Recently there was a bit of kerfuffle on social media about the exclusion of Rey from the new Star Wars Monopoly game.
Many people were understandably upset that Hasbro would somehow have allowed the game to be produced without any female characters, especially without Rey, who is the central character of the film.
So OK. We should all be upset by this, and we should all be outraged that the omission of female characters, regardless of the reasons, is still common in the toy and game industry.
But here’s the thing: they’re not.
Let me first say that I love me some Star Wars, and I will almost always try to get my hands on games set in the Star Wars universe.
I was therefore first in line in 1987, when West End Games released the first Role-Playing game in 1987 (like Dungeons & Dragons, but set in the Star Wars universe).
I loved this game, and I still remember looking through the game and its supplements and seeing all of options for playing female characters – most that I hadn’t even considered.
So, in 1987 West End Games was encouraging me to play female characters from the Star Wars Universe.
It seems odd that almost thirty years later we would find ourselves outraged because Hasbro didn’t include a single playable female character in their game.
The thing that’s doubly confusing to me is that the Star Wars games I currently play don’t just have representation of female characters, they have an abundance of female characters who are diverse, strong in different ways, and, overall, heroic.
It is absolutely expected now that images, descriptions, and examples in the games that I play provide players a wide and diverse range character types to imagine and play.
Fantasy Flight Games, for example, is the current holder of the license to produce Star Wars Tabletop games. In their spaceship battle games (all set strictly in the universe of episodes 4, 5, and 6), there are a number of female characters to include in your forces, even though (to be honest) there were very few in the actual films.
In the new Star Wars role-playing games, the highly-reviewed “living” card game, and the excellent miniatures game Imperial Assault, the representation is much more diverse. Roughly every other depiction of a character is a female, and these depictions represent a wide variety of heroic (and villainous) types.
So why has Hasbro not gotten the clue in all of the years since 1987?
Why is this company so clueless about what companies like Fantasy Flight treat as a regular practice, and why didn’t someone at Hasbro say what scores of people should have said: “why are there no women in this game? What about the girls and women and boys and men who won’t buy this game because it seems to exclude characters based on gender?”
Here’s a better question. If you or your kids are fans of Star Wars enough that you want to buy a boardgame with a Star Wars theme, why on earth are you buying it from Hasbro? Why oh why in all of the nine realms are you buying a game that is anything like Monopoly and trying to pretend it has something to do with Star Wars?
Please don’t get me wrong; I like Monopoly and I have had the normal amount of fun playing it. I have to insist, though, that it is the opposite of Star Wars in so many ways. Have some bullet points:
- The point of Monopoly is acquiring money and properties, and turning a profit through ruthless capitalism. The point of Star Wars is epic-scale or even mythic-scale narratives that render money meaningless. If you ever know what something costs in Star Wars, the person charging for it is not a good guy (sorry, the Jawas are cute, but they were trying to cheat Uncle Owen).
- Monopoly forces everyone into an amoral place where each player becomes a kind of villain. Star Wars allows encourages audience to see the world in black and white terms of heroes and fascist villains, and it helps the watcher to choose to side with the heroes every time.
Oh my god Monopoly is a real estate game set in the early twentieth century where you get to play the part of a shoe! Why am I having to explain why Star Wars Monopoly is a ridiculous idea? Could it be that mainstream game design and tabletop gaming in America has been so dominated and managed by large companies like Hasbro for so long that consumers don’t even ask these questions?
Don’t even balk when Hasbro dishes out the newest whatever-people-are-talking-about-now-Monopoly game? Yes. It is that.
Nerd Cred is what we call someone’s history of engagement with nerdy things. The term is used, in part, to establish someone’s authority when they start to talk about nerdy things. For example, I established my nerd cred above when I talked about having played Star Wars games actively since 1987.
I would argue that someone doesn’t have adequate Nerd Cred unless they understand the humongous and essential role that women play in nerd culture.
Generally speaking, it’s a bit of an asshole move to question someone on their Nerd Creds, but I don’t think it is when inappropriate at all to be aware of a company’s nerd credentials. Some companies are staffed with people who genuinely love the products that they are producing, and usually these employees will have all of the Nerd Cred that you would want. Some companies, on the other hand, don’t.
I dare anyone to look at Hasbro’s game line and make the argument that they would ever do something fun and responsible with the Star Wars universe. Games like Sponge Bob Operation, Despicable Me Game of Life, and Connect Four don’t suggest the level of Nerd Cred that I am looking for in my Star Wars games.
There was a time that good games were hard to find and harder to learn, especially for people who were inexperienced with the ins and outs of nerd culture. That time is long gone, though, and there are tons of online resources to help people find games that will be a good fit for them.
A quick search for “Star Wars” on Boardgamegeek.com, will give a good idea of all of the Star Wars games that are available from companies who have all the Cred you would want for your Star Wars gaming.