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Board Game Design Day: Better Board Games Through Cultural Engagement

Mikael Jakobsson  (Research Scientist, MIT)

Richard Eberhardt  (Studio Manager, MIT)

Location: Room 3005, West Hall

Date: Monday, March 18

Time: 3:00 pm - 3:30 pm

Pass Type: All Access, GDC Conference + Summits, GDC Summits - Get your pass now!

Topic: Design

Format: Tutorial

Tutorials: Board Game Design Day

Vault Recording: Video

Audience Level: All

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 Bangor 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.


This presentation can hopefully serve as an eye-opener for the participants, showing how many interesting and under explored game themes that emerge as soon as you embrace culturally responsible design approaches. Participants will be empowered to address subject matter that may previously have been seen as too sensitive or political.

Intended Audience

This talk is aimed broadly at everyone involved or interested in board games. The speakers especially want to engage with people who make board games such as designers, developers, and publishers. But other community stakeholders such as content creators and the gamers themselves should all be able to get some food for thought from the presentation. Anyone familiar with Settlers of Catan and a rudimentary grasp on history and geography has the necessary prerequisites for following along.