Alderac Entertainment Group
Image: Alderac Entertainment Group

Elizabeth Hargrave’s recent Twitter post highlighted the gender gap issues within the board games community, most notably the lack of female designer presence. We agreed that she has a solid point, and we support her stance that the community suffers because of that. A strong point and opinion like this, especially from an esteemed board game designer like herself, sends waves across the community, and Twitter as a whole. Those waves do not go unnoticed, and trigger responses in their wake – some good, some not as much.

One of those responses did stand out more than the others – Ryan Dancey, COO of Alderac Entertainment Group, issued a response that was not well received. While not directly criticizing female designers, he did go out of his way to call board games designed by two female designers “too light”, despite them pitching great. He went out to further state that female designers pitched with male designers yielded better results, but not by much. While those statements do not directly criticize female board game designers, they certainly send a message that females do not design board games well, at least not on their own.

Dancey’s data showed that out of 1000 game pitches taken since 2016, less than 10% were made by female designers, with none of them being games Alderac Entertainment Group would publish (reasons for this were not disclosed). He further stated that after a “call for submissions” from female designers, the only design that was “publishable” was Hargrave’s Mariposas. And again, while not directly criticizing any female designer, or Hargrave, the use of the word “publishable” is certainly interesting, as it could be viewed as a little derogatory, although it is most probably just a use of business English and terminology.

According to Dancey, female designers tend to pitch games in the political and party game genres – genres that Alderac Entertainment Group is not interested in, and does not publish those types of games. Furthermore, he goes on to state that he has never pitched a wargame, two-player fighting game, or a giant fighting robots game by a female designer. He goes on to wonder that if he ever did get such an idea pitched by a female designer, would it be a truly remarkable one or just something generic? Finally, he went on to compare how males and females act in Western culture, stating that females are “socialized [in the West] to avoid situations where they’re subjected to fairly harsh criticism of their abilities and creative ideas. Males are socialized to take the punches and keep moving forward”.

These statements ended up receiving a lot of backlash online, so much so that it forced Dancey to make a heartfelt apology. Dancey acknowledged how his comment did not have the desired effect he had hoped for and apologized greatly for it. He further promised changes within Alderac Entertainment Group, to make pitches from various misrepresented communities more visible and thoroughly looked at. He further stated that he wants the community to hold him accountable, stating: “Check back with me in a year and hold me accountable; I’ll provide updates as we make progress.”

We have no doubt of the true nature of his intentions, and we further believe that this conversation has brought, and will continue to bring, positive change and inclusivity across the board games community. Here at Meeples Herald we too did not get our previous coverage of the issue correct and Hargrave pointed that out – deservedly so.

A self-proclaimed warrior-poet, Krasen is a man of many hobbies – ranging from combat sports training, LARPing, to writing poetry. One of those many hobbies happens to be board games. Be it with a fist, pen, sword or keyboard – he aims to be just, merciless and effective.