Last year when we made our BIPOC Statement and Declaration of Action, a part of it was to offer scholarships to my favorite game convention, Geekway to the West in St. Louis. Unfortunately, due to COVID the convention didn’t happen last year, so this offer was delayed until the convention rescheduled for October 5-7 this fall.

We worked with Geekway to craft the following scholarship announcement for event badges, which was released yesterday:

Geekway to the West and Stonemaier Games are excited to announce the opportunity for a limited number of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) attendees to go to Geekway to the West 2021 free of charge!

Collectively, we recognize that tabletop gaming is not a very diverse community. Try as we might to change this, we look around gaming tables at Geekway and see very few non-white faces. In conversations with our friends, we’ve learned that showing up to events can be intimidating if nobody looks like you regardless of how welcoming they are. We are trying to address this by actively inviting BIPOC people to Geekway because:

We believe in the power of active inclusion
We hope to create fans who become gamers for life
We really like making new friends
We believe that creating a more diverse community benefits everyone

Thank you to Stonemaier Games—a fellow St. Louis organization—for sponsoring this initiative for Geekway.

If you would like to request an invitation, please fill out this form. We will take care of the rest.

While the invitation says “limited,” I would be overjoyed and financially supportive if hundreds of people joined Geekway as a result of this offer. As an introvert, I felt incredibly welcome at Geekway my first time in 2013, and I want everyone to experience that same feeling of inclusion.

I would love to meet you and play games with you at Geekway this year! If you decide to attend, please keep yourself and the people around you safe by getting vaccinated as soon as possible (if you haven’t already).

Internal Diversity

On a related note, recently I listened to an insightful conversation on the Shelf Stories that featured 5 women in the game industry. To paraphrase a sentiment echoed a few times during the discussion that stuck with me: It’s suspect if a game company says that diversity and inclusion are important to them but their staff page only shows white men.

I delved into this topic in November in a post called “Show Me the Money” about how one of the most impactful ways you can join the fight against systemic racism is to actually hire, contract, and pay Black, Indigenous, and People of Color.

Like most game companies, Stonemaier Games only has a few full-time employees (even 3 is a lot of people–I was our only full-time employee for the first 8 years!). A significant portion of publishing our games stems from the many independent contractors we hire on a regular basis.

Some of the most active and impactful paid independent contractors are our graphic designer (Christine Santana), web developer (Dave Hewer), photographer (Tim Chuon), a variety of artists and sculptors (Lamaro Smith, Natalia Rojas, Ana Maria Martinez, Jacqui Davis, Heriberto Martinez, Miles Bensky, etc), our proofreaders (Dana Woller, Michael Lee, Inga Keutmann, etc), our replacement parts helpers (Helen Christie, Yannis Panayotopoulos, Mark O’Reilly, Devon Sheppard, etc), designers (Elizabeth Hargrave, Hoby Chou, etc), and our lead playtesters. Our small group of shareholders also has a large impact on steering Stonemaier Games.

Between those two groups, 44% are women and minorities and 56% are men. I’ve now included this on the Stonemaier Games staff page.

BIPOC Statement and Declaration of Action Update

You can see the details in the chart below. While it was helpful and important to track this information, I must admit that the accounting element has started to feel a little weird. When I send a game or reach out to a BIPOC content creator, it feels weird to check it off on a spreadsheet.

I talked to Timm at Meepleville about this a month or so ago (his channel is here, though I don’t think the video is there yet), and we touched upon the concept of proximity, which I’ve also heard Bryan Stevenson talk quite a bit about. It’s a simple concept: If you spend time with someone who is different than you (or has different opinions than you), you naturally increase your understanding, empathy, and compassion for that person and others like them.

This ties back to the Geekway scholarship. It’s an intentional act of inclusion in an effort to create proximity. The numbers are important–numbers give us a quantifiable sense of progress and accountability–but proximity is about genuine connections and relationships, which are much more difficult to quantify.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on these topics, ideally expressed in a constructive manner. Thanks!