Meeples for Change is an organization whose mission it is to bring awareness to the challenges of inclusivity in board games. We have conducted a survey to assess how much importance the members of the board game community gave to diversity and accessibility. Our objective was to learn what the community thought of certain themes. We are confident this will help us learn what we need to guide our work going forward.
We want to send a huge thank you to each of the 492 participants who took the time to fill our survey. We also want to thank everyone who reached out to give us words of encouragement and feedback. We have learned a lot from this first experience.
The purpose of this article is to share the results obtained through the aforementioned survey. It will also go through the mistakes we’ve made along the way in the most transparent way possible. We will then give you access to the compiled results.
Table of contents
2. Issues Encountered and Possible Biases
We chose to use Google Forms for its ease of use and its free offering. The survey was conducted between April 26, 2022, and May 31, 2022. We reached out to the community using the social media platforms Twitter and Reddit, we also used our personal contacts to share the survey to the most people. Our biggest source of participants was, however, the community over on the BoardGameGeek Forums where the survey was shared in General Gaming, Rainbow BGGers and Women and Gaming. This allowed us to collect a sample of 492 respondents.
2. Issues Encountered and Possible Biases
In this section, we will share the multiple issues we’ve encountered along with the biases we noticed with the survey’s questions and in our methodology. Certain biases were known and accepted; others were concerned raised by participants.
The first question of the survey related to the gender of the participant. Some people shared their desire to have more choices to choose from; the initial choices were:
- I’d rather not say;
- Other, please specify.
We modified this question halfway during the survey to include a text field where participants could write what they wanted. We are aware of the implications this could have had on the results. Since this survey was not done in a scientific setting, we believe the potential biases are minimal considering what we were trying to accomplish. However, even with the new text field, we noticed most of the answers fell into the initial choices offered.
A lot of people also raised concerns with the category choices offered for ethnic and geographic related questions, stating the choices reflected a very North American vision of the world. We tried to reach out to get feedback but sadly we haven’t heard anything back. We decided to continue the survey without modifying these categories. However, we do welcome any and all feedback from anyone wishing to help us improve on these aspects.
One last thing worth noting is the lack of a Speech and language disorders category, as well as a choice for Other in the question relating to disabilities. We only included visual, hearing, mobility, and cognitive impairments (including learning disorders) in the main categories. This question was modified halfway through the survey period, at the same time as the question related to gender. It was raised by a participant that language disorders generally lacked visibility and were often forgotten, just like we did. Our choices were inspired by the course on Accessibility and Inclusive Design offered by the University of Illinois on Coursera which did not include this category. We would like to apologize for this oversight.
Even with the issues we had along the way, we are confident our survey brings interesting observations concerning the behaviour of the community. We want to thank everyone who shared comments.
What gender do you identify with?
As mentioned previously, this question was modified during the survey period. The numbers include results obtained before and after the modification. The above graph shows the most frequent answers.
Here is a list of the other, less frequent, answers we received:
|People identify me with a gender||1|
|I have a sex (female) and believe that gender is a social construct with which I don’t identify.||1|
What ethnic group do you identify with?
Here is the list of the Other results we got:
- Half White / Half Turkish
- Most people would call me white. My family has been in America for hundreds of years. We don’t know who we are. That’s ok by me.
- I’d rather not say
- Southwest Asia
- British Algerian
- Prefer not to say
- Asian, Mixed ethnicity, Latino, native islander
- Asian, Malaysian Chinese
- South Asia
- European (white is not an ethnicity)
Do you have an impairment?
As mentioned previously, the Speech and language disorders category is missing and the choice for Other was only added later in the survey period. The results include answers to both the original and modified questions.
Here is a list of the Other answers we got:
- None that I’m aware of.
- Chronic condition
- Anxiety & Chronic Pain Issues
- Severe IBS
- Autism, ADHD
Do you identify yourself as a member of the LGBTQIA+ or queer community?
Where do you live?
The only Other answer we got is: Australia.
Most of the participants live in either North America or Europe, this may explains why most of them identified as white. Most of the participants also identified as male. This result is not surprising since most of the board game community is known to be mostly male. A quarter of the respondents identified as members of the LGBTQ+ community and several of them also mentioned having a disability. We are very pleased with the variety of the results we gathered among our participants. Having several different points of view greatly improves the quality of the other questions.
How often do you play board games or role-playing games?
How long have you being playing these games?
What kind of games do you play regularly?
With 80% of respondents playing at least once a week, and for most for many years, we can conclude our survey has attracted mostly seasoned board game players.
We are happy with this because we believe in order to get an accurate picture of the state of diversity in the community, we need people regularly exposed to the various types of games on the market.
We refer to diversity in our survey as the various characteristics of a group of people. It’s about empowering people by respecting and appreciating their differences (e.g., age, gender, ethnicity, religion, impairment, sexual orientation, education, national origin).
