Washington’s Monte Cook Games: Acceptance, Inclusion and Truth
written by Gina Williams
From their creative perch in the wild garden that is northern Washington, Monte Cook and Shanna Germain are busy creating new worlds and changing the real world—for the better.
The duo founded Monte Cook Games in 2012 with business partner Charles Ryan, who is based in Kansas City, Kansas. The company develops and produces some of today’s most innovative tabletop roleplaying games
From the beginning, Germain said, they built core values into their company that put diversity, inclusivity and truth at the forefront of their business practices, employee relations and product development.
“We started the company as human beings and we included those core values into company structure because they are our own core values as human beings,” Germain said. “At some point we realized we wanted to put those on the page.”
“In our products, in the events we support, and in the gaming spaces we strive to create, we welcome people from all walks of life, all genders and orientations, all religions and cultures, and all ethnicities,” the company’s values credo states in part. “Although fantasy is our business, we recognize that we can’t be good stewards of that business if we make decisions based on fantasy. Our employees, our families, our Kickstarter backers, our fans, and our future all depend on vision and aspiration built upon a foundation of fact.”
How do the company’s stated values reveal themselves in products?
“We do a lot of art that reflects diversity. And we are very careful with language,” Germain said. “Our games give players tools to encourage individuality without shame, and we create characters in our novels that are gay, gender-neutral and people of color, for example.”
Traditionally, she said, the world of tabletop roleplaying