Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Breaking my own rules: A Political post on why gaming is not diverse even though I wish it was

This is an apolitical blog for the most part but an article at the fame and fortune blog, Othello in the 41st millennium caught my eye and as my reply is rather long, it deserves a post here...

Tabletop Gaming is clearly not a diverse hobby. Its mostly White, almost entirely Middle Class to Lower Upper Class at least in the United States

And while I am personally interested in a broader player pool I do not think this is possible.

I'll start by saying my gaming circle of late has been usually diverse, if a bit lacking in women. Its an outlier and It has members that are Black, White and Hispanic in about equal numbers. We do not have First Nations players or Asian players as neither group is common in the local population.

Like most groups we have few women. Its understandable as our gaming style is fairly traditional (i.e hack and slash) tabe top and almost all the local female gamers prefer LARPS. When Angel or Buffy is run (or other Urban Fantasy games) we do get female players in numbers as well.

All that being said, our cultural experiences and interests are mostly the same. Our world views on things like status and money are all very narrow.

However most groups are not as diverse


Well simple. Gaming derives mainly from European Romanticism and is a consciously Euro-Centric thing . Its Knights and Castles and Wizards mixed with Orientalism.Its hardly reasonable to expect much diversity in such an activity when its audience is not interested in much outside that mythos

Heck even our Black and Bi Racial players have little interest in diversity as they prefer Asian or Caucasian archetypes for some reason. And note this is not an issue of exclusion. All of us are fine with diversity. Bigotry is a quick way out of my group.

However while we have tried alternatives settings such as Polynesia or even Ancient Greece and others have been offered and there were no takers. The gamers want a mono-cultural Euro-centric activity and thats a big thing.

Its already small culture of people like to make up stories, dabble in acting and double entry bookkeeping (not my words) in essence a special kind of geek. The entire US play base is pretty much from lower middle class to lower upper class "white culture" with a smattering of outliers and its pretty unlikely that it can attract people from outside these boundaries and still retain interest from the dominant group .

Is this a "fault" issue -- well no. Its your hobby time and your choice how to use it.

Also for my non US readers speaking only from the US pov here mine is not a well integrated nation and its culturally and racially divided along economic fault lines in ways that might surprise Europeans or persons in the UK.

The Big Sort by Bill Bishop explains this in some depth but the simple version is, there is not as much cross cultural contact as might be expected as the US has a third world level of income disparity and a lot of economic segregation and voluntary ethic segregation. Its kind of sad really but the cause and effects and solutions outside of gaming are not really germane to this conversation

These disparities rather exasperate things as it would require diverse recruiting efforts in an eco-system where recruiting the base is significantly harder (video games and the Internet and time constraints and other choices get in the way) and since the base simply isn't interested in anything non Euro-Centric, it makes mixing groups harder.

And no you can't educate them. Its a brittle play base and many gamers are almost reactionary Conservatives when it comes to gaming choices. Don't believe me? Frequent any board and Gawds help you if you were to lecture someone in a group on their choices.

I'll note there have been attempts to break out of the mold ranging from Aztec like Tekumel to the African themed Nyambe and a number of GURPS supplements. None of them were really well received

I have found it difficult to even get people to play say Greece or Rome much less say Greater Zimbabwe or even Sci-Fi like Traveller where race as we know it is irrelevant and Bridget Indra Chan M'Benga is a perfectly commonplace name ..

So basically, its our box and we have to live with it.

Now miniatures gaming is another matter, I'll pass on much talk (not my hobby) but for areas with a decent population of affluent non Whites (not the US in most places alas) much more effort could be made and the company that pulls it off, will make more than a bit of money.

They deserve it ...


  1. Thanks for this response.

    It's encouraging to see acknowledgement of these issues. Breaking the ice on this isn't easy and your experiences mirror mine though I keep seeing rays of hope. Maybe it's a matter of time after all?

    Keep on keeping on and thanks again.

  2. Thanks for your reply. I thought your article was quite interesting myself and while these issues are not a great concern around these parts, some of us have at least given a thought to them.

    Good gaming!