Black Lives Matter

June 5, 2020

Reagan famously referred to the United States as a shining city on a hill with the eyes of all people upon us.  Today, that shining city has risen up in protest because we have manifestly failed to live up to our pledge of liberty and justice for all.  Indeed, the eyes of all people are upon us, stunningly joining in the protests of our people, as if we are all one people.  We are.

As a company that sells games and toys, the Board Game Barrister has little to contribute directly to our fellow Americans rising up to demand their equal treatment under the law, their liberty, their justice.  What we do is important and brings so much to people’s lives – but after liberty and justice is present in your life.  So, outside of this statement, we’ll resume our focus on bringing people together through play – not because we somehow pretend that people are not justifiably rising up to demand their rights in the spirit this nation was founded on, or that playing games is anywhere close to as important as seeking to achieve something as essential and basic as equality under the law, but because we know our place in our community.  At different times, parts of that community will become ready to reconnect to each other through games, through play – and we’ll be here for you whenever that time comes.

But here, in this statement, now, we have some things to say.

We believe, as Americans, that the uprisings sparked by the unambiguous killing of George Floyd – by us through our police – are an opportunity to begin changes that will make good on our pledge of liberty and justice for all.  We must seize this opportunity to act.  And here is where our background in games has relevance.

This uprising must act for some new behavior, not merely against the bad behaviors of the past.  We know this because in many games, if you play to not-lose, you still won’t win.  To win the game, you must take affirmative action.  Here are some things to be for.

We know that when a human gets a new toy, they want to use it.  We’ve seen countless Timmy’s open a booster pack that has Worldslayer in it, and they come back next week with a new deck built around it.  Our police are humans, and they’ll use what new toys that we give them.  To continue the metaphor, let’s give them Pacifism and Coalition Victory in place of Worldslayer or Sword of Vengeance.  Therefore, we believe that our public safety must be rethought and our money spent on the things we as a society want to see actually used – with the corollary that things we don’t want to see used should not receive funding.

We know that most games are designed to provide an equal chance for each player to win.  When there is something structural to the game that impacts this – the old first player advantage – a good game design tries to compensate by giving the other players an extra card or bonus points.  We believe that we must acknowledge the first player advantage given to whites in our society, and the corresponding disadvantage that has specifically harmed Black Americans.  We believe that it is not enough to say Black Lives Matter, we must actually take actions to make those lives matter.  Only then will we have given everyone an equal opportunity to achieve what we affectionately call the American dream. 

One last point, lest this transform from a blog post into an actual essay.

Pick an American historical figure, they all speak of being united.  E Pluribus Unum used to be our motto (and should be again).  “One nation, indivisible”.  And, not to put too fine a point on it, United isn’t just an airline, it is our nation’s first name.  We believe that being united comes from compassion, and compassion is inherently about focusing on others.  Look at the America we imagine we are in the movies – we believe they are all when we as Americans were united through compassion.  In stark contrast, our current president focuses solely on himself with such exclusivity that we are seeing what a shell the States of America would look like when we are no longer United through compassion.  To remain United, we must all vote – not with anger or for a candidate inflaming that anger, not with fear or for a candidate feeding that fear – but with compassion and for any candidate who behaves with compassion, at this and at every election.

Gordon L.

Gordon, a.k.a. "the" Barrister, or simply "G", opened the first Board Game Barrister store in 2005 in a fit of delusion: that he could both finish up law school and start a retail business - one has worked out, the other less so. Gordon loves working in the toy industry, which is filled with wonderful people who love what they do; he loves working with his fellow Barristers; and he loves the community of people that has grown around the playing of games together at the Board Game Barrister stores. If Gordon were a Dungeons & Dragons character, he would be a lawful goody-two-shoes silicon wizard with a skills in perl and complex compound sentences. Gordon loves many games, but when forced to choose he went with China, Power Grid, Lost Cities, and Empire Builder.

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