About the talk
Inclusivity in video games has been something discussed for several years in depth, but the topic doesn’t come up as much in the board game industry. When it is, it’s often written off as a non-issue. In this talk I will be going over subjects such as designing themes, player interactions, artwork, and rules to be as inclusive as possible while not sacrificing your creative visions.
Mattie is a transgender game designer, blogger, and software engineer. She recently signed her first game design for publication.View the profile
Hey there, I'm Julian Styles. And I'm the community manager here at pixelpop. I'm happy to introduce our next session, designing board games for inclusivity with our speaker. Maddie Schrader. Maddie is a transgender game designer, logger and software engineer. She recently designed her first game design for publication. So, please give a round of applause and a warm. Welcome to Maddie. Hi, and welcome to pixel Pop Festival, 2020. I'm Maddie Schrader. And this is designing board games for inclusivity. How many inclusive in your design
without sacrificing your Creative Vision? A little about myself. I'm from Springfield, Illinois, and I'm a software engineer by trade. I have worked in the library manufacturing and Healthcare Industries. As a hobbyist board game designer. I worked on two games so far. The first is walking doggos, which I sell published about two years ago, but recently got signed by Sapphire city games. To be published under the tentative title hacking hounds. I've also worked on a game called white hat, which an early prototype of was shown at pixelpop 2019. And
lastly. I'm a board member for the board game convention geekway to the West which hosts 3,000 attendees every year in St. Louis, Missouri, and you should come check us out. So, let's talk about inclusivity. Unfortunately, the board game industry in the board game. Hobby. Is there a niche hobby? Unlike a lot of media? We consume like the video game industry, the movie industry, the TV industry. It's much more than that. So, we don't have a big audience competitively, but you still want to Casas widen that is possible to find your audience. You do this
largely by working with diverse people by bringing in playtesters an artist's and your publisher could bring in people from all walks of life to help you make your game better and That makes you a more inclusive just by the fact that more diverse people working on your game. And we want more people in the hottie. So, by designing, inclusivity into your game, you're bringing people in the hobby that might not have. Otherwise seen it and it might play your game because they saw something in it, that spoke to them
is a person that wouldn't have in a lot of other board games. And I want to stress that just because you're not being exclusive, doesn't make you inclusive, just because you're not specifically excluding someone from your game or your hobby doesn't mean you're opening the door and bring them in. And lastly, not all games. Require the same kinds or amounts of inclusivity. So how do you be inclusive in your design five ways? There's art theme player, interactions, rules and mechanics and we'll talk about
those all in detail. So let's go ahead and start. Art, art is the easiest way to be inclusive, and it's the last thing you have the least amount of control over its also as a designer. The thing you were least worried about to most of your design. The publisher picks up your game. They're going to redo the artwork, redo, the graphic design and hire, new, artists, and graphic designers. And you want as a designer to make your art not necessarily. Be inclusive, but you want your
art to show a publisher, what it could be, if the publisher picked it up and if your self publishing, of course, art is going to matter. So, let's talk about for Ford is a really cute game about kids building forts eating pizza and fucking friends. The cover of this is brilliant because it shows kids from all walks of life, indiscriminate gender, indiscriminate race, all having fun and just doing kid things and you can't really be more inclusive. And that that's that's everything that you want in art and it's done
in such a unique way, because gender and race isn't something that the game. Has to be about. So it's not, but they can still show people of all sorts of walks of life on the cover. And that's really cool. Next up is theme theme is another thing that designers don't have a ton of control over because a publisher could pick up your game and re steam it or change the theme a little bit or make some changes to it. And as a designer, you want to pick a theme that cast that Wynette that we talked about, you
want to pick a scene, that shows a publisher what you're shooting for as far as an audience is and one problem with cement board games. It's just, they're very redundant of each other there. Colonialism. There's war conflict. That's a lot of themes and board games and those aren't really inclusive because there's a lot of people that those things won't appeal to. And a good example of an appeal to a bigger audience is, this is a game about fashion design.
