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November 11th, 2003

Race Relations and Children's Games

Oh my god. Shannon was just showing me the lovely wooden pieces for a game he's supposed to review. It's called "Kids of Catan", and it's a dumbed-down version of the Settlers of Catan game, intended for pre-school kids. Whatever.

So anyway, Shannon's showing me all these big block-style carved wooden pieces (houses, trees, haystacks, etc.), including the player pieces, which are shaped like people/kids. So, there's a white kid, a yellow kid, a red kid, and a blue kid. And they go around this circle, collecting resources and hauling stuff (bricks, hay, and wood) around with them until they get the most stuff and they win.

BUT ... and now here we get to the kicker ... there is another human-shaped piece in the game. THE BLACK GUY. This black man-shaped piece sits in one location on the board, lying in wait for hapless kids to happen by so that he can ... yes, you guessed it ... STEAL THEIR STUFF!

Shannon didn't seem to see the dark and horrible humor in this when he was explaining the game mechanics to me, until I interrupted him and said, "Wait a minute. So ... the black guy steals stuff from the other players in the game? And this is a game for little kids to teach them ... what? Get as much stuff as you can, but beware of black guys, 'cause they'll rob you?" I was simply aghast. And yet I couldn't stop laughing at how inconceivably horrible it was.

Shannon insists that, since the game was created in Germany, the racial overtones that might seem obvious in the U.S. were most likely not even considered. Still, I've gotta maintain that it's an EXTREMELY unfortunate design element in the game, especially as it's being marketed in the U.S.

If I had kids, I wouldn't want them playing Kids of Catan. Bleh.

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