While there has been extensive scholarly analysis of gender and racial representation, discrimination and violence in the digital games community and industry, an exhaustive audit of scholarly literature uncovered no academic, peer-reviewed studies currently exist that apply critical cultural analysis informed by feminist, queer and critical race theories to gender and racial representation in the contemporary board gaming community and industry. At time of writing, only journalistic and hobbyist works such as Teague (2016), Dayne (2016) and Ryan (2016) have systematically examined the current-day challenges for women and BIPOC workers in the production of board games, and representation in board game artwork respectively. In general, contemporary board gaming is a significantly under-researched creative sector and cultural practice in contemporary academic research, particularly when compared to the rich scholarship found on digital gaming. As of this time of writing, gender and racial representation in board gaming has not been investigated in a systematic, and scholarly fashion.
A research endeavor focused on board gaming and representation is important to cultural studies, education and games studies because the exclusion of girls, women, BIPOC and other marginalized people from gaming, the gaming industry and gaming spaces has significant societal impact. Gender and racial barriers in gaming deprive women, and BIPOC people access to the media, social and systems literacies enabled by game play. A limited, recursive, derivative nature of games design, the lack of diversity in the labour of games creation, and unwelcoming gaming spaces act as invisible and visible barriers to women, non-binary, and BIPOC people being engaged by and engaging with board game play. This research will explore the ways in which intersectionalities of gender and race as coined and articulated by Crenshaw (1989) play out in the gendered and racialized labour of games production, and in the cultural practice and discourses surrounding board games (Richard & Gray-Denson, 2018). My data collection framework and analyses will also be informed by the digital games studies work of Williams, Martins, Consalvo & Ivory (2009) and Shaw (2014), whose studies of gender, sexual orientation and racial representation in video games and other digital games spaces located the challenges primarily within online gaming for women, LGBTQiIA+, and BIPOC players. The theoretical framework for my research will be grounded in feminist, queer games and media studies, as well as critical race theorists (Harvey, 2020; Richard & Gray-Denson, 2018; Gray & Leonard, 2018; Williams, Martins, Consalvo & Ivory, 2009; Jenson, & De Castell, 2008; Jenkins & Cassell, 2008; Harvey & Fisher, 2013; Consalvo, 2008; Fron, Fullerton, Ford Morie & Pearce, 2007).
In this novel research endeavour, I ask the following research questions:
RQ1: What is the demographic profile of designers of the most popular board games; and is there a lack of diversity?
RQ2: To what extent does board gaming cover artwork of popular games evince limited or inequitable demographic representation?
RQ3: Does a lack of diversity among board game designers and a lack of women or non-binary, Black, Indigenous, Persons of Colour (BIPOC) representation in artwork of games act as a barrier for board game culture’s potential growth, wider mainstream cultural adoption, and create the conditions for exclusion and marginalization for those who identify as women and BIPOC?
RQ4: How does limited representation and diversity impact board game enthusiasts in spaces where gaming is practiced, including public gaming events, conventions and in online fora and on digital platforms?
Full dissertation coming soon!