Colonialism in Board Games

Mikael Jakobsson and I recently had a chance to discuss our research in colonialist themes in board games and making counter-colonialist games this past March, through a presentation at GDC’s Board Game Design Day and on Geoff Engelstein and Gil Hova’s Ludology podcast.

Board Game Design Day: Better Board Games Through Cultural Engagement

Why have hundreds of colonial-themed board games been published during the last two decades? And why are more and more of these games being released every year? In this talk, MIT’s Mikael Jakobsson and Rik Eberhardt will present their findings from a year of board game design workshops in Bogotá, San Juan, and Maine with professional designers, students, and representatives of locals and indigenous peoples of the different areas.The purpose of the workshops was to learn what people who live in places that so often are represented in board games actually care about, and create game prototypes based on these themes. Mikael and Rik wanted to make counterexamples to the plethora of games that focus on the European colonialist time period and often represents the indigenous people in a very passive way, or not at all. In this talk, they’ll focus on what modern board game developers can learn from their study, showing that there are great untapped opportunities connected to the use of contemporary themes and ascribing greater agency and ownership to representations of local cultures.

Ludology Episode 197 – Empires Up In Arms

As Studio Manager for the MIT Game Lab, Rik Eberhardt spends his days playing Tetris: with people, boxes, tasklists, equipment, and time. When not staring at a spreadsheet trying to fit in another computer purchase, a last minute event budget, or placing undergraduate researchers on a Game Lab project, he's chipping away at spreadsheets on his DS, reproducing pixel-art in Picross and Picross 3D. His favorite moments on the job are working on projects with student workers and having fun social interactions forced on him despite his busy schedule. Contact him about research projects at the MIT Game Lab at gamelab-request@mit.edu

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