6 thoughts on “Assessing Gender and Racial Representation in the Board Game Industry”

  1. This is a fantastic deep dive and I’m thrilled to see content like this, particularly when it’s this thorough.

    (Though speaking as one of the designers of color mentioned, my name is actually Jonathan Ying not Jonathan Ling.)

    Again thank you for all your hard work!

    1. Mr. Ying, The author here. I can’t apologize enough for this. I’m a big fan (just a bad typist). There are no excuses here, only my profound apologies. Thanks for the kind follow up and the correction.

      P.S. As a person whose name is (always) misspelled I am quadruply (octuplely?) sorry. You do great work.

  2. Is your pre-aggregate data available anywhere? I’m curious about some things, such as how you determined Jesús Torres Castro as being a person of color.

  3. Very interesting article! Thanks for publishing it! When it comes to gender, I think your analysis is spot on. However, when it comes to race, it becomes more complicated. I have lived 22 years in Singapore, 8 years in the US, and 28 years in Norway, so I have seen how race relations work in different parts of the world. You say that 40.5% of the designers are from the US. Then why do you use US demographics as the standard that the hobby is measured by? Should European designers reflect the demographics of their countries, or of the US?

    Since gender ratios are the same everywhere, your discussion of gender is global, which is why I liked that part, but I hope you don’t mind me saying that I felt that your discussion of race was US-centric.

    A typical example is what Wei-Hwa points out. I think that Jesús Torres Castro would have been very surprised to be classified as non-white! As far as I know, he is from Spain, but you classify him as non-white just because of his name. As I said, I lived 8 years in the US, but I never really understood what the US definition of Hispanic or non-white really was. In particular, the definition of non-white is different in Europe and America. You classify people from the Middle East and North Africa as white, but in the European context, that may not the common. And in Singapore, the race equation is again different. In particular, a game with lots of Middle Eastern and North African characters would in Europe be considered a model of diversity, while you might dismiss it as all white. A Singaporean game with only Chinese characters, would be very non-diverse, while you might think of it as perfect diversity.

    As somebody who has lived on three continents, these are important issues, and I feel that many people from the US fail to see the global perspective.

    I am of course not against diversity, but I hope you understand that I sometimes find it strange that a hobby with strong European ties is measured by a US standard.

  4. Mr. Aslaksen,

    You are raising a good point here. Why the U.S. context, specifically the U.S. Census as as lens?

    I predicted in my piece that some would object to this framework as either too expansive or too limiting. You are raising some interesting contextual questions.

    The headline here with this study is the imbalance apparent in the Top-200 BGG designers (in this selected sample) is unbelievably stark. The gap is enormous …no matter where in the world you live.

    And you’ll see in my reply to Mr. Huang, that he (and you) are undeniably correct. This, I note, can be attributed to an earlier, holdover working definition I had been using. The US Census *previously* has listed Hispanic as an ethnicity on its form but that changed in post 2010, when it was eliminated as a category. “Hispanic or Latino is defined as “a person of Cuban, Mexican, Puerto Rican, South or Central American or other Spanish culture or origin.”

    So Jesús Torres Castro absolutely does not belong on the non-white male list nor does U.S. Latino designer Isaac Vega. The amended Top 200 BGG-ranked list of 3.4 percent non-white males, 2.4 percent female, 94.2 percent white males. This reduces the previous number of 12 non-white males to 10.

    No matter where you live on the planet (and I want your life by the way, it sounds amazing) I think we can agree there’s a clear and present *stark*, unequivocal, undeniable imbalance in the list, no matter which country’s demography we select as a measure.

    In this, I selected the North American market as a framework, given its growing market size and my own research context.

    I can share with the box art that there weren’t many close calls to select from in terms of this more nuanced definition of whiteness that you are questioning.

    I welcome your questions and I am hopeful that this will spark a wider dialogue in the community. I count myself among the gamers who desperately wants to see more diversity in my games, and in the hobby.

    My hopes for this study is that it will be a catalyst for further deeper quantitative and qualitative discussions about equity, diversity and inclusion in a hobby I hold dear.

    It is great to have the opportunity to talk about this, and I really appreciate your comment and engagement on the issue.

  5. Thanks for your reply. If we use the US definition of white, and include Middle Eastern and North African as white, then I believe that many European countries will be fairly close to 94.2% white, so I simply do not agree with your statement that “No matter where you live on the planet (and I want your life by the way, it sounds amazing) I think we can agree there’s a clear and present *stark*, unequivocal, undeniable imbalance in the list, no matter which country’s demography we select as a measure.”

    As I said before, I totally agree with you when it comes to women, and I myself complained when I was beta testing a board game app some time ago and all the female AIs were at “easy” level.

    But if you want to talk about race, there is no global yard stick. You can choose to compare to the US, but why should German designers try to match the US market?

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