Diversity in the Board Game and Beer Communities
By Cris Pelausa
I want you to imagine your local game store, the shelves of games, the smell of the cardboard, the sound of shuffling cards and rolling dice. Now I want you to picture in your mind what you consider a “gamer.”
Let’s continue on our magical journey and pretend you have your favorite pint of beer in front of you. Now think about the person who made that beer. What do they look like? Sound like? Smell like…feel like…. Ok stop! It’s getting weird!
If for either or both cases you pictured a white male (maybe glasses on the gamer, a big beard on the brewer, etc.) you would statistically (and stereotypically) be thinking of a good representation of the demographic. According to Nielsen Harris, craft beer drinkers in America are approximately 68% male and 32% female as well as 80% white.
Board game demographics are a little harder to pin down as there isn’t an overall association collecting data but some companies such as Stonemaier Games have conducted surveys. In 2017 they reported that 92% of their gamers were male and 8% were female. They did not have data on race.
Board games have existed since early in human history, and most were played with stones and small wooden pieces. However modern board games have the added artistic side of the character and world design which can be both a blessing and a curse in terms of diversity. I have seen a much more broad and accepting presentation in board games compared to the ones I grew up with. Here’s an example:
Notice all the heroes in HeroQuest are white and male. In fact, there are no females to be found in the base game at all! The D&D Clue features women on the cover of different ethnicities. Speaking of Clue here’s the same D&D edition versus the classic:
Notice everyone is white except maybe Scarlett who might be Asian? She also just might be smoking the good stuff and be high as a kite.
Speaking of D&D, compare these two entries in the AD&D Player’s Handbook and the D&D 5e Player’s Handbook regarding gender:
AD&D Player’s Handbook (1996):
“The sex and name of your character are up to you., Your character can be the same sex as yourself or of the opposite sex.”
D&D 5e Player’s Handbook (2018)
“You can play a male or female character without gaining any special benefits or hindrances. Think how your character does or does not conform to the broader culture’s expectations of sex, gender, and sexual behavior….You don’t have to be confined to binary notions of sex and gender…Likewise, your character’s sexual orientation is for you to decide.”
Game designers and publishers want people to play their games. And some go above and beyond to make sure their players feel welcome. Take as example Fog of Love by Hush Hush Projects. The publishers on the back of the box make it clear that this game is intended for everyone despite the pink/blue man and woman silhouette. They tried to keep the cards and situations as gender neutral as possible but still some members of the LGBQ+ community felt alienated certain aspects of the game. The designer acknowledged his lack of experience (as a heterosexual male) with same-sex relationships and therefore worked with the feedback, updated the cards, and released alternate box art:
The Brewer’s Association’s new diversity ambassador, Dr. J. Nikol Jackson-Beckham, famously said, “If you’re going to grow, you cannot simply sell beer just to white dudes with beards.” The BA with Jackson-Beckham developed grants to fund local and regional events that promote diversity and inclusivity in the craft beer community. The good doctor also launched a series of best practices for inclusivity in breweries as well as being a sponsor of 2018’s Fresh Fest which is America’s first black brew festival. Her practices focus more on removing barriers rather than baiting tactics which is a much more honest and respectful approach.
Harris Family Brewing in Pennsylvania was created by Sean Harris, Tim White, and Jerry Thomas in 2014 and was the state’s first black-owned brewery. They wanted to offer craft beer to their communities as an upgrade to St. Ides, Colt 45s, and occasional Budweisers they were offered growing up.
I’m ecstatic to see such progress in both communities! Beer and board games are both ways to bring people together. Leave entitlement, toxicity, and discrimination at the door, pour a pint, and join the table!