You're the owner of a fashion design company and you have to design clothes hire employees. Run fashion shows and sell your clothes on while making a profit and if you fire your employees, when a little equal somatic features of it is, if you fired employee, you have to give them a severance package. If you can't. Just let him go, and that's really cool. Next up, is player in her actions and there's a YouTube video. That talks a lot about these player interactions. So I'll link that down below hopefully but there's four types of
player interactions in your game. How figures interact with each other? And generally and there's an ortho game which is a typical game. It's a competition with a clear winner. Its players working against each other to find a winner and the loser game where you make interesting decisions throughout the game for a personal outcome. This is something like building a city or a civilization or creating a character and at the end of the game you can point at something you did throughout the game and say I
did that this is something I built regardless of winning or losing you built this thing. And next up is a role playing game. We all know role-playing games. These are basically collaborative storytelling. This is working together through your table to tell the complete story. And that's a very inclusive process because the players are interacting with each other in a very positive way. Lastly is the pseudo game. I'm not a big fan of this term, but I haven't found one. I like better, but it's basically a shared amusing activity most
games or to do games and but not all games. Have to be more than a pseudo game. So this is like charades or Pictionary, where you don't really keep track of school or you don't really have a clear winner or loser. You're just having fun drawing or acting out or doing something this amusing you and your friends. So that's player interactions. Next up, a rules rules of designers have the most control over rules or something where? It's the first experienced
player has with your game and you don't want to use purely, he pronouns in your game. You don't want to open up a rule book and this is, especially in my group is basically for women and we sit around the table. We play a game. I open the Roebuck in the first thing that says, he does this, he does that. And that's so frustrating, especially as a transgender player because I'm Miss Jen during myself just by reading your rule book and that doesn't feel good. And you don't want players to not feel good saying your
game. So there's some things you can do to make this better. You can use singularly, which is great, but it can be a little confusing. Who is they? If you say they do this, they do that, that's super inclusive, but it can be confusing. You have to be careful specified. Who they is. Another example named players that helps a lot and is really great and examples. But what I like to do is just say the player, the active player, the inactive player. Just refer to the player as the player, and then, you
can't really go wrong. You also don't want to make assumptions about your players. Have you played similar games to yours? Do they know the standard definitions for things in your game? If they don't know what a trick-taking game is and they don't know. What a trick is then how can we know what taking a trick means? So you have to use language in your games that won't be confusing to new players, but we'll still make sense to players who are seasoned Veterans of the hobby. And lastly, the length of the robot matters because it's not enough to
be. To study short. If it's too short, it can compete confusing and not clear enough. If it's too long and can overwhelm. You have to be careful about the length of your rule book and that's different for every game. An example of a really great rule book is mean span. This is a game designed by Elizabeth Hargrave and in the rulebook, they're very specific to use you for almost everything. It's you do this, you do that, the player does this, It's very clear that it's
for everybody just by reading the rules and that's wonderful. Lastly are mechanisms that are mechanics. The whole list of mechanics on BoardGameGeek. Once again, the link will be below but you don't want to make people being mean to each other. You don't want to have the cancer, basically how the players interact with the game. And if the game requires players to be mean to each other, you're going to be excluding some people and that makes the game, not fun. For some people, you want to use your game mechanics to bring people together to give players agency. So players feel like they're
affecting the game, inspecting, their players in positive ways and even a game that has take that mechanics where players are directly competing with each other. You want to make us. So they're not being mean about how they compete with each other. so, Medium is a good example of this. Medium is a game about bringing people closer together. It's not finding the median between two words, and two players come up with to work with a word and then I have to come up with the word between the two simultaneously and that's really cool. It's about bringing people together. So I want to talk
about some of my experiences and how I fix them. First is walking dog, has walking dogs that showed off at gencon last year and somebody came to my booth and said there's no way they can. This game was designed by a straight person and that was some of the best criticism. But I've gotten about my game ever because it showed that everything. I did to make, walking doggos, feeling cloosiv worked, it spoke to somebody. To show them that they're included in my game that the but the hobby that's typically very sis. Very white. Very male
could be more than that. And that's what I wanted to do with walking dog goes. And I basically did that by being making it colorful by making a theme that people can relate to its not Common in the industry. And all the game is is dogs and and pretty colors, and it worked. So when I got published, I got signed with sapphire City Games. I really worried about what would happen to the design cuz I wanted to keep that. Positive inclusivity. And This is what happened.
