As part of the Designers & Dragons Kickstarter, Janelle Cooper, Jacq Jones, the Women & Gaming Forum of BGG asked me to write about women in the roleplaying industry. Which I did. But I also wrote a much shorter piece on women in the board gaming (and war gaming) industry, primarily because of my existing interest in eurogames. This short piece appeared as a box in the published Platinum Appendix. It’s strictly a gloss, not a full history. —SA, 8/4/15
This article was originally published as Advanced Designers & Dragons #5 on RPGnet. It was written for inclusion in Designers & Dragons: The Platinum Appendix (2015).
Women in the Hobbyist Gaming Industry: 1975-Present — An Overview
Female professionals in the hobbyist board and card game industry followed roughly the same pattern as the roleplaying industry: they were scarce in the ‘70s, but gradually filled a variety of professional roles as the years went on. The popularity of a revolutionary new type of game — the eurogame — brought an influx of female players and designers to the field.
The earliest professional hobby game designer was Linda Mosca, a staff member for SPI in the mid-‘70s, which means she predated the roleplaying industry’s first female designer by a few years. Mosca published three wargames between 1975 and 1977. Battle of the Wilderness (1975) was a Civil War game and Rocroi (1976) was a Thirty Years War game — and one of SPI’s famous “quad” games. Mosca’s final game, co-authored with Richard Berg, was Gondor (1977), one of SPI’s legendary “Games of Middle-earth.”
In the years since, several other women have left their mark on the wargaming field, among them SPI author Virginia Mulholland, West End Games president Helena Rubinstein, 3W author Laura Cochran, GMT author Kai Jensen, and the award-winning Rachel Simmons.
However, it was the advent of eurogames that really revolutionized the hobbyist gaming field, giving women a new chance to shine. You can date the eurogame field back to Germany’s creation of the Spiel des Jahres (Game of the Year) award in 1978. However, it really took off as its own style of design in the ‘90s, following the release of Klaus Teuber’s The Settlers of Catan (1995).
The eurogame field was unique because it had very different aesthetics from the hobbyist games then found in the United States. Warfare was almost entirely absent from eurogames, which also featured tight mechanics and shorter gameplay. In Germany, eurogames are explicitly aimed at couples, and female players of eurogames also seem more common in the United States.
The growth of female players in the eurogame industry was mirrored by a growth in female eurogame designers. Though women contributed to some early SdJ winners, such as Dorothy Garrels’ work on Scotland Yard (1982) and Suzanne Goldberg’s work on Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective (1985), it’s only in the last 20 years that female designers have started to appear more widely.
Beginning in the late 20th century, a few female designers established eurogame publishers of particular note. Doris Matthäus and Frank Nestel co-founded Doris & Frank, which has published well-known games such as Mü and More (1995) and Primordial Soup (1997). Meanwhile, Andrea Meyer is the sole founder of BeWitched-Spiele, whose best-known games include Ad Acta (2002), Linq (2004), and Mallworld (2004).
Women have recently returned to the ranks of SdJ winners. Andreas Seyfarth was awarded the SdJ for her co-authorship of Thurn and Taxis (2006) while Susan McKinley Ross was the first solo female winner for Qwirkle (2011).
The percentage of female designers in hobbyist games is still small, but the continuing expansion of the eurogame market provides room for their numbers to grow.
I’ve still got two more patron articles to reprint, but first I’ll have something new for you in next month’s column. If you’d prefer a nice PDF, MOBI, or ePub of this and other historical appendi, the complete Platinum Appendix is available from DTRPG.