So I got embroiled in an argument on the internet today. Okay, I realize that’s the worst place to talk to people, especially people who have already made up their minds about stuff. Stuff in this instance being board games. The person I argued with, and lost patience with pretty quickly, asked “are there any games at all in the market that one can’t read weird woke/ whitewashing/ racism/ politics into if one tries to shoehorn them in.”
First of all, that question reeks of privilege and an incredible blindness to how pervasive sexism, racism, whitewashing and various phobias are in most gaming spaces. Secondly, that’s the wrong question.
The question should be why are there so few people that are not white, western, heterosexual and male creating games?
The answer is multilayered and contains hundreds of years of colonialism, imperialism, Western culture and the white saviour complex, as well as slavery, sexism carried by the Christian faith across at least 1600 years (the sexism was really hammered home around 400 A.D., at least according to Karen Armstrong’s book The Gospel According to Woman) and just a general shitty view of people who did not behave or look just like white heterosexual dudes. I don’t really feel like writing an essay on the topic, but the answer to the question above – why are game creators that are not white men so few – is intersectional and complicated, but it’s also kind of simple and obvious.
It’s about gatekeeping.
It’s about exclusion.
It’s about a very strange hobby that tends to bring out the worst in some people who practice it.
Games and gaming in general tend to establish a strong link to identity, which means that criticizing games, no matter what kind, can be problematic.
My belief is that we need to force a reckoning at some point. To take the gaming culture to task and understand why it’s such a sucky place to be provided you are not white, male, heterosexual or a westerner.
Today is not that day, at least not for me. But I will encourage you to turn the questions about why wokeness, whiteness, racism, colonialism and imperialism is “such a big deal” back on those who ask them. Why is racism, sexism, colonialism etc something we should just accept in games? Why don’t we care more about the contents of games? They reflect us, after all.