I don’t want to play this, then

Father. Daughter. Superhero board game. Open the box. No female characters.

“What girl can I be?” Cassie asked, digging through the game pieces.

“I don’t think there are any girls, sweetie,” I said, anger building in me. Cause really, DC & Wonder Forge? WTF? You know it’s 2014, right?

Cassie put down the game pieces. “I don’t want to play this, then.” She turned and moved to leave the room, and it broke my heart. In part for her, and in part because I love superheroes, and this should be something we can share.

He thought of a solution: make their own female characters. They did; problem solved.

Cassie loves it and wants play every chance she gets. And this is why I am so pissed about the whole “no girls” thing. In addition to illustrating how they remain creatively stuck in the 60′s, DC is leaving money on the table by continuing to make their merchandise exclusive to boys.

And they are exclusive. I know many would argue that a kid should be able to handle playing a character that’s not their own gender sometimes. I agree! But why should that mean only the girls have to suffer that?

It’s like this: boys are future men, and men (in the aggregate! I said in the aggregate, stop yelling at me!) just are more into heroics, while girls are future women, and women (siiiiiiiigh in the aggregate siiiiiiiiiigh) just are more into that estrogen vibe.

I think businesses tend to make decisions based on more monetary concerns. Maybe statistically it’s more likely to be four boys playing, and they want to cater to that. But if so, it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you market only to boys, don’t be surprised boys are your only market. And don’t be surprised if the boys with sisters and female friends end up playing something else entirely.

When comics and game designers exclude or otherwise diminish the role of female characters, they are really telling girls they are not welcome. That sure, they canplay, but they can’t have full immersion. Full immersion is for boys only.

And fuck that.

I fixed this shitty game, but I shouldn’t have had to. We have a right to expect (and demand) that comics companies and the game designers they license to do better. Sure, it’s a free country and they have a right to make boys-only games if they want, but we don’t need to support it, or stay quiet about it.

Oh please, you’re just looking for ways to be offended.

Peter W Brett wrote the piece and the Mary Sue reposted it.


  1. says

    I have a bet, and I wonder if anyone will take it…

    I bet, that at some point within the next 3years, one of the remaining horsemen claim that we should all be grateful that they drew so much attention to feminism by generating controversy and by providing such a potently viral phrase such as “oestrogen vibe” (or similar) to the “debate”.

    5$. On the table.

  2. says

    Looking at the game on Boardgamegeek, one of the BGG crowd wrote to Wonder Forge and received this reply:

    “The reason we were unable to make the game including these female superheroes is due to the fact that DC Comics dictated and allowed Wonder Forge only certain rights to different characters, images, and names owned by DC. Since we were given no rights to use any of DC’s female characters, we could not legally include them.”


    It makes me wonder whether they asked for those characters. I’d like to know why they didn’t have the rights to them. How much was DC to blame and much the game publisher? Was this a ‘we can only afford n characters and so we choose the most iconic guys’ kind of thing?

  3. says

    leebrimmicombe-wood @6: I don’t know about this game in particular but I play quite a lot of board games and in my experience it’s far more common to have a more equal gender split. Not always equal, but usually at least 60/40. I can’t remember the last game I played with gendered characters that had no female representation, but that could just be my privilege blindness.

  4. invivoMark says

    My friend bought Sentinels of the Multiverse, and we’ve been impressed. It sounds like it’s very similar to this game, but without any “branded” superheroes. It’s like what DC and Marvel would be if they cared about gender and race diversity from the start.

  5. Morgan says

    Was this a ‘we can only afford n characters and so we choose the most iconic guys’ kind of thing?

    It’s DC. The iconic DC characters are Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman. Even if Wonder Woman has rights tied up due to movies or something – and that’s hard to believe, given that both Batman and Superman are on the box – there are plenty of other prominent characters. Which I’m sure is what you meant – that the emphasis would have to be on “guys” rather than on “iconic”.

  6. says

    It’s notable that other board games, such as Cryptozoic’s DC Deck-Building Game (sat on my desk in front of me) does not have this problem. So I wonder where this DC diktat came from. If indeed it was DC.

    May I also recommend Sentinels of the Multiverse? Definitely a more even gender mix and a wonderful co-operative game that creates a strong narrative.

    A little complex for the tinies to play, though.

  7. Crimson Clupeidae says

    I second Sentinels of the Multiverse (and if you want something a bit more tactical, there’s the new SotM: Tactics, that just came out for those who backed it on KS. Should be out to the public soon. Bonus: there are minis that can be bought separately for the tactics game!)

    I’d estimate the gender breakdown of heroes is close to 50/50 in the SotM game. I think the villains lean a bit towards the male side, though.

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