I’m a 36-year-old white straight male who was raised in a small countryside town in England. A place where the average person was over 50 and less than 2% of the population was born outside of the UK. It wasn’t until I moved away that I started to see how diverse the world was, and it was an eye-opening experience.
When I pick up a game, the odds are it has been designed for me and I’ll be able to relate to the characters within. It’s so likely that I don’t even think about it, as for my entire life I’ve played the role of the white male hero in countless games.
For many people the story is different.
Today I want to encourage you to move away from creating just for people like you, to consider the wider audience, and think about how your next game can be more inviting to everyone.
I know for some people this can be challenging, for many of us I don’t think the learning will ever stop and that’s not a bad thing.
The key is to continue learning, even if you start with the basics you’ll be on the right steps.
Here are some easy ways to get started:
- Write your rulebook from a non-gendered perspective, you don’t need to use the word he.
- Design characters that include different races, genders, and disabilities, while making sure to avoid stereotypes.
- When picking a theme, avoid challenging subjects unless you can be confident in your abilities to understand the impact the topic may have on people from all different backgrounds.
- Make sure your playtesting groups include a diverse group of people.
Keep in mind this is not a tick box exercise, this is just the absolute minimum all of us should be doing.
There are many ways to better understand this topic and to create more inclusive games, but a few suggestions I have are:
- Spend time researching, reading articles, and watching videos. Shelf Stories is a great channel for industry topics, but you should also look at non-industry content too.
- Try to surround yourself with a more diverse group of people, a starting point for this is looking at the people you work with, and those you follow on social media.
- Work with a cultural consultant and take note of everything they say.
- Listen to what others have to say, it’s not always easy to hear your way of thinking may not be right, but it will help you better yourself and your games.
When it comes to board games, everyone deserves a place at the table and as creators, it’s our job to make them feel welcome.