KickStarter Part 2: The Only Way to Fix the Problem is to BUY GAMES BY WOMEN

Okay, folks. Today’s post is a 301-level post, in that it builds on a lot of things that I’ve written previously here. I know I’m shooting myself in the foot in terms of expecting anyone to read this by linking to a bunch of stuff right off the bat, but…

So here goes.

In the past, I’ve written about

Importantly, I’ve also written about the statistics of crowdfunding while female for both Patreon and KickStarter – although looking back I can see that my stats for Patreon were not as in-depth as I would like. (I may go back and correct that, but probably not.)

Everything I write here in this post is going to be predicated on the assumption that you have read those posts, or at least understand the concepts that I’ll be addressing. If I get any questions or comments referencing something covered in one of the above posts, I’m going to moderate your comment.

Again, this is NOT a 101-level post, so fair warning.


One of the classes I’m taking, now that I’ve gone back to community college (Canadians call it “college, which confuses the shit out of me, still), is Operations and Supply Chain Management. I never expected to get much out of it, but surprise! I am. And one of the things that we’ve spent A LOT of time on is various types of flow charts, or “process charts”. Which is sort of what I’m starting with here.

…so to tl;dr everything I just linked to in the most reductive way possible, if you are a female game designer and/or publisher, you will face the following barriers to designing, producing, and publishing your own games:

  • lack of community support (passive): fewer reshares of promotional posts on social media, less “buzz” around the development of projects you are working on, etc etc
  • lack of community support (active): gate-keeping, misogynist backlash against your games because… reasons (it’s a thing folks, it really is), marginalization of your work as “for women” or “niche”, etc etc
  • internal cognitive: especially Imposter Syndrome – this one is the biggest
  • practical realities of being a woman, and miscellaneous RL shit: the wage gap, second shift labor that disproportionately affects women, losing emotional/mental bandwidth to having to deal with microaggressions on a daily basis

If you struggle and persevere and actually start publishing games, you will attract:

  • less community buzz/support: Yes I listed it twice. It’s that important. Buzz translates into post-crowdfunding sales. Without it, you can’t expect anything substantive with regard to post-campaign sales
  • fewer backers/patrons: which when combined with less support leads directly to
  • fewer long term sales and lower overall revenue

These factors translate directly into:

  • women designers having to set lower goals and take on less ambitions projects: which is itself an ugly catch 22, because over time this perpetuates an unconscious view of women designers are people who make scrappy little games and niche projects and men as designers capable of pulling down the big bucks ($50,000+). Look at all of the $200,000+ RPG KickStarters in the past two years. It’s not a coincidence that every single one of them was fronted by a man.
  • projects by women designers attaining their goals with much lower margins of success (which is stressful): look, I’ve done it. I didn’t think Ruined Empire was going to fund, to be honest. It’s stressful, and it sucks, and that stress was the main reason why I didn’t do a KickStarter in 2015.

Over time, this has long-term consequences:

  • Women become less active or simply produce less over time: You can’t afford to produce what you won’t get paid for. Designing for the “passion” or “the love of the hobby” just doesn’t cut it when you’re talking about something that takes as much work as designing games
  • Talented and amazing women leave the hobby: Elizabeth Shoemaker-Sampat leaving tabletop gaming, or Leigh Alexander leaving video gaming are just two of my least favorite depressing examples of this. Not everyone is as amazingly hard-headed and contrary as I am, and that’s mostly a good thing, because sometimes choosing to leave is the only objectively sane course of action.
  • Women become 2nd class designers: Women resign themselves to being 2nd class designers who write freelance for larger projects on which they won’t earn any royalties (this is distressingly common), or who write small games that might make a couple hundred here or there, but nothing else

All of which translates into A PAY GAP FOR FEMALE GAME DESIGNERS. And unless you ACTUALLY BELIEVE that men just do better work than women, that is a problem, not just for the women but for the hobby itself. Because logically, if male game designers aren’t better at game design than women, it means there are a whole lot of amazing games that could change the face of the hobby entirely that just won’t ever get written, because women don’t have the time, energy, and bandwidth to write them.

The only way to fix this is for people to START BUYING GAMES BY WOMEN

It doesn’t matter if you personally buy games by women. I mean, of course YOU do, gentle reader, because you’re lovely and progressive and are invested in the betterment of the hobby and all that. Now be quiet and don’t interrupt.

Look, the numbers are stark, and the only conclusion that can be drawn is as bleak as it is inescapable: as a community, WE ARE NOT BUYING GAMES BY WOMEN.

Obviously that needs to change. So what can you, personally, do? Well…


First, look at your social media: Who is in your circles on G+? Who do you follow on FB/Twitter? What is the breakdown of the space where you go to talk about games? How many women are in those spaces?

Second, look hard at who are the designers whose work you follow most closely? How many of those designers are women?

Third, look really hard at how much money do you give to men versus how much to women? (I’ll admit that I’m not so great about this, myself. My personal games collection is hugely unbalanced, and I don’t feel great about that.)

Note that I am NOT saying “don’t buy games by men”. FFS, that’s some straw-manning bullshit, so don’t even do that shit.

What I am saying is this: if the if the people you talk about games with are mostly white dudes, expand your circles to include more people who aren’t white dudes.

If the designers you follow are mostly white dudes, start following designers who aren’t white dudes.

If the people you buy games from are mostly white dudes, try to buy more games from people who aren’t white dudes.

I’m not saying that you’ll reach perfect parity overnight, but being aware that your spending is skewed isn’t enough. You need to actively look for ways to support projects by women.


I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve had what I felt like was a solid, appealing project and tried to promote it and gotten… crickets.

This goes DOUBLE for you, whites dudes with community “cred”. Your word carries more weight than mine ever will, because that’s how bullshit identity politics work. You may not like it, you may not want to hear it, but it’s the truth.


How many times have you thrown money at a game you know you probably won’t ever play but want to read? Shit, I’ve done it. I’ve got half a shelf of game books that looked appealing but I knew I probably wouldn’t play, and most of them are by men.

Make “IS IT BY A WOMAN” part of that calculus. If you’re not sure if you want to buy a thing, and it looks interesting but you’re not sure if you’ll play it, check the gender of the author. And if it’s by a woman, and you have the money to spare anyway, consider actually buying it – because that supports that game designer in making more games down the line.

This got longer than I was expecting, so next time: I’ll look at examples of what I’m talking about “in the wild”

6 thoughts on “KickStarter Part 2: The Only Way to Fix the Problem is to BUY GAMES BY WOMEN

  1. (This may sound trolly, but I promise it’s not!)

    Whose games/what games should I be looking at?

    Current favorites in my group that get a lot of play are:
    -King of Tokyo
    -Castles of Mad King Ludwig
    -March of the Ants
    -Small World

    Got any recommendations for games along those lines that are by women?

    • Your question doesn’t sound trolly, I think, but it does seem a bit out of place, since the focus of this entire series of posts (or at least the example/domain covered) was on RPG games, not boardgames.

      But since you asked, a few option worth checking (notice that the games you listed are fairly varied in style/mechanics/complexity so aren’t by themselves very useful for filtering, I mostly just dropped a couple of 2-player only games).


      – Marrying Mr. Darcy by Erika Svanoe. She actually successfully Kickstarted this and several expansions.
      – Qwirkle, by Susan McKinley Ross. Quite prolific I think, though this one is probably her most famous/successful game. Your list doesn’t have anything quite this abstract but a few do come close.
      – Fluxx, by Kristin Looney (1 in a couple), turned into a large family of games, less serious than the lighter in your listed games but could still fit. Some of the other variant games in the family also list both of them as designers but most just list her husband.
      – Project Dreamscape, by Sarah Reed (again 1 in a couple). Also a successfully Kickstarted game, both designers were fronting the project about equally.

      Mid-weight, about like the more “serious” games from your list:

      – Thunder Alley, by Carla Horger (again 1 in a couple). Looks like a racing game at first glance (she also designed/co-designed a few others), and technically it is one, but plays very differently so if at some point you figured out that car-racing games aren’t for you this would still be worth a look.
      – Village, by Inka Brand (again 1 in a couple). Also co-designed some expansions for it, designed My Village (same overall “attitude” but different game), Murano (probably getting heavier than your list), the excellent Invasion expansion for Orleans (base game not designed by a woman), and plenty of others.

      And if you want to try some games which may be to your liking in style but are noticeably heavier:

      – Eldritch Horror, by Nikki Valens (1 of 2 designers). You don’t have anything quite of this style on your list but you do have a few that are in the general direction so there’s a chance you’d like it.
      – ZhanGuo, by Stefania Niccolini (1 of 2 designers).
      – Three Kingdoms Redux, by Christina Ng Zhen Wei (you guessed it, 1 of 2 designers, I think a couple but am not sure).

      There are more (this was filtered from games I own/know and could relatively easily recognize or verify have a women designer), but overall I think women designers in boardgames are possibly much more of a minority than in RPG games, and it’s certainly equivalent in it being much rarer to see a women boardgame designer fronting a KS project than a man, or a man+woman couple, or a large team (which would usually be all, or all-but-one, men).

      Things do get noticeably better on the art side of boardgames, I think, the percentage of women artists is much higher than designers (though you do get the occasional, as I *paraphrase* something told to me by a person running a boardgame KS project that I dropped out of “having 6-7 unique and varied male characters and 1 female character wearing skintight zero-width dress with boobsacks and extra-deep cleavage isn’t a problem, the art isn’t sexists, because my wife drew all of this and the graphic designs are mostly her ideas, and she’s a woman”).

      • I guess I was still thinking of the Nanogames bit from the previous post. But I’d imagine that the differences between RPG gaming’s print on demand model that really levels the playing field and the constraints on boardgame production, the gender gap would be much wider there.

        Thanks for the recommendations. I’m a big Three Kingdoms fan, and Three Kingdoms Redux sounds awesome.

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