The board game community continues to work towards inclusivity, representation and diversity, which is great to see, but of course, the road is rocky and we’re still a long way away from where we should be. It is important we continue to call out bad behaviour and it is great to see more people and companies are prepared to own up to their mistakes and genuinely try to do better. In this article, I want to look at a related question: whether it is better to look for commonalities or differences, not just in respect to calling out bad behaviour, but also more in general.
(Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash)
My starting point is that as a community, people in the board game hobby should encourage inclusivity. Everyone should be welcome, as long as they themselves are welcoming people, of course. We don’t want anyone who is trying to exclude others. So looking at what it is that we, as a group, have in common, what it is that we all share, seems to me to be very important.
Obviously, we all love board games. Sure, we don’t all like the same kind of games, but we all like to play games. In fact, it’s not just board games. It’s also card games, role-playing games and all the other games that are part of our hobby. I’ve still not found a good term that includes them all, other than maybe the word “games” on its own, and that’s why my blog has “Tabletop Games” in its name. I wanted to invite everyone who likes to play a game on a table to come to the blog. However, I do know games aren’t always played on a table, but on the floor, in your hand or maybe on your lap – and I do want all types of games, and gamers, whatever that term means, to feel welcome on the blog.
Anyway, I digress a little. The point is, what we have in common is that we like to play games. That’s a great thing that we share.
Many of us also enjoy the social aspect of playing games. It’s about sharing an experience with others. However, there are many solo players who are part of our community and part of our hobby. They must not feel excluded, but what I’m trying to say is that some of us have things in common, even if we don’t have that in common with everyone in our community.
So, commonalities can be wide-reaching or they can be restricted to smaller groups. However, ultimately they are things we share and that tie us together and make us feel part of a group.
The flip-side to this is, that anything that we share as a smaller group implies something that’s different between us and another group. Those differences can be a positive thing though. I might love resource management games that last one to two hours while others prefer dexterity games that last 15 minutes to half an hour. That’s what makes us different, but that’s also what makes this hobby so interesting. There are many different preferences and tastes in our community and there are many games that will meet those preferences and fulfil those tastes.
That is, until there isn’t a game that actually meets our expectations. I’m not talking about a game that we thought was going to be amazing, but turned out to be really disappointing. I’m talking about not seeing enough diversity represented in our hobby. Most games are aimed at white cis men. So, the differences in our community, the things that make us all unique, are not represented enough in the games we see in our hobby.
Of course, things are getting better. We’ve seen an increase in women designers and black designers recently and I do hope the trend continues and we see more gay designers, trans designers and so on, so that our hobby becomes really diverse. I also hope we see a larger diversity in the roles such as illustrators, game developers and publishers. Yet, this article isn’t about diversity, so I won’t go into this topic much more at this point.
However, I do want to illustrate that there are many differences and these differences are a good thing and we need to encourage more of them, as long as we can also find commonality in wanting to see those differences in our hobby and in being welcome to anyone and everyone.
The problem comes when differences are purely pointed out to sew the seeds of hostility and division. We don’t want to discuss whether we should have white or black designers, male or female. It’s not one against the other – it’s about us, all of us. Whenever I see discourse about “us and them” I shudder. The discussion should be about “all of us”.
Oh, and before you say it: no, I’m not saying “all lives matter.” Black lives matter – trans rights matter – these are hugely important and must not be forgotten. Positive discrimination is important to help address imbalances and try and move away from a status quo that’s purely based on a terrible history. However, as I said, that’s not the topic of this article.
My point is that sometimes two groups are pitted against each other, when they’re actually not on opposing sides. We sometimes don’t see that we’re actually going in the same direction, even if we’re coming from different starting points. I do feel that we should put more effort into finding where we can work together towards a common goal, even if we’re on different journeys and are aiming for slightly different targets – but chances are, that we can go some of the way side-by-side and help each other.
As I said at the beginning, we need to continue to call out bad behaviour. We can no longer just tolerate everything. I know I have to do better and I’m still learning. I will most likely make mistakes along the way and probably sometimes still turn a blind eye when I shouldn’t. However, I hope that I am on a similar journey to many of you and that together we can make our community an amazing place where everyone feels welcome and where all of us, however different we are to each other, can find a common goal: enjoying board games.