From the moment we’re born, games and play are a part of our worlds. Whether it’s through playing around with words or make-believe, playing games matters in how we see ourselves, others, and the world. This isn’t a new idea. Since ancient times, people have used games for education, therapy, and even spiritual training. This history continues with the rise of digital games and online play. But in addition to growth and learning, the close connection between history, social life, and play also raises concerns:
- How might games keep problems from history alive?
- How might they accommodate unfair and violent behaviors?
- How can games reinforce social exclusions?
- What can we do to confront these problems?
In this book, we [Dr. Leonardo Custódio and Dr. Sabine Harrer] talk about these questions in relation to race and racism, a topic that is often considered difficult, complicated, and awkward. However, we believe that if we want to play fair, we first need to understand what is not fair. And racism is one of the many ways in which unfair play manifests itself. This might not seem obvious at first. After all, isn’t the point of games and play to have fun? However, we believe that we need to talk about “old” problems, such as racism, to successfully confront and overcome them.
Engaging with racism in games matters for everyone who loves board games, video games, casual games, role-playing games, and other forms of play. No matter our background, our location in the world, or our interests, we can all become more respectful players. Our goal with this book is to provide anyone making, playing, or teaching with games with a tool to start critical conversations about the structures, emotions, and expressions of racism in games and play. The idea is that if we understand the rules and mechanics of racism and how it affects play, we can start challenging them and building a more respectful future playing with each other.