Once again, we’ve got a fantastic post from our Hispanic Heritage Month guest writer: Jason Perez! He’s already linked his main YouTube channel, so please make sure to pay a visit to a fantastic content creator. Let’s explore these clever and thematically appropriate game ideas that developers can use to embrace Latine culture.
¡Hola, mi gente, otra vez! My name is Jason Perez and I am from the gaming channel on YouTube, Shelf Stories. In my last blog for Hispanic Heritage Month, I featured some currently available games which celebrated Hispanic heritage in a positive way.
As you can see, there is a lot more room for designers to step in and offer their own contributions. I asked the following question in some of the most popular gaming groups on Facebook, including Board Game Spotlight, Board Game Revolution Group, and The Dice Tower: “If you were a game designer, what game would you want to make to celebrate Hispanic culture? You can pick any cultural practice, historical event, geographic area, person, or anything else you want that has even a little bit of relevance.”
Several forum posters pointed out that they would want to work with local Hispanic gamers or consultants. ¡Buena idea! Every game with a cultural theme could benefit from consultation and/or local partnerships to help authenticate and realize its theme. So, assuming that such cultural partnerships were in place, here are some community ideas to perhaps help inspire some future games.
1) from Joshua Bowman: “My dad… would always talk about how his community would make large dinners and eat together as family and friends on Sunday dinner. A game about making a great Sunday dinner would be awesome. Maybe a more streamlined version of Grand Austria Hotel.“
Of all the responses I got, most of them involved food. With good reason! In this particular case, Joshua put his finger on an experience common across the diverse spectrum of Hispanic cultural expressions — huge gatherings where multiple generations contribute to the communal meal. Joshua imagined a Euro-style strategy game. This idea made me think of a lighter-weight worker placement-style game, where each worker represented a different member of the family who could do different things. Little children could be entrusted with certain tasks like rolling the tortillas, or abuelita (grandmother) could somehow rule the kitchen with her wooden spoon or her chancleta. Now I want an abuelita meeple!
2) from Stewart Chang: “Caesar Chavez and the farm workers movement I always thought would be a great counterpoint to the typical board game subject matter of controlling a company/being the owner of a farm, kinda like how Spirit Island is a counterpoint to the typical theme of colonialism.“
I swear that I did not include this comment simply because Greater Than Games produces Spirit Island! Along these lines, as a person of Puerto Rican descent, I would love to see a political-style game either going back to the days of Bartolome de las Casas, the missionary priest who tried to show mercy to the Taino peoples before their decimation, or a game that features the organizing and resistance efforts of Pedro Albizu Campos during the early 20th Century. Every group within Hispanic culture throughout history has had its saints and sinners, its powerful merchants and warlords, as well as its leaders of popular, grassroots movements. Pick your favorite!
3) Along with food, the most requested game was a solid, midweight Euro game themed around the Day of the Dead. A holiday practiced throughout Latin America — though mostly associated with Mexico — Dia de Muertos has enchanted our American neighbors for generations. Families offer a vast array of offerings such as food, drink, flowers, pictures, even pillows for spirits of the departed. This folds nicely within a game motif: who can construct the altar that attracts and pleases the most spirits? You can also augment the experience with regional variations that would provide different types of offerings or new types of spirits to attract.
I truly feel a beautiful, authentic, Euro-style rendering of Dia de Muertos would do very well in the American market and elsewhere.
4) This is my own idea, which I have been entranced with for a very long time — an abstract-style game based on the Black and White Carnival in southern Colombia. Like many noteworthy Hispanic festivals, the Black and White Carnival stems from a weeks-long celebration of Christmas, culminating in the Day of Epiphany on January 6th. In the Columbian version of this celebration, revelers don black masks on the day before and white masks on the day of, symbolizing a temporary adoption of otherness as a sign of solidarity and celebration of common humanity. I can imagine an abstract game with different rounds where points are scored depending on the color of tiles you are able to play on the board (black or white) on a certain day. If I knew more about abstract games, I’d make this game right now!
So there you go, some games that are currently available that manifest Hispanic heritage in positive ways, as well as some simple suggestions for more.
We’d like to extend a very warm thank you to Jason Perez for his writings. He’s helping to bring to light the diverse perspective that the industry — and the world — need. Once again, you can check out Jason on his YouTube channel Shelf Stories. And if you’re in the market for a game to play, you can read his other article here! Thanks, Jason!