You have a sensitive artist in mind who's Lauren Brown. He's worked on a Kickstarter that's on live right now. It's on Kickstarter at deck of Wonders. You should check it out. And she makes this really awesome and inclusive fantasy art and I love it. And my designer found this artist. This wasn't me. I went to my publisher and I was like, I want my games to be intrusive and that means something to me, and I realize it's a game about dog, but it should still stream that inclusivity. That means so much to me. And my publisher is that
I found this artist. It just it's amazing and I love her art. So that's how I can hounds coming out. Hopefully, sometime soon will hear more about it. Next up is white hat, white hat is computer science. It's about hacking and your science is another unfortunate. Very sis. Very white, very male. Audience. And I wanted to make a game about hacking. But how do you make that inclusive? The original prototype, part was a dude sitting in a computer and I didn't want to do it on my own because that's reinforcing the The gender barrier of
computer science, and I think I can do better and I did do better. So I redesigned the Box hard to be more inclusive. And that was the first thing I did and there's still more to do because it's not published yet. It's unpublished. So I can still work on coming up with more ways of making an inclusive. Let's talk about some case, studies of actually published. You can buy these games on the market right now. The first is Spirit island. Island is an amazing game by greater than greater than games here in st. Louis. and,
It's a game about reverse colonialism. I talked a little earlier that colonialism was a theme that is very popular in the board game industry, but what you don't see, is a world game about defeating the colonialist protecting an island from Invaders. And that's what Spirit island is. You play a spirits and it's a Cooperative game, which is really cool because players win losses of the team. So, that's very inclusive because you don't have a player that just plays badly and feels bad because everybody's working together, everybody. Will be helping one another to
win and that's wonderful. It's an ideal game because as you play the spirits that you're playing as become more powerful, the game cards and abilities that letter do more things affect the world and more specific ways. And at the end of the game, you can look at your spirit be like I made this Spirit, be awesome. And that's really cool. And there's a little bit of a role-playing mechanic that the carts have titles and flavor texted Arch that all talk about what you're doing. When you play these cards, they're not just playing. The cards are stacked. Somebody on the board is actually oh,
I'm creating the rain coming down and making muds. The Explorer's. Can't explore is easily and stuff like that. It's really cool. So that's good Island. Next, I want to talk about Fantasy Flight games, Arkham Horror files. There's a lot of games in this series of games like Fantasy Flight and they're all very similar. So I'm like, I'm loving them all together. They're mostly Cooperative the exception being Mansions of Madness first edition, which had a GM type character where that would kind of play against the other players and then mention that the second edition did away
with the GM character by having an app that runs the game for you. It doesn't need a GM anymore. It just needs the app that tells players what to do and that makes the game way. More inclusive, know how to play. You just have to have somebody set it up and you have to have somebody get up and running. But then once the app is, you can sit down and play, it's super easy. And all these games are heavy in the storytelling. They're all about the adventure of defeating the Cthulhu Mythos and feeding monsters and surviving.
HP Lovecraft. Cthulhu Mythos. but, Yes, I said HP Lovecraft. How can a game? How can a series of games about HP Lovecraft Mythos. Be inclusive. Light did it and it's amazing? These are all the characters that you start with in Eldritch Horror. They are young old black, white asian indigenous. Conventionally attractive conventionally unattractive. There's people from all walks of life. Rich poor. It's amazing. There's different. They all have different jobs. They all have different roles
in the world. And that's so exciting to see in something that is traditionally not inclusive. And I want to specify just how awesome this is. This is Stella Clark. She was just released in Arkham Horror card game this week and she's coming to the other games, eventually. I'm sure but her story is amazing. Before she began working for the Postal Service in Arkham still in New to things with certainty. First, her parents made a mistake when they called her their son and gave her a boy's name back into the house
on the cliff in Kingsport. Whispered her true name name. She chose for herself late at night. Stella delivering the mail, six days a week, all kinds of weather wasn't an easy job, but still has loved knowing that she was helping people connect with one another. Then she started finding the letters at the end of a route. There was always one extra envelope in her back. It was always addressed to her. It was always postmarked from Kingsport and it always contained a letter with one carefully. Typed word. Stella.
Stella is amazing because her gender is an inextricable part of her story and yet it's not her whole story and the mechanics in the game. Don't make her being transgender a saying they don't. Mean anything, it's just a part of her character, but it's not just part of her character because it's a part of who she is. And her transgender transition story is tied to the missiles, which is really cool. It's a part of the mystery that needs solving. It feels empathy for the character and that is really exciting and really awesome and I can't
think of a single other transgender representation in the entire board game industry. As well done. Estella Clark. So thank you can see flight games. This was amazing to see and she's amazing. And that's what I got. Thank you so much for watching and listening. My name is Maddie Schrader. Once again, you can find me on Twitter at a frozen peach or on Discord at Frozen Peach number 0001, or you can email me at Maddie at Maddie lgbtq. Thank you so much, and enjoy a quick stop at Festival. Thank you so much, too, Matty for such a great presentation. And thank you everyone for
watching. Please be sure to head over to our pixel Pop Festival, Discord server at Discord. GG, / pxp, to continue the discussion and participate in the live, Q&A is happening in our queue, in a breakout room. No, stay tuned for our next session.
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