Do you feel concerned by diversity issues in general?
How often do you pay attention to the representation of characters in a game?
57.5% of participants expressed they were concerned with diversity issues in our society. This same number also appears in the next question where 57.3% of participants indicated they paid attention to the representation of characters in board games. This goes to show there is an even split on these themes among our participants. This higher-than-normal number can most likely be explained by the title of our survey, Survey on Representation and Accessibility, and the fact it was published in the BGG Rainbowers and Women and gaming sub-forums.
Do you think there’s a lack of diversity in games?
Do you feel represented in games?
49.6% of participants said they noticed a lack of diversity when it came to board games. To help back this data, at least 28.3% of respondents indicated they didn’t feel represented in games. This confirms our hypothesis that the board game industry would greatly benefit from giving more importance to diversity. Even if our survey sample is not representative of reality, it is sufficient to conclude there is a desire to improve the diversity of characters in games.
How often do you find the portrayal of certain characters in a game offensive?
Is diversity a criterion when you buy a game?
Diversity seems to be a factor when it comes to buying games, although not all the time. We hope to see this number increase in the coming years with our work to bring awareness to the importance of diversity.
How often do you pay attention to the inclusivity aspects in a game’s texts?
The percentage of respondents paying attention to inclusivity in the game texts is high. It is worth noting, however, that inclusivity in texts varies greatly with the language used, each language having their own gender-related grammar rules (e.g., certain words might have a gender in some languages but be neutral in others). The tendency to note whether a text is inclusive may differ depending on the ease of writing in a gender-neutral form in a given language.
Do you think diversity in games is improving overall?
The answers to this question are quite encouraging; respondents who mentioned paying attention noted an improvement regarding diversity in games. We still think there is room for more improvements, but we are happy to see things moving in the right direction.
In our survey, we define an accessible game as a game which can easily be played by everyone regardless of their abilities (e.g., sensorial, mobility, cognitive challenges).
How often do you pay attention to the accessibility of a game?
As we predicted, accessibility is a subject people give less attention to in games. Only about a quarter of respondents expressed paying attention to accessibility in games.
Have you ever played a game where it was more difficult for you than usual because of a lack of accessibility?
There was, however, 22% that expressed having had difficulties while playing board games, this number motivates us to continue our mission to improve accessibility in games.
Is accessibility a criterion when you buy a game?
It is interesting to note that our respondents gave the same importance to accessibility and diversity when buying games.
Do you think accessibility in games is improving overall?
The last section of the survey contained the two following open-ended questions, both of which were optional:
- How would you improve diversity and representations in games?
- How would you improve accessibility in games?
The first question regarding diversity received more than 255 answers, while the one related to accessibility got 237. These questions allowed some respondents to share their ideas and others to express their disagreement. We have compiled the most common responses (at least 10 instances) we received for both questions.
How would you improve diversity and representations in games?
|More diverse characters||59|
|More diverse publishers, designers, staff members, and content creators||55|
|No need to improve diversity and representation||33|
|Better representation, avoid stereotypes and tokenization||32|
|Diversity and cultural consultation||20|
|Avoid played out settings and more underrepresented stories||17|
|Use of gender-neutral writing||17|
|Stop forcing diversity||16|
|Diversity should fit the theme, and should be historically accurate||13|
|Include people of diverse cultural background in the playtesting process||11|
|Ban hypersexualisation and objectification of female characters||11|
|Educate creators about diversity and representation||10|
How would you improve accessibility in games?
|Games should be colour-blind friendly||88|
|Accessible texts & readability (font size, font family, contrast, etc.)||36|
|No need to improve accessibility||32|
|Creators should play test their games with players with different abilities||23|
|Educate creators about accessibility||19|
|Rule books should be easier to understand||16|
|Standards for accessibility in games||14|
|Diverse publishers, designers, staff members, and content creators||12|
|Creators should consult accessibility experts||12|
|Use of audio, video or app to help understand game rules or during the play||10|
|Games cannot be accessible to everyone||10|
Inclusivity is a very polarizing subject in the board game community. We have confirmed there was a real interest for diversity and accessibility among avid board game players. The answers we received through the survey show that representation in characters can still be greatly improved; this factor plays a non-negligible part when people shop for and purchase board games. The survey respondents expressed a desire for game creators and publishers to use third-party resources to review their games. Even if accessibility issues seem to be less prominent than diversity, these issues are still widely considered by players. Issues related to readability and colour blindness were often brought up as suggestions to improve accessibility.
Even if we made some mistakes when creating our survey, we are more than happy with the 492 respondents we got. We learned a lot during this project, namely with the multiple comments we have received. We are convinced our work to bring awareness to inclusivity meets an existing need in the board game industry. The ideas and comments we received through this survey will help us focus our efforts in the right direction.