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I think Yourpaceormine hit it on the nail. Gaming is like climbing was: it is very hard to get into without a certain amount of equipment and, crucially, someone taking you in hand and teaching you how. And because most of the gamers are white guys, it tends to stay that way.

That won’t change until the gaming equivalent of climbing centers starts up. That’s not GW stores, although they do a good job of recruiting: that’s stores that actively promote diversity because it is good for the pocketbook.

I saw this happen in Brazil. Devir jump-started the gaming scene from almost nothing. Back in the early 1990s, the only people who played were kids whose parents worked overseas. The scene was aggressively white, male, and very upper class.

Devir knew it couldn’t make money unless it turned gaming into a democratic scene. They hired Alexandre Bubel and me to do exactly that. For about seven years, we had open shop gaming all day every friday and saturday. We’d also run games at schools, in shopping centers, at fairs… everywhere. This was mostly RPGs, but we’d use minis to illustrate and draw people in and most of the scenarios had battles.

Well, the numbers of PoC  playing almost immediately began to reflect the venues we played in and given that Brazil is about 60% PoC… It was still more white than not, because gaming is still middle class and not too many games were going on in the favelas, but it got very diverse compared to the U.S. and Britain.

As for women, we heavily recruited girls to become game masters. We ran all girl tables. We had girls do painting workshops. (Where we’d also encourage the kids to look around at all the skin colors of the people in the shop and paint miniatures realistically.) Crucially, about this time, adult-oriented roleplaying games like Vampire came out in Portuguese and those really appealled to the girls. Our gaming scene very quickly became around 30% women.

My take away from all this is that affirmative action is needed to open gaming up. A small amount of diversity will “just happen”, but you really need what Annie Norman is doing: games for girls, say, front and center at cons, with neat female minis that look like that chick from Vikings, say, and not cheesecake on high heels. You need to get gaming into public schools.

One of the things that I am most proudest of is that my colleague Silvio Compagnoni Martins (who once saved Dave Arneson’s life, but that’s a different story) took gaming into the favelas.

We found out that there was this group of kids who lived in a Rio favela and who had made a scale model of it out of bricks and trash. They used toys to recreate the gun battles in the favela and also to tell its stories. It was very cool, because they were publically talking about stuff the media wouldn’t show, in very detailed and graphic fashion. So Silvio took them some sets of GURPS and some minis, taught them the rules and how to paint, and the kids began incorporating all this into their play. They are still going strong, although most of them are adults now.

So I don’t even think it is “objectionable” material that turns people off from gaming, but rather the way it is portrayed. You probably could do a Scarlet Heroes game with a lot of kids whose grandparents were black and African: just let THEM make up the stories and do the game.

We get slapped around, but we have a good time!