Are There LGBT Family Friendly Games?

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Nathan from California writes…

Dear Father Geek,

Thanks for the great coverage of games!

I am a gay man living with my gay partner of 16 years. We have 2 adopted children (age 6 and 4) from Korea and are looking for LGBT family friendly games. But not necessarily the standard definition of “family”. As a gay couple, my partner and I feel very sensitive to the fact that our children are not growing up in a household that many consider to be “the norm”. While the community in which I live is very warm and understanding, my concern is for my children and their future.

Can you recommend family games that would be well suited for my alternative family situation?

Greetings, Nathan, and thanks for the email.

First, let’s address the elephant in the room. For some who might be reading this, knowing that you are a gay man raising children with another gay man is going to trigger strong emotions. Both positive and negative. You shouldn’t be surprised if some of the comments to this post reflect that. However, I’m sure you are no stranger to bigotry, for which, I am sorry.

Second, let’s get real. The definition of family has been slowly changing from generation to generation. There was a time when women were expected to stay at home, clean the house, push out kids, and greet their husband at the door with a martini. Those days are gone (thankfully) and it makes me proud to see women in the workforce gaining prestige and equality, although we (as a society) have further to go. The push for equality for gay, lesbian, and transgender couples is the current “big fight” we are having that challenges our views on what a “family” is, continues to polarize our society, and be debated ad nauseam by politicians who want your vote.

But none of this matters, at least not to me. A family, as far as I’m concerned, is any group of individuals who look out and care for one another. They need not be related or even living in the same house. That being said, I have a hard time answering your question as your definition of “family” already differs from mine. Do you not love your children? Does your partner not love your children just as fervently as you? If the answer is yes, then I see you and your household being no different than mine or my neighbor’s or my neighbor’s neighbor’s. A family should be defined by love, not by sexuality.

I am going to make the assumption here that you are looking for games that hint or suggest that the standard definition of “family” is not the norm. The only game that comes to mind is The Game of Life, where players are welcome to start a family with two people of the same gender. In fact, the ability to create a family using two pegs of the same color (blue for guys, pink for gals) caused something of a controversy among conservative parties. Of which I was most pleased, as it took their focus off of Dungeons & Dragons for a short while.

But I would suggest you not look to skew the definition of “family games”. There are many, MANY games available for you and your family today that are sure to be enjoyed by all. If you look for every game to drive home a message or have a deeper meaning, I fear you might be missing the point of games in general. Board, card, and dice games are meant to entertain and challenge, but not always educate. More to the point, a game with a rather sensitive social message might be completely missed or misinterpreted by your children. In which case, I think you’ll find you are doing more harm than good. Especially if the attempt further alienates your children from society.

Ultimately, sir, you know your family best and should take steps to do all that you can to love and protect your children. If the goal is to have fun with them, the world of games is open and available to you. If the goal is to help your children understand and appreciate the diversity of life, then simply talk to them. You are the best source of information your children have. Don’t cheat them of it.

Agree? Disagree? Post a comment below and share your thoughts with Nathan and everyone else!

About Cyrus

Editor in Chief, Owner/Operator, Board Game Fanatic, Father of Three, and Nice Guy, Cyrus has always enjoyed board, card, miniature, role playing, and video games, but didn't get back into the hobby seriously until early 2000. Once he did, however, he was hooked. He now plays board games with anyone and everyone he can, but enjoys playing with his children and wife the most. Video games continue to be of real interest, but not as much as dice and little miniatures. As he carefully navigates the ins and outs of parenting, he does his very best to bestow what wisdom he has and help nurture his children's young minds. It is his hope and ambition to raise three strong, honorable men who will one day go on to do great things and buy their Mom and Dad a lobster dinner Cyrus goes by the handle fathergeek on Board Game Geek. You can also check him out on CyrusKirby.com. Yes, he has a URL that is his name. His ego knows no bounds, apparently....
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9 Responses to Are There LGBT Family Friendly Games?

  1. Jeremy says:

    Couldn’t agree more with the response. I play games with lots of different people from very different backgrounds, and families from all walks of life. Boardgaming is a way to draw a family closer together, however you define family. Lots of games, from King of Tokyo to Survive, Escape from Atlantis to the various Looney Pyramid games are hits with my kids and in my family, because they bring us together, help us laugh, love, learn patience, respect, and have fun. Enjoy the many games that are out there.

  2. Ben Haskett says:

    The title for this post really piqued my curiosity, if for no other reason than that no games immediately came to mind. Don’t get me wrong–I can think of a ton of games that would be perfect for *any* family game night (a long list of Spiel des Jahres winners comes to mind), But I think I’m having trouble in part understanding what attributes would make a game particularly well-suited for an LGBT family… are there any?

    Maybe if we took it from the opposite direction and build from there… are there any games that one would argue are *not* well-suited for LGBT families? And again, specifically LGBT families; obviously, games like Cards Against Humanity or The Walking Dead are not suitable for most families with young children.

    • trynewideas says:

      > Cyrus: “If you look for every game to drive home a message or have a deeper meaning, I fear you might be missing the point of games in general. … If the goal is to help your children understand and appreciate the diversity of life, then simply talk to them.”

      I don’t think that’s what Nathan’s asking, though I’d welcome a clarification from him. An overt social message isn’t necessary, and may actually be detrimental.

