Rulebook

Let’s play a game! Guess what the chances are that a player in a board game rulebook is referred to as he. In a gender inclusive world, chances would be zero because game developers would just use they. In the real world, however, chances are 73.8% that the player is assumed to be a man. That’s the conclusion of an analysis of 774 pages of manuals of forty board games.

In addition, almost three quarters of the rulebooks only used images of men. The manuals of the remaining ten games contained at least one image of a woman – this means that men could still be overrepresented in these games. In seven of the forty games players can only use male characters.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the researchers found that diverse design teams create more gender-inclusive games. Games designed by women scored best, followed by those designed by BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Colour) men. White men on average developed the most male-dominated games and rulebooks.

Why should rulebooks use inclusive pronouns? Well, why not! Are only men invited to play, to have fun, to be carefree? Studies about a range of different texts – including computer science educational materials and job ads – found that male-centred imagery and language lowers women participation as well as confidence in their abilities. In this way, generic use of the word he perpetuates gender inequality which makes it, as philosopher Amia Srinivasan argues, “a tool of the patriarchy”.