I want more boardgames made by Black designers. You should too.
Over 5000 boardgames were released in the US last year. How many of those were made by Black game designers or featuring Black culture themes?
I’m willing to bet it’s not 600, which is 12% of 5000 to reflect the percentage of Black people in the United States population. I hope it’s at least 100, but I’m doubtful. Here’s a arguably better question…has anyone even cared to count?
This isn’t exactly what I was thinking about when I created Rap Godz. But in traveling around the country this past year and a half building and playtesting a game of my own, I’ve been in the presence of hundreds of boardgame designers. I can count less than 5 who were black. It’s not limited to designers either. Nobody would argue with the fact that the boardgame scene is a blackness void.
On multiple occasions, I’ve been to a gaming convention with thousands of people and encountered more black facilities workers and black convention center employees than black attendees.
Realizing that is usually my convention low point. Now I’m starting to get used to it, and that’s probably not a good thing.
Insert Person of Color
Representation in boardgames is happening in mostly shallow forms. What you see typically is going to be a human character in a game or on a box that has a darker skin tone. I’m glad that’s happening, but it’s somewhat meaningless if you are a person who actually cares about diversity in games. There are some exceptions, but they feel few and far between.
True diversity needs more intention, knowledge, and understanding of different cultures. It’s very common now to build games with “culture” themes. I know that there is often some decent research done as a part of the creation process for these games. And no doubt many of them are great games but they do very little to connect the game player with the culture they represent in a interesting way. I want that to change.
So I started a company
As a Black American, I feel most equipped to address this problem for Black American culture. That ultimately led to my brother and I starting a company, Board Game Brothas (BGB).
We were initially just designing a game about Hip Hop because it was something we loved. Going through the process, we realized that we had an opportunity to do more and could do more because of who we are and where we come from. We focused on that connection to the culture and we made sure it was present in both the games mechanics and presentation.
My favorite moments watching people play Rap Godz, happens about halfway through each game. Players are analyzing each other’s career timeline and resources (money, rap skill, street cred), which are determined by the cards played and position on the game board respectively, and they are trying to trying to guess which real life rappers they mostly closely resemble. “Oh so you got a lot of street cred and you somehow got into movies and TV, you’re basically Ice T. Ok ok and you’re a woman rapper who has skills and you’re popping on social media, gotta be like a Cardi B or something.” This scenario is something I’ve seen so rarely in games. Where the interactions extend well beyond the game and into the culture it seeks to represent.
We want to make more games like this, but we also want to take it a step further. We want to go out in the Black community and teach the process of designing and publishing boardgames. Hopefully the word spreads and more Black designers and ultimately Black games emerge. We’ll stop when our people and culture represents 12% of the games being made. I think if that happens, everybody wins. I don’t believe anyone would complain if there were slightly fewer games about, crawling through dungeons, colonizing a new land, or cultivating crops. I won’t miss those.
If you want to contribute to this mission, our premier game, Rap Godz, is available for pre-order right now on Kickstarter.
- $40 will get you a copy of the game
- $70 will get you one copy for you + one copy for a community center
- Plenty of other reward options available…