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    An analysis into Diversity in Board Games

    Often a topic that isn’t explored enough is the matter of diversity within games - both board games and video games.

    Are we playing games that are accessible? Do they include people of colour, non-binary, transgender or LGBT+ people in a meaningful way?

    It’s been raised multiple times in other media forms, especially television and cinema, where a lot of directors or producers have a duty to uphold and make accessible drama that includes as wide of a casting as possible.

    Statistics show that in 2019 36% of Hollywood films included underrepresented racial and ethnic groups, with a jaw-dropping 10% of film and TV representing the LGBTQ+.

    In board games and video games it varies. Behind the games themselves, 21% of the workforce identify as LGBTQ+, 2% identify as non-binary and 28% are women. This still brings a lot of concern from equality groups as the workforce is 70% male.

    This blog is for all those games that provide a level of accessibility that all games should aim to aspire for, including some of the most successful board games of its time.

    The all-round experience: Dungeons & Dragons

    One of the most diverse board games that has been around for decades is Dungeons and Dragons.

    You have the ability to choose from 9 races and a number of classes on top, and gender is not specified or even important to the progression of your story if you don’t want it to be.

    The beauty of D&D is that you can effectively be whoever you want to be. There’s no pressure to be the stereotypical hero and follow your destiny, but if you do, there’s no harm in that either. You wholly choose the goals of the character and all of its interactions behind those dice rolls.

    Taken from the Dungeons and Dragons website itself, “diversity is strength.” With over 50 years of history it’s fair to say that this board game has brought about a lot of games for many games we play today.

    Other board games that nail diversity

    There’s a continually growing number of board games, outside of the ones mentioned here, that strive for diversity.

    These three best-selling board games to have been released in this generation are great for sharing diversity, equality and showcasing a range of different races and identities.

    Let’s explore how these board games have performed and aim to improve diversity.

     

    One Deck Dungeon

    An image of the range of diverse characters found in the board game One Deck Dungeon. It includes 5 women, 3 of which are women of colour.


    Play as one of the range of talented women in this game. Image credit: One Deck Dungeon.


    One of these games is One Deck Dungeon - a board game released in 2014. It’s best played with 2 people but it can actually be played alone should you choose to. This can also be expanded to more people if more sets are bought.

    The game has won several awards for its success as both a solo game and a game that can be played with two people. It’s also won the hearts of many for more relevant reasons too.

    The main takeaway is that there are no present male characters, or more there are no characters that suggest non-male identities.

    There are a wide range of women to choose from with a range of skin colours. Having this just makes the game welcoming for any player keen to try this card game out.

     

    Android: Netrunner

    An image of the full layout found in the board game Android: Netrunner. It includes a series of cards, coins for use within the game all enclosed in a stylish box.

    Enjoy the best the world of dystopian gaming has to offer. Image credit: Fantasy Flight Games.


    What’s great about this two-player card game is its injection of LGBT+ representation and women of colour inclusion.

    It’s also an incredibly clever collectible card game, albeit with a similar layout to other card games like Magic: The Gathering.

    The cards are used to take down the other player either playing as a runner or as a corp (a member of a corporation), pitting against each other to win.

    It’s all a game of chance, as you’ll never know what cards your opponent has.

    Runners include a diverse range of characters with their own unique identities, traits and personalities that not only bring out a range of strong and talented cards great for each battle scenario.

     

    Wingspan

    A front box image of the board game Wingspan.

    This unique board game for all ages has been created solely by women. Image credit: Stonemaier Games.


    This beautifully designed engine-building game about choosing the best range of birds for your habitat has been put together by women.

    Released in 2019, this stunning board game has attracted plenty of popularity due to it being created by three women.

    It has also been praised for its accuracy in terms of designing the birds, giving them unique abilities based on the type of bird they are. Even the eggs and figures to accompany the game are correctly coloured and designed.

    It’s hoped board games like these are only just the beginning for non-male creators and for allowing more creators of colour, from more ethnic groups, different genders, those a part of the LGBTQ+ community, disabled players, creators and beyond can find their games to be released.

    At Exit 23 Games we have a huge range of games and add-ons that encourage diversity. Take a look at our fantasy football range.

    We also have our range of Relicblade game sets - a range of diverse skirmish games set in the age of a mythical apocalypse.

    And what about video games?

    There have been some ways in showing more diverse characters and storylines within video games. Black and ethnic minorities are still hugely underrepresented in gaming. 60% of video games revolve around the main character being white.

    However, some of the biggest examples include Krem, a trans character in BioWare’s Dragon Age: Inquisition; some of the leading characters in The Walking Dead games. BJ Blazkowicz in Wolfenstein II has multiple visions of PTSD throughout the game, as well as depicting other disabilities throughout the game.

    These are just a handful of examples yet there are still plenty of gaps and a general lack of varied characters to play from unless you have your own character creation of course.

    But as a new generation enters the fold there is still more to be done. Building games with characters that relate to their experiences and feelings will make them feel more accepted and welcome in their own skin.

    Let’s do better

    Of course, there is still a gap to meet in terms of inclusivity. Both board games and video games have a role to play that still continues to be an issue in modern day.

    It’s hoped that it’s heading in the right direction to cater to more users that are actually more common than people believe.

    Closing that gap is becoming increasingly more of a priority as we hit the next generation in gaming very soon.

    We hope to look at this as a huge opportunity for board game creators, designers and storytellers to expand their knowledge and bring about more diverse games for us all.