Like others during this pandemic, black families spend more time together at home. So Miklos and Starla Fitch hope to persuade more bored citizens to consider playing board games.
In January, Omaha, Nebraska, the couple started a YouTube event that had more than 6,000 subscribers. They say board game companies contact them every day now.
Although they don’t know how many of their new customers are black families, they hope that the episode of funny banter and consumer information about games on the market today will attract a diverse audience.
“We want to hear what people have to say about board games,” Starla Fitch explained in one episode of the show.
“We have received many comments from people of color from New Zealand, Australia and other countries,” he told NBC News.
“We have Latins who say, ‘We’re glad you’re here,'” said Miklos, known as Mik. “We also want to see some people who look like we are playing games.”
Marcus Ross, who as the designer of Black’s own blackboard game rarely, said the industry, which has the estimated global market value is more than $ 7 billion in 2017, according to Statista, has a long way to go in terms of diversity.
“It would be very difficult to overestimate how white the market is,” Ross said. “The table game industry has just begun to look at the possibility of this untapped market – black people.”
To help Fitches attract a larger audience, their son Grant, 15, uses his computer skills to help them create the YouTube Show, “Our Family Plays Games.”
His parents were hosts, but Grant grew up playing board games, so he also appeared on the show sometimes.
They talk about subjects such as small box games that are good for traveling, two-player games and farm-themed games. Appearances on ABC’s “Good Morning America” last month doubled their YouTube viewers.
Fitches grew up playing popular board games such as chess, dominoes, Sorry and Monopoly, and having family game nights with their children. They have a collection of 280 matches and can be seen sitting in front of their shelves at their shows.
Mik Fitch said that after they got married, he looked for a game that he and Starla would love to play as a couple.
“Starla doesn’t like team play, so I got Catan,” he said. “You took your own route to build your settlement.”
Starla also likes what Mik calls the “beautiful component” for her board game. He called them sturdy, not thin. He is interested in the theme and something that allows him to strategize. Their performance lasted about 20 minutes. In Episode 27, they review seven games that Mik says “don’t love enough.”
Starla said of one game, “This is bad, but it’s a good game.”
They both liked the 1893 World Exhibition.
“I love history,” Starla said. “We like to read about the investors there.”
When a friend told them that Frederick Douglass was at the night market, Mik called the factory.
“I said: ‘You know Frederick Douglass was there and you might want to put him in the game. They said, Thank you for letting us know. You are right, we might want to add it. ‘”
Their cheerfulness and their contagious love for board games is why Tom Vasel, host of “The Dice Tower,” a YouTube video podcast about board games, has kept the Fitch family on their shows.
“I want to be as diverse as possible,” Vasel said. “But the words I use to describe them are authentic – and that’s the most important. I am happier after talking with them than before. “
Fitches also joined Jade Rogers, founder of the House of Afros, Capes and Curls, an Omaha organization that Rogers lovingly said was “for Black nerds” who share a love of science fiction, fantasy, games, and Afrofuturism. With Fitches, Rogers aspires to create a younger generation of Black Board players and designers.
“Children meet with them at zooming in and participate in virtual game nights. Children will make games of what they have learned, “Rogers said.
The Fitches devoted Episode 6 of their YouTube show to “Black History Month Tribute,” the highlight games they found that attracted the Blacks. Among them are Splendor, Ticket to Ride and Codenames (none of them are made by Black designers).
There is one game that Fitches refuses to play: Freedom: The Underground Railroad. Although the aim of this game is for abolitionists to work together to lead slaves to freedom in Canada, Starla said, “I cannot wrap my head in slavery as a game.”
Mika said, “That won’t be in my collection. It’s just something we don’t want to play. “
At the end of the Black History event, they made a list of the only Black designers they had met for years playing games. Besides Ross, there are Eric M. Lang, Mark Corsey and Omari Akil.
“For the board game industry, Fitch is quite unique,” said Ross, whose company is called Water Bear Games. “Most reviewers are white men in their 30s and 40s.”
But like Fitches, Ross said he believed that if black people were introduced to some of the newer games, they would like it.
“The new game values your time and intelligence,” he said. “It takes a little luck, but you must have a strategy.”
He also believes that the recent protests and the call “Black Lives Matter” make producers realize that they are losing the entire potential customer market.
“Fitches can bring in a completely different market, people who haven’t been exposed to this,” he said. “For these people, all the games in the past 10 years are new.”
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