Tabletop games are hot right now. The hobby gaming market, which includes collectible games (like Magic and Pokemon), miniatures, board games, card and dice games, and roleplaying games, nearly doubled in sales from 2014 to 2016; growing from 800 million to 1.4 billion. In that two year span collectible games rose $200 million and board games more than doubled in sales from $125 million to $305. (source: ICV2)
GenCon, the nation’s largest gaming convention, turned 50 this year, and had record attendance numbers.
With massive industry growth, we can assume that the number of women participating in the hobby, from making the purchases, to creating the products, and making related media content is growing as well, but there is little hard data on gender in gaming.
When we take a look at the bestselling and award-winning games of the last few years, it’s clear that men are still the dominant creators and designers. Of the 19 designers that won or were nominated for the coveted Spiel des Jahres (Game of the Year award) in the last two years, none identified as a woman, and of the bestselling 25 board games of 2016, none were designed by a woman.
I recently interviewed Becca Scott, co-host of Geek & Sundry’s Twitch show “Game the Game.” She says in the time she has been with the show “it does seem like more women are jumping into the development game, though it is still largely male-dominated.”
At the recent GAMA Trade Show there were many women “manning” the board game companies’ display and demo tables. Most were behind-the-scenes employees of the company working in sales and marketing, but they were there, just as enthusiastic to share their products with retailers and press as their male counterparts. As were a large contingent of female shop owners and managers.
The place where women are making the most visible strides in the hobby gaming community is in creating media content surrounding board games. There are several online channels hosted by women; some are industry veterans, but most are hobby enthusiasts wanting to share their love of gaming.
Recommendations of tabletop gaming women to watch:
Becca Scott – “Game the Game” on Geek & Sundry Twitch Channel
Becca says “Don’t ever assume a woman will be less ruthless when it comes to traitor-mechanics or player elimination.” She shows just that when she plays games each week with co-host, game designer, and International TableTop Day producer Ivan Van Norman. Together they break out some of the best new board games the industry has to offer. Becca and Ivan have a fun, competitive camaraderie and often get live online viewers involved in the game or their antics. (Live on Fridays, 4 p.m. Pacific/7 p.m. Eastern.)
Bebo (Brittanie Boe) – content creator for The GameWire
Bebo is probably the most recognizable female face in gaming media content. She hosts game reviews and demonstrations for GameWire, which is sponsored by GTS Distribution (one of the large game wholesalers used by your Friendly Local Game Shop). She posts videos almost daily, and often has her young daughter help her review games for children. She’s smart and fun to watch. Her love of gaming spills over into the screen. I highly recommend also following The GameWire on Facebook, as Bebo posts fun game-related content in addition to her review videos.
Suzanne Sheldon and Mandi Hutchinson – “Board Game Breakfast” on The Dice Tower.
The Dice Tower is likely the largest YouTube channel for board gaming news, reviews, and demonstrations, and a “variety” show of game news and contributor reviews is posted every Monday morning. Suzanne hosts Crowdfunding Roundup a segment looking at recent Kickstarter games seeking investors, and Mandi co-hosts Lunchtime, Gaming with Colleagues, a segment on games to play over the lunch break, small games that play in 45 minutes or less. Suzanne and Mandi also travel to conventions for the Dice Tower and produce live game content, as well as their own video reviews. Last fall, the two created a special segment for The Dice Tower where they discussed diversity in the table top gaming community, which I highly recommend watching:
Christina Aimerito – creator and host of Girls’ Game Shelf.
Christina is the newcomer to this list, having launched her channel in 2015. She hosts her friends for a game night in her house, and it looks to be as much fun as you picture a girls’ game night to be. She intercuts video of them playing the game with each person’s take on what is happening at each step, followed by a final review from each player of whether or not they would add the game to their own game shelf. Plus, it’s just wonderful seeing a table of women coming together to have fun playing games. If you want a light, quick review and runthrough of a game you are considering for your next game night, go to Girls’ Game Shelf.
For women who love to play board games and want to get more involved in the growing community, be it going to store game nights, attending cons, or producing your own media content, Becca Scott says, “Just do it. Don’t take no for an answer. Claim a seat at the table. And whatever you do, don’t ever ever ever apologize.” Tabletop gaming right now is still dominated by men. But by supporting these content creators, encouraging your women friends to join you in a game night, and seeking out games designed by women we can help the industry grow more diverse.
If you want to know more about games and the gaming community, the best place to start is usually your local game shop. There you’ll find help with which games best match what you want for your next game night. At my store, about half our customers and more than half of the attendees at our game nights are women.
To quote former Enterprise crew member, Game Master, tabletop enthusiast, and self identified feminist, Wil Wheaton: “Play More Games!”