Women & Nonbinary Board Game Designers
In 2018, only 7 games of the top 200 on Board Game Geek had a non-male designer involved. (Wingspan makes 8.) But I got tired of being called "one of very few non-male game designers," because I know there are lots of women and non-binary folks with published board games. I started compiling a list, and ended up with
well over 100 over 200!
Additions or corrections?
Want to support diversity in board game design?
- Spread the word about designers who are making boardgaming more diverse, and normalize the idea that game designers can come from any background. If you're invited to be on a panel that's all white men, forward some names to the organizers.
- Create gaming and playtesting events that will attract new people. Advertise to the public, and hold them in spaces that welcome all. You can't grow the hobby by hanging out with the same people all the time. Also, what if playtesting came with playdates or childcare? What if they didn't run until midnight on a school night?
- Help new designers network at cons and playtesting events. Think about how intimidating it is to walk into a room where you visibly stand out as different, and try to make it easier on someone else. Introduce them to other designers and to publishers. Play their games.
- Be aware of casual sexism and racism in gaming, especially when it's not directed at you. Call people on it when you see it. Here are some examples.
Looking to network with other non-male designers?
Designers: Western North America
Rachel Simmons | California
Rachel (who continues to work under her former name, Bowen) is a wargame designer whose titles include Napoleon's Triumph and The Guns of Gettysburg. She has twice been a finalist for the James F. Dunnigan Award for outstanding achievement in historical wargames.
Teeuwynn Woodruff | Washington@EvansVanished
Teeuwynn was a game designer at Wizards of the Coast for over a decade. She has worked in RPGs, puzzles, trading cards, miniatures, and board games, including Pokémon, Magic: The Gathering, Duelmasters, Dreamblade, AngelQuest, and Betrayal at House on the Hill.
Dani Hedlund | Colorado@DMHedlund
Dani Hedlund published her first novel at age 18, founded an international literary nonprofit (Tethered by Letters) and an art and literary collection (F(r)iction), and a board game company (Bad Hipster Games). Her first game is Brexit: the Board Game of Second Chances.
Jenn Sandercock | Washington
Jenn is an Australian game designer living in the US. She has worked primarily in digital games, but recently had a successful Kickstarter for a cookbook of edible analog games.
Designers: Central North America
Becca Lafair | Illinois@MapmakerGame
Becca and her brothers designed Mapmaker: The Gerrymandering Game after they saw the crazy boundaries of their hometown Congressional district. Arnold Schwarzenegger backed their Kickstarter and paid to send copies of the game to all the members of the Supreme Court.
Designers: Eastern North America
Mary Ellroy | Connecticut
Mary starting working in the game and toy field in 1990 when she sold her first game to Mattel, and she has more than 30 published toys and games. She works as a consultant and agent who will show your games to Mattel and Hasbro if it meets their criteria.
Naomi Clark | New York@metasynthie
Naomi is a game scholar and designer at the NYU Game Center. Her 2014 card game Consentacle explores sexuality and consent. She is also author of the book A Game Design Vocabulary: Exploring the Foundational Principles Behind Good Game Design.
Nashra Balagamwala | New York@nashrabalagam
Nashra worked at Hasbro before designing the indie game Arranged -- a commentary on arranged marriage that received extensive press coverage -- and several other games drawing on her experiences as a Pakistani and an artist.
Jessica Creane | Pennsylvania@IKantKoan
Jessica designs infinite tabletop games (Schrödinger's Cat) and game-theater experiences (Chaos Theory, R&J), including collaboration with the National Parks Service and teaching game design at Drexel University.
- No Proscenium interview
- Imaginary Worlds podcast
- TEDx interview: Gamifying Chaos and Embracing Uncertainty Through Play
Bonnie Neubauer | Pennsylvania@NeuBon
Bonnie is an author, writing teacher, grief coach, and game designer. Her first published game will be ADJitation from Breaking Games.
Allison Parrish | New York@aparrish
Allison is a computer programmer, poet, and game designer whose teaching and practice look at the intersection between language and computers. She codesigned Rewordable, a word building game where the units of play are cards with sequences of letters.
Karen Seyfarth | Germany
Karen has co-designer credit for Thurn and Taxis, which won the Spiel des Jahres in 2006. Her husband Andreas has said that she helped with all of his designs, including hit titles like Puerto Rico.
Karin Hetling | Germany
Karin won the Spiel des Jahres scholarship in 2011, and went on to be nominated for the Kinderspiel des Jahres in 2015 for her game Schatz-Rabatz. She has several other published children's games.
Designers: United Kingdom
Steffanie Yeakle| France@steffanie
Steffanie is an American filmmaker, photographer and boardgame designer who lives in Paris. She worked for Mattell and Creata before becoming an independent designer. Her codesigns with Marie Chaplet include Paul and the Moon, Le Jour Qui Rend Super Happy, and several others.
Designers: Rest of Europe
Natalia Wojtowicz | Netherlands@Wojtowicz_N
Natalia is a wargamer who designs simulations for the Civil-Military Cooperation Center of Excellence in the Hague. She has also designed a wargame intended for the hobby market.
Designers: Australia and New Zealand
Claire Ahuiri-Dunning | New Zealand
Claire is a playwright and game designer whose first boardgame, Cat Capers, explored what cats do while their owners are away. She's Kickstarting a visual novel that combines her love of cats and Shakespeare.
Designers: Middle East
Aya Matsunaga | Japan
Aya is a Japanese game designer and artist. She is also an Administrator of the Japanese board game site, ボドゲーマ (Boardgamer). Her games include BodoCa, Loving Penguin, and Ubergang des Barocks.
Madoka Kitao | Japan@nemurineko
Madoka is a professional Shogi player and has been very active in getting girls and women to play. The first game she designed was a small Shogi variant for children named Dōbutsu Shōgi (Let's Catch the Lion!). Others include Nanahoshi and Ten. She runs Nekomado.
Kuon | Japan@ kuondou
Kuon is a game designer and illustrator who says she aims to make adorable packages and easy-to-understand rules especially aimed at girls and beginners. Her company Kuondou also makes game-related accessories and TRPG t-shirts. Her games include Cat Nap, The Tribute of Prince Giuliano, and Cake Buffet.
Annisa Hasanah | Indonesia@annisaa_potter
Annisa is a social entrepreneur who designed Ecofunopoly with the goal of fostering stronger green behavior. She has received several international and national awards for her work.
Notable Past Designers
Jennifer Schlickbernd | California@JenSchlickbernd
Jen co-designed Advanced Civilization (1991). She was one of the early US proponents of German games in the 1980s, and one of the first people to get a DCI number for Magic: The Gathering. She remains an active gamer and BGG user.
Virginia won the Kinderspiel des Jahres in 1990 for her game My Haunted Castle. She had dozens of other published designs, including the recently re-released Mole in the Hole (Die Maulwurf Company Mitbringspiel).