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International Womens Day 2018: Women in the games industry

International Women’s Day (March 8) is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity.

Being a board game store, we’re doing the obvious thing. Board games often seem like a male dominated area (both for designers and players), so we’re highlighting some of the great women behind the games we know and love. Let’s start with possibly the most well known game in the world.

Elizabeth Magie and Monopoly

Elizabeth Magie Phillips, in a circa 1937 portrait. (The Strong in Rochester New York)

Although it took years for her original design to be credited, Elizabeth Magie is now known as the original creator of Monopoly. Her game, The Landlord’s Game, was invented in 1903, decades before Parker Brothers released Monopoly.

Magie created The Landlord’s Game in protest of monopolist tycoons of the time. She created two sets of rules: an anti-monopolist set in which all were rewarded when wealth was created, and a monopolist set in which the goal was to create monopolies and crush opponents. This was intended to demonstrate that the first set of rules was morally superior, although it was the latter that proved more popular. The monopolist version of the game caught on, and a man named Charles Darrow claimed a version of it as his own and sold it to Parker Brothers in the 1930s. Darrow made millions and struck a profitable royalty agreement, while Magie’s income for her creation was reported to be a mere $500.

Kristin Looney

 

One half of the husband and wife team behind Looney Labs (creators of games like Fluxx, Loonacy, Aquarius and Pyramid Arcade). Prior to starting Looney Labs, Kristin spent 13 years working in the aerospace industry, first as an Electronics Engineer at NASA, then later as the Manager of the IT department for a start-up company called TSI-TelSys.

The company was founded in 1996 when Kristin & Andrew Looney gave up successful careers as aerospace engineers to pursue their hobby business full time. While Andrew is credited as the creator of Fluxx, Kristin is described as the driving force behind the company.

Susan McKinley Ross

Susan McKinley Ross is a game and toy designer. Among others games, she is probably best known for designing the award-winning popular game Qwirkle.

“I hardly play abstracts … but my brain thinks in abstracts, and my brain thinks in color … when game ideas come to me they almost always come abstract.”

Leslie Scott

Leslie Scott invented Jenga, based on a game that her family played while living in Africa. The family’s original Jenga set was made from wood bought from a local lumber yard. Jenga was officially launched at the London Toy Fair 1983

The word jenga comes from the Swahili word kujenga, which means “to build”.

The Cards Against Humanity “Girl Gang”

The creative team behind smash hit Cards Against Humanity is very female dominated. Creative Director Amy Schwartz says that the teamwork that permeates the company is the direct outcome of so many women working together.

“The CAH Girl Gang are responsible for the bulk of shenanigans customers encounter, from witty customer service emails to organizing every aspect of our convention presence. We have matching knives and work incredibly well together. I barely believe I get to work alongside such smart people who are such experts at what they do. Their expertise and support makes my job a dream.”

There are obviously many more women working behind the scenes of the board game industry. Check out the lists on Board Game Geek if you want to see some more. If you’d like to find out any more about International Women’s Day check out the official site.

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