The Nonbinary Tabletop Awards: Snowbright Studio’s Inclusive Vision in Gaming
We had a chance to have a candid interview with Grace Collins from Snowbright Studio, who shed light on the driving force behind the pioneering Nonbinary Tabletop Awards. Learn what inspired the studio’s nonbinary team members and their pursuit of visibility within the tabletop gaming sphere. From challenging norms to fostering community support, Grace delves into the studio’s mission beyond game creation—advocating for LGBTQ+ representation and pushing for systemic change within and beyond the gaming industry. Dive deep into the journey of Snowbright Studio, the significant impact of their advocacy, and the vibrant future of the Nonbinary Tabletop Awards.
GeekPost: Can you start by telling us what inspired the creation of the Nonbinary Tabletop Awards?
Grace: Snowbright is an LGBTQ+ game studio where about half of us are nonbinary. Awards and recognition that we have earned in the past have been really helpful in getting our name out there and legitimizing our games and brand. As we started to look around at more award programs, we noticed just how few nonbinary people are ever nominated for awards in tabletop games, let alone winning them. A lot of times, it seemed like it was just us or one other person, despite nonbinary folx being VERY active in tabletop. Having just wrapped up serving as judges for the Origins Awards, we started talking about what it would take to give nonbinary folks more representation and visibility in the same way that we had been gaining that through award programs. We thought about pitching the program to a few existing award programs but realized that it would be an uphill battle. Instead of waiting for something that might never happen, we decided to put our own funding in and create it ourselves.
GeekPost: Snowbright Studio aims to be more than just a game creator but also an advocate. Can you elaborate on that vision?
Grace: I founded Snowbright Studio back in 2019 after coming out of the federal government where I served under President Obama and President Trump. I saw a lot of great programs and initiatives killed or twisted during the changeover of administrations and hit kind of a low point in my own emotions about the direction of our country. Initiatives that we had been working on to do things like support unhoused youth in finding ways to get an education were instead being talked about as ways for ICE to identify and deport children. It was a really tough time for everyone in government who was there trying to do something good.
Over time, I started to realize that I could move faster and make more progress on some of our original Obama-era goals if I moved outside of the government, so I founded what’s now called Snowbright. I can’t believe it has been five years already! I had very little interest in just creating a company that would turn a profit. I wanted something that could make a difference. So, I laid the groundwork for it and brought on a team of other people who also cared about these kinds of shared values.
Every year now we sit together as a full team and decide our strategic goals for the year. Some of those are “don’t go out of business” type of goals, but many of them are focused on advocacy – and particularly LGBTQ+ advocacy. It’s one of the reasons why we were just profiled in VentureBeat earlier this year and recognized with the Vanguard Award from Games for Change for our advocacy around LGBTQ+ issues. It might not always be immediately visible, but below the surface we are trying to make as big of a difference as we can. From collaborating with universities on research projects, to working with climate scientists, to helping news organizations uncover gender disparities in games, and more.
Interview Continues Below:
GeekPost: What qualifications or criteria are there, to be nominated for the Awards?
Grace: You can find everything about the awards on our nomination page: https://www.snowbrightstudio.com/awards. The main criterion and our guiding star are that the nominated work must “uplift nonbinary gender representation and advocacy in tabletop games”.
GeekPost: Can you explain how the judging process will work for the NTA? How will the winners be announced and featured? Will there be a ceremony or an event where the awards will be handed out?
Grace: We have a panel of judges, including some Snowbrighters and some non-Snowbrighters, who will evaluate the entries from the five categories holistically. Three outstanding entries will be selected from across all the categories and announced this winter. We will be running a profile on each person/organization that wins, featuring them in our Cozy Companion publication, sending a press release about them out to news outlets, and promoting their work across social media. That is in addition to cash awards for each winner. There is no in-person component this year, but we are considering partnering with an annual game event in year 2 to add a bit of ceremony to it.
GeekPost: Can you tell us about the categories and what you hope to highlight with them?
Grace: The five categories are: Advocacy, Art, Content Creation, Game Design, and Writing. Advocacy refers to work that is supporting nonbinary creatives and representation. Work that fits under this category might include hosting inclusive playtesting programs, running supportive online communities for LGBTQ+ designers, art collectives, creating anthologies featuring nonbinary work, or similar types of organized efforts. Art can be any type of art uplifting, representing, or created by nonbinary individuals. Content Creation was included to recognize the phenomenal work that nonbinary folx are doing with actual plays and other types of online videos as well as work representing nonbinary folx in actual plays. Game design and writing recognize the wonderful designers, developers, and authors that we have met at so many gaming conventions over the years.
GeekPost: Are there any partners or sponsors involved in the program that you would like to mention?
Grace: Snowbright has not been seeking or accepting sponsorships for this first year. We want to be clear that this is an effort by nonbinary game creators for the nonbinary tabletop community. We will consider sponsors in the second year as long as they align with the mission and values that we are putting into this program.
GeekPost: Could you discuss the positive influence this award might have on the nonbinary community, both inside and beyond the world of tabletop gaming?
Grace: Visibility and validity. Big game companies might not care about another laurel that they can add to their game box or sell sheet, but for some designers that can mean the world. Anything that can help amplify positive work out there and get them the recognition that they deserve is a win in our book. Beyond our own program, we hope that this inspires others in the tabletop community to create more content for, by, and about nonbinary folx. If you’ve been thinking about creating a new discord, a Facebook group, a meet up… if you’ve been thinking about whether or not to include a nonbinary character in your game, story, or cover art… go for it! We exist and we should be seen.
GeekPost: Are there plans in the future to grow this event in any way?
Grace: We are really focused on getting this first year right. After every new program that we run at Snowbright, we meet as a full team to do a debrief and write up a post-mortem. We’ll be doing that in this instance too. I expect that our goals for next year will be to increase visibility, scope, and find ways to connect to physical events, but we have to see the results of this first year before I can say for certain.
GeekPost: How can the broader community support the Nonbinary Tabletop Awards?
Grace: Our goal is to amplify the awesome people and organizations in our community. If you’d like to help between now and November 17, start by nominating works that you’ve seen and sharing out the nomination page. If you would like to help later this winter, share out information about people and organizations that have won the awards. Buy their games, buy their art, and subscribe to their content online!
GeekPost: Lastly, do you have any shout-outs or acknowledgments you would like to give as we wrap up this interview?
Grace: Thank you to the Snowbright community! Without our fans’ support, we wouldn’t be able to keep doing what we’re doing. It means the world to us when you share your stories with us at conventions and online. It’s helped us realize that we are not alone out here creating this content, and I hope that we are giving back that sense of community to you all as well.
To wrap up, Grace’s insights highlight Snowbright Studio’s commitment to inclusivity and advocacy in the tabletop realm, fostering a future where nonbinary voices are not just heard but celebrated. Thank you, Grace, for indulging us in this opportunity to learn about the Nonbinary Tabletop Awards and to help spread the word! Click the Snowbright Logo below to learn more!