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'We're on the right track': Black game designers in Phoenix talk importance of inclusivity in games

Boss Battle is a "3v1 strategy card game" where players choose a class and take part in a fight to the death against an "epic boss," the game's website said.

PHOENIX — Move over, Monopoly! Today’s board games are anything but basic.  

The pandemic spurred on a resurgence of board games at a time when so many people were looking to reconnect beyond virtual gaming. Two African American game designers are breaking the mold when it comes to representation and inspiration in the gaming community.

“If you love Dungeons & Dragons, if you love playing Magic: The Gathering, it just seemed right up everyone’s alley," said Jessica Pierce, co-designer of the board game "Boss Battle."

Boss Battle is a six-year labor of love for Pierce and co-designer PJ Vilsaint. What began as a Kickstarter campaign has exploded into a high-stakes, strategic board game that’s debuting at just the right time.

The game is described on its website as a fantasy tabletop board game where heroes must defeat an "epic boss" or die trying. Players can choose from multiple classes including warrior, mage and priestess to battle the foe and try their luck.

"Just seeing the surge of board games now, seeing more people get involved, you get to see all these really fascinating, cool projects and really cool games," Vilsaint said. "We're kind of in a renaissance right now and it's amazing.” 

Boss Battle is not only incredibly challenging, but it’s also uniquely inclusive. The representation of people of color, nonbinary and disabled people in the game is a conscious decision made by the game creators.

"I think that has connected us more with more black-owned board games," Pierce said. "Being able to represent everybody and get that feedback definitely lets us know we're on the right track.”

Vilsaint said it's important for people to not only see themselves reflected in games, but to also know it's possible for them to get into the game-making world.

“It’s almost tearful because I grew up not knowing how to get into anything like this," Vilsaint said. "To see my son the other day come up and say, ‘Hey, Daddy, look, I have this game that I'm working on,’ it’s very exciting that I've shown him that's something he can do.”

Boss Battle is for ages 14 and up and one to four people can play. Find out more on the game's Instagram, Facebook and Twitter pages.

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