of selling to a wider range of potential customers. The ones that fail to do so are either clueless or deliberately excluding people, and hopefully their sales will falter in time.


Almost 10 years ago a publisher told me he wouldn't include a Black female character in a game because it added cost to the production, but would not increase sales, and there was a risk it would decrease sales. He has since retired and his position is now held by a young woman who holds a different opinion. I am optimistic that things are changing and will continue to change.
dragonstout's Avatar
dragonstout replied the topic: #318863 05 Feb 2021 12:41

Josh Look wrote: I've seen those same people bend over backwards to fit that new Harry Potter or Sandy Peterson game into their shelves.


What's up with Sandy Petersen? I hadn't heard any news about him and a quick google search brought nothing.
Jackwraith's Avatar
Jackwraith replied the topic: #318865 05 Feb 2021 12:47
This thread explains: boardgamegeek.com/thread/1843452/abject-misogyny-bgg

You have to reveal the first post to get the actual context. Sandy quit BGG after the backlash over this thread.
dragonstout's Avatar
dragonstout replied the topic: #318866 05 Feb 2021 12:57

Jackwraith wrote: This thread explains: boardgamegeek.com/thread/1843452/abject-misogyny-bgg

You have to reveal the first post to get the actual context. Sandy quit BGG after the backlash over this thread.


Thank you, holy shit.

"Somehow I don't think that he's a "good old boy" given he grew up on D&D." LOL
WadeMonnig's Avatar
WadeMonnig replied the topic: #318868 05 Feb 2021 13:25
Re: Ares Games. Here is a quote from my Divinity Derby review "You'll notice I said god because there are literally no goddesses included in the choice of characters, which is odd in my opinion because there has never been a shortage of goddesses in folklore"
That was from a review i wrote 2 years ago. It was noticeable then.
therewillbe.games/articles-boardgame-rev...-dive-divinity-derby
Shellhead's Avatar
Shellhead replied the topic: #318869 05 Feb 2021 13:39
I think it could be acceptable for certain games to not have diversity. For example, a game taking place in a prison would understandably lack full gender representation, as co-ed prisons are probably rare. A game about the Russian Revolution would, by necessity, focus entirely on Russian (white) characters. But almost any game set in a fictional setting should be free to embrace diversity.
Jackwraith's Avatar
Jackwraith replied the topic: #318871 05 Feb 2021 14:05
Not trying to be pedantic with you, Shellhead, but that's not necessarily true. The Russian Empire was a sprawling polyglot of peoples and cultures which incorporated many millions of people who did not have a light skin tone; not least among them the descendants of the Mongols/Tatars/Turkmen who had ruled much of what became southern European Russia for centuries. This is like when people insist that games about Rome are fine with all White characters because the inhabitants of Rome were all White. Nothing could be further from the truth, as people from the Near East and Africa were regularly present in Rome and its territories from the republic to the end of the empire. Just as an example, Numidians, a kingdom where Algeria, Tunisia, and Libya currently sit, were frequent inhabitants of Rome during the republic (see: Jugurtha) and were not White.

The argument can be made that the vast majority of the inhabitants of those places and times were, in fact, White but that's not the point. The point is that, in 21st-century gaming, no matter where or when your game is set, we want everyone to be included and feel like they're being included. That means presenting visuals that acknowledge what our society looks like today, even if many may think that it isn't what society was like back then (often erroneously, as noted.) It's telling everyone that they, too, can feel like they're a part of something when sitting down to play Republic of Rome or Twilight Imperium or anything else and not like an outsider who's imposing or only tacitly accepted.
Josh Look's Avatar
Josh Look replied the topic: #318873 05 Feb 2021 14:09

dragonstout wrote:

Josh Look wrote: I've seen those same people bend over backwards to fit that new Harry Potter or Sandy Peterson game into their shelves.


What's up with Sandy Petersen? I hadn't heard any news about him and a quick google search brought nothing.


Years ago I and I'm sure others saw some very troubling posts being liked by the Peterson Games Facebook account. Turns out that was only the tip of the iceberg because his personal accounts on both Facebook and Twitter were not only liking but sharing some gross shit, in one case some "What about white slavery?" nonsense. This summer he allied with Everything Board Games, a KS hype machine account after they refused to make a statement about the BLM movement, lost almost their entire writing staff over it and went on to say to finally state that they would not be commenting on what was going on because they "saw no need to."

I'm sure some people will say, "We can't go excluding anyone with right leaning ideology," but I'm tired of that apologist excuse. The last 10 months has given me PLENTY of reason.
ubarose's Avatar
ubarose replied the topic: #318874 05 Feb 2021 14:30
Yes. A great deal of history has been white washed. I think that people's beliefs about the diversity of places and times has been greatly influenced by movies, and book illustrations.

For example, Dumas was a Black man (technically biracial). Although he never directly stated it in his books, his character descriptions implied that some where not white. However, in 20th and 21st century books and movies all the characters in The Three Musketeers and the Count of Monte Crisco are depicted as white. I have no doubt that their are board gamers who would have an aneurism if Mercedes or one of the Musketeers was depicted as non-white in a game because "hIstoRical AccUracy!"
Vysetron's Avatar
Vysetron replied the topic: #318876 05 Feb 2021 14:38
"Historical accuracy" isn't the goal of 95% of games anyway. Who cares if a hypothetical game featuring the Musketeers was all black? It doesn't make them any less Musketeer-y.

I'm tired of "but muh history" being the default excuse when most games aren't designed with anything more than window dressing