      My guess is Nathan is asking for games that provide flexible options, don’t rigidly dictate things like gender and relationships, and/or have positive or neutral portrayals of diverse people, regardless of the mechanics.

      > Ben Haskett: “I think I’m having trouble in part understanding what attributes would make a game particularly well-suited for an LGBT family … Maybe if we took it from the opposite direction and build from there”

      The crux for most games is presentation. Most games’ mechanics and rules don’t care about gender or relationships, but the flavor and artwork sometimes make a tacit point. If only heterosexual relationships are portrayed, if a character always has a mom and a dad, if gender options are binary or fixed to specific social cues–in the Life example above, I can’t imagine a male kid we play games with ever picking blue over pink–these things establish a “norm” that doesn’t fit Nathan’s family’s “norm”, which is marginalizing. It detracts from the fun, and it can be uncomfortable, difficult, or hurtful to try to explain why that presentation exists.

      Regardless of your opinion about that, I’d hope we can agree that those sorts of things can hurt the fun of a game, regardless of how well it plays.

      Off the top of my head, games like Last Night on Earth, Munchkin, and some tabletop RPGs and fantasy setting games come to mind as examples of games with actions and artwork that play off some pretty broad and negative stereotypes, especially toward women, and in many cases either don’t acknowledge the existence or possibility of homosexual relationships or people outside the gender binary, or portray them in problematic ways in an attempt to be edgy or funny.

  3. Nathan says:

    Thank you, Father Geek, for taking the time to answer my question thoughtfully, honestly, and without bias!

    I should have been more specific. What I should have asked (if I knew you’d bother to respond to my email) is what games are available today that could be used to help my partner and I start conversations about family with our kids. Specifically, alternative families. But not “overtly”, as trynewideas suggests.

    When I think about it, any “family” game would be just fine for “my family”. As yousaid,I shouldn’t look to “skew” what a family game is. Which is, a way to have fun WITH the family.

    Honestly, I was looking for a shortcut, but I think the best way to dicuss family matters with my children is to do it as a family, as a dad, and as a person who loves my children. After that, there’s always time for fun and games!

    Thank you again, Father Geek! Your time, attention, and passion for the hobby and the family really make your web site something special. CHEERS!

    ~ Nathan

    • Cyrus says:

      It was my pleasure, Nathan. Best of luck to you and continued success at being an “Awesome Dad”. Sometimes there’s no right or easy answer, and if you should stumble upon some secret that makes parenting easier, SHARE IT! Goodness knows I could use all the help I can get…

  4. Macavity says:

    I realize that my need is much less direct than yours, Nathan, but I think the insidious nature of the ‘norm’ is a pain in the ‘butt’. I am white as is my wife, and I live in fear that my children grow to think our skin tone is ‘normal’. In our lives, we freely associate with folks of all colours, but beige stockings are called ‘nude’ band-aids are ‘skin-coloured’ and most books and games available lack diversity.

    I think Cyrus is correct that a game is not going to teach your children better than you can, but there may be ones worth avoiding. Heck, the “It might be our Last Night on Earth” card in Last Night on Earth specifically requires use only when there is one male and one female on a square. I’m (thus far, my kids are young) keeping out anything too sexist, but do I applaud “Legends of Andor” for female characters in fantasy dressing intelligently while wishing that one fantasy (a setting I love) could stick someone non-white in there.

    I’m mostly rambling, but the fact that you are concerned about keeping your kids from feeling excluded really just means you are a good dad. Many of our favourite games are co-operative, and/or lacking human character depictions. Classics like sorry and Snakes and Ladders, or gorgeous modern ones like Forbidden Island/Desert or Mice and Mystics (which does include a young male mouse blushing at the attention of a young female).

    Keep loving them, and answer their questions honestly. The way things are going, odds are their peers will have less problems with them having two dads then you have had BEING two dads in your generation. And if you’re the cool dad with a shelf full of awesome games? Let their parent’s have the fun talks when asked why they can’t be more like you!

    Mac out.

    P.S., realizing I’m repeating a bunch, but posting anyway. Touched a synapse or two, I guess….

  5. V says:

    I saw this page a few months ago and I found it to be very interesting. At the time I wanted to design a game about relationships and as a result, I managed to add an LGBT variation which works in a neat way. I’d like to share my concept in private with anyone interested. This game just entered a local contest but I still would like to know if this game appeals to a real LGBT family. Thanks for the inspiration 😉

  6. Jon Visser says:

    “There was a time when women were expected to stay at home, clean the house, push out kids, and greet their husband at the door with a martini. Those days are gone (thankfully) and it makes me proud to see women in the workforce gaining prestige and equality, although we (as a society) have further to go.”

    Wow. That is completely bigoted and judgmental. My wife would prefer to stay at home with the kids, clean the house and push out kids. If I drank martini’s, she would make me one – and it would be the best martini I could drink. You demean and insult the most important job anyone could have – taking care of the family.

    Before I read this article, I was excited that you lived in my neighborhood, but now I am disgusted knowing how little you think of the women who live in our suburb and everywhere.

    For full disclosure, I am a stay at home dad. I know full well how much stay at home moms should be praised for their work. You can keep your unintelligent, unscientific liberal propeganda to yourself rather than spewing it to masses.

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