Colonialism and Games

Several articles and videos addressing colonialism & board games came out recently (Feb 2021). It’s made me think I should start keeping a reference list of links on the topic. If there’s a good read/watch/resource that I’ve missed, or if you’re a creator who’d like to be credited differently, please drop me a line!

When I know that a creator is speaking as someone from a colonized culture, I’ve marked the title with a *. (It might also be true for some unmarked ones if I’m unaware / uncertain.)

Videos

  • Colonialism – the Board Game Struggle*, by Efka of No Pun Included – both very personal and broadly applicable. (30m, 2021)
  • Decolonising Games*, by Conquest of Dread – more focused around video games and tabletop RPGs, but many of the core explanations and points apply to board games as well. (33m, 2019)
  • Better Board Games Through Cultural Engagement, by Rik Eberhardt and Mikael Jakobsson of the MIT Gamelab – a GDC talk presenting findings from design workshops engaging with residents in Colombia and Puerto Rico. (30m, 2019)

Posts / Essays

  • Colonialism In and Of Board Games, part 1 and part 2, by Nicole H of The Daily Worker Placement. (2021)
  • ‘Civilization’ and Strategy Games’ Progress Delusion, by Gabriel Soares on VICE. Focused on videogames, but applicable to the entire 4X genre in any medium. (2019)
    • Note: a comment elseweb on the above article mentions that the complex kinship relationships depicted aren’t static / set in stone as is implied, but are dynamic, linking to this journal article by way of reference.
  • Waka Tanka: a Response to Bruno Faidutti, by Brendon on Reading and Gaming for Justice – a response to Bruno Faidutti’s writings on Waka Tanka and an essay on Postcolonial Catan, which both explains quite well why they’re problematic, and covers a number of important issues. (2016)
    • I’m torn about linking to Postcolonial Catan, by Bruno Faidutti (French version at top, English below – keep scrolling, it’s long) because while the overview of colonialism and Orientalism is decent, the article also has some real issues – e.g., the author’s defense of how Europeans see Native Americans is an almost textbook example of erasing real, modern peoples by appropriating and romanticizing their past while ignoring their present-day existence. However, it’s definitely worth mentioning: it helped boost awareness of and discussion about colonialism & exoticism in the board game industry. You can find it linked from “Waka Tanka: a Response to Bruno Faidutti”, above. (2014)

Other Links


I’m using * to note entries where the creator / speaker / author is speaking as someone from a colonized culture. It might be true for some unmarked entries as well where I’m just not aware of that fact.