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Women are Changing the Face of Game Design, Just Look at Elizabeth Hargraves

Elizabeth Hargrave (one of the few women working in game design) recently came out with her first board game titled Wingspan. Hargrave came up with the idea after she noticed there weren’t many games tailored to her interests in nature and science.

Testers of the game were initially unsure about birds being the central focus, but during pre-order, back in January, over 5,000 copies of the game were sold in only one week.

On release day, the demand was so high that one publisher had to release an apology for running out of copies. The game has now sold 30,000 copies in English and 14,000 in various other languages.  Wingspan is already deemed one of the hottest games of 2019.

The success is more than Hargrave could have ever dreamed. She is already in the process of creating expansion packs for Wingspan and is developing two other nature-related games. Tussie Mussie, a card game revolving around the Victorian language of flowers is set to release in May 2019 and Mariposas, a game about monarch butterflies is due to release next year.

While not being the first game centered around birds, Hargrave’s model focuses on the actual activities of the birds, making it a more complex and educational game.

The game design industry has historically been tailored towards a very specific white, male audience. Even the game designers and illustrators are most commonly white males. Often times, there is little diversity in gender or racial representation in the actual board games they create. In the few instances where there is representation, there is noticeable pushback from many consumers of the product who complain that they can’t relate to these diverse characters.

According to a recent study, board game consumers are 91.7 percent male and 8.1 percent female. The overwhelming majority of those buying board games was also white. In terms of video games, there are a few more women- 33 percent–more than the number of male players under 18.

Hargrave, however, has hopes for the future of diversity in game design.

She said: “I always wonder what the world of board games is missing out by having most designers fitting within such a limited demographic profile. I would love to help figure out how to get more women, genderqueer folks, and people of color over that initial hurdle of entering the design space…Maybe having some more games in the world with a woman’s name on the box will be one small contribution I can make.”

Featured Image by London Wood Co. on Unsplash



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