A mounting number of board game designers and publishers have either publicly condemned or ended business relationships with US-based company The Gaming Goat following the use of white nationalist imagery in the Kickstarter campaign for Tournament Fishing: the Deck Building Game.
Originally released as a print-on-demand title in 2017, Tournament Fishing has teamed with the publishing arm of US-based retail company The Gaming Goat to crowdfund a second run of the angling-themed deckbuilder designed by Greg Mahler.
The campaign launched on September 7th and immediately began drawing ire from potential backers and the broader tabletop community due to one image that portrayed a frog seemingly making the “okay” hand signal, both of which have a history as a racist dogwhistle used by white nationalists, fascists and other hate groups.
The Anti-Defamation League has registered the hand sign as a hate symbol, which began in 2017 as a hoax on infamous message board 4chan. The users meant to co-opt a widely used and innocuous gesture to subtly gesture toward anti-Black and other bigoted sentiments, while use the excuse that it was just a joke as a shield against criticism. Pepe the Frog, originally created by comic artist Matt Furie, has a long and sordid history of use in similar internet circles, though efforts to reclaim the character are ongoing.
As reported by Techraptor, the combined use of both in the now-removed image led to many designers and publishers, including Cephalofair’s Isaac Childres, to condemn the project for allowing hateful imagery in Tournament Fishing’s campaign almost immediately after its launch Badgers From Mars, creator of the popular card game Regicide, posted to the BoardGameGeek forums on September 9th that it would be ending its licencing agreement with The Gaming Goat.
The following day, Mr. Cabbagehead’s Garden creator LiduCreations posted to Twitter that it would no longer work with The Gaming Goat in the future and regrets that copies of its game will be sold with the two companies’ logos next to one another. Designer Artem Safarov, creator of Cauldron and Unbroken, said he would be pulling out from a solo game project that was scheduled to be published by The Gaming Goat in 2022.
BoardGameGeek moderators permanently locked both Mahler and The Gaming Goat CEO Jeff Bergren’s accounts on the forum, citing multiple rule violations from the former and “a history of behavior across multiple social media platforms that directly conflicts with BGG’s community values” from the latter. Bergren’s Facebook page showed him making light of the initial outcry with memes and mocking of Regicide and Ankh: Gods of Egypt designer Eric Lang.
The Tournament Fishing Kickstarter posted an update on September 11th, saying: “We really appreciate all the support and would like to remind our backers to share their excitement about the game and remain focused on positivity within the comment section.”
“We understand there were frustrations about an image within the game and the initial response. It was never our intent to offend anyone, we do not tolerate or support any form of racism,” the post continues. “TGG-Games prides itself in creating games with diverse characters that promotes inclusivity and we believe that will shine through in this game. We truly value any chance to make the game better with not only stretch goals, but also with community feedback and we look forward to continuing this campaign with excitement and positivity.
Dicebreaker has reached out to The Gaming Goat and the designers for comment but did not receive a reply before publication.
Edit: The piece has been edited to correctly attribute Eric Lang with Ankh: Gods of Egypt.