Y Axis Update: Wonder Forge Responds

A couple weeks ago, I posted about the DC Comics-licensed board Game Justice League: Axis of Villains by kids game designer Wonder Forge. I was—justifiably—put off by the fact Wonder Forge had decided to excise Wonder Woman and the other women of the League from the game, thereby sending a message to young girls, my 6 year old daughter Cassie included, that they were not welcome to imagine themselves as part of the game. I noted the lengths I needed to go through to ‘fix’ Axis of Villains, creating chits and control pads for female superheroes to add some gender balance to the game, and called on both DC and Wonder Forge to do better.

Cassie loves superheroes, and keeping her feeling included in what is often a male-centric comic/merchandise market is an ongoing problem I talk about a lot on social media. The Axis post was just another bit of personal grousing on the topic. Not the first nor the last.

But the piece got surprising traction. I expect some of that was due to how adorable Cassie looks in her superhero costumes, but in no small part to a cross-post by The Mary Sue, which got the story out to a wider audience than my normal fanbase. In the time since, the story has collected a few hundred comments, and seen wide support and signal boost. The issues I have trying to keep my daughter comfortable in the genre community clearly resonated with countless other parents in the geek realms. To the point where the game designer took notice and responded, much to my surprise.

Even more surprising was the response itself:

Hi Peter,
We read your post about the Axis of Villains game and wanted to write back.

First off, let me just say that we screwed up, and everyone here knows it. It’s an internal regret for our team that we did not include female super heroes in the game. And it’s a personal regret because so many of us are parents of daughters, who understand firsthand the importance of developing playthings that are inclusive and convey to girls a sense that they can do or be anything. I myself am a mom of 3- and 4-year-old girls and I share your views 100%.

In any case, I wanted to let you know that as a company we really learned the lesson. For our next game, DC Super Friends Matching, we included 3 female super heroes: Wonder Woman, Batgirl, and Hawkgirl. This game is a better example of our work. (I’d love to send you a copy if you think your daughter might enjoy it.) If we ever do another run of the Axis game, we will revise it to include female characters.

I appreciate that you called us on this and held us accountable. I have shared your post with our product development team, as well as our licensing and senior management teams. It has inspired good internal dialogue on the subject and a renewed commitment to featuring female characters in our super hero games. Thanks for keeping us honest, and we hope that our future offerings will be more to your liking.

Best regards,
Kimberley Pierce on behalf of Wonder Forge team

As you can imagine, I was really thrilled to receive this message. It’s so rare to see such a positive and forward thinking response to a situation like this. It’s one small success in an ongoing struggle, but it really gave me heart. The persistent courage of Anita Sarkeesian, recent steps by the NFL, the president, and countless other brave women and men who are tired of staying quiet on gender issues has me feeling that we’re close to another tipping point in U.S. society, and we should all keep pushing.

I’m proud Cassie is already doing her part for social justice. Now, when she tells me she’s a superhero, I can honestly say, “Yes, you are.”


Posted on September 26, 2014 at 11:06 am by PeatB
Filed under Cassie, Life, Musings, My Reviews

5 responses to “Y Axis Update: Wonder Forge Responds”

  1. Excellent news. It’s always nice to learn that a corporation is not actually faceless, and can turn around and do the right thing.

    Posted by Howard Tayler, on September 26th, 2014 at 12:22 pm
  2. This is great news Peter. I read your story over at The Mary Sue, and could practically feel your frustration. I’m glad to know that the game maker unequivocally apologized and vowed to do better in the future.

    Posted by Tony, on September 26th, 2014 at 11:15 pm
  3. It’s interesting to me that, in the response from Wonder Forge, they proudly mention that they learned their lesson and added three super-heroines to their DC Super Friends Matching game. It’s true, Wonder Woman, Batgirl and Hawkgirl are all included in that game — however, if you look at the box art, you wouldn’t know that. They are nowhere to be seen anywhere on the outside box. Not the front, not the back, not even the sides. The same seems to be true of all merchandise in the DC Super Friends line. It’s quite disappointing, and sends a terrible a message to both girls and boys alike.

    Posted by Brian, on September 28th, 2014 at 10:55 am
  4. […] Meanwhile in Gotham, Brett’s blog post about his experience was picked up by the geek site The Mary Sue, increasing its visibility, and shortly thereafter, Brett received an apology from the game company. The Mary Sue reprinted the letter; you can read Brett’s reaction to it on his blog; […]

    Posted by It’s sexism clobberin’ time! | SorryWatch, on September 30th, 2014 at 4:22 pm
  5. […] in showing how unconscious, reactive decisions can have bigger ramifications than designers intend. Here’s an article about how Wonder Forge recently shipped a DC based game and simply forgot to…  Wonder Forge responded […]