An increasing number of prominent board game industry and community members have pulled out of an upcoming show over The Game Manufacturers Association’s (GAMA) inability (or refusal) to make a statement about Black Lives Matter.
GAMA owns and operates Origins Online, a big virtual show running later this month that was intended to replace the usual Origins Games Fair (a physical event that has been postponed to October). It was supposed to feature panels, video and support appearances by notable board games people like Wingspan designer Elizabeth Hargrave, Blood Rage creator Eric Lang, Geek & Sundry’s Ruel Gaviola, Boardgamegeek and Man vs Meeple.
Instead those listed, and loads more, have withdrawn from the show over GAMA’s inability, when even the least sanctimonious corporations and sporting leagues on the planet have managed some kind of message, to make even the most basic statement of support for the Black Lives Matter protests that have been sweeping the United States since the beginning of the month.
You, like some people reacting to this news in the board game scene already have, might wonder why the absence of a statement would constitute such actions. It’s not like anyone from GAMA came out and said they were pro-cops, or that George Floyd’s “criminal lifestyle” was to blame for his murder.
But their silence is more than silence. It’s a refusal to support some of their most important and vulnerable members, who have long had to deal with all kinds of shit just for existing in the board game space, which as you might imagine has (and is still having) more than its fair share of problems with bigoted and hateful community members.
I'm afraid I'll be stepping down as a guest of Origins TV, in solidarity with fellow POC hosts and guests who have also stepped down.
— Eric Lang (@eric_lang) June 10, 2020
I agreed to be on 3 separate panels for @originsgames with a diverse group of presenters and panelists. Now many POC have withdrawn over @TheGAMAOnline refusal to say that Black lives matter. I stand in solidarity and won't do Origins Online without them.
— Elizabeth Hargrave (@elizhargrave) June 10, 2020
Girls' Game Shelf will no longer be assisting at Origins. We actively support fostering a more diverse game community and @originsgames silence is deafening. Our industry needs improvement - that starts with openly supporting marginalized voices in this space. Black Lives Matter https://t.co/mwJVxWN0th
— Girls' Game Shelf (@GirlsGameShelf) June 10, 2020
In support of our friends and colleagues withdrawing from participation in Origins Online, we will not be participating this year. We said Black Lives Matter. We meant it. We said actions speak louder than words. We meant it.
— Restoration Games (@RestorationGame) June 11, 2020
We are standing with everyone in support of Black Lives Matter and rescinding our offer to @originsgames to have GameNight appear on Origins TV. –Aldie
— BoardGameGeek (@BoardGameGeek) June 11, 2020
That’s just a small sample; Hargrave has put together a very long list of those who have withdrawn here. It’s so long that it’s difficult to see how the show can proceed without them.
To date, the closest GAMA have come to saying anything about the issue has been retweeting this message from the Origins show account a few days ago, part of an initiative to support “black creators & designers” and work towards ways “we can all support the Black members of our community better.”
Black creators & designers - we want to support YOU!
A few weeks ago, Origins started broadcasting weekly live streams on Friday nights. During this time, we play games, chat with viewers, and generally have a lighthearted good time. (1/5)
— Origins Games Fair (Oct 7-11) | Online (Jun 19-21) (@originsgames) June 1, 2020
In contrast, here’s a statement released by video gaming’s equivalent body, the Entertainment Software Association, one week ago:
Nationwide protests from the past weekend—in response to the senseless death of George Floyd and other African-Americans who have died in police custody—have inspired expressions of empathy and support by many. Today, ESA issued the following statement: https://t.co/AJlpJqti8w pic.twitter.com/L08DYGTZcK
— Entertainment Software Association (@theESA) June 2, 2020
That’s the absolute bare minimum of effort and support, but it is at least something. The fact GAMA hasn’t even been able to cobble something like that together is wild, and the longer their silence continues, whether it’s intentional or not, the worse it’s going to get.
Featured image: Loic Venance (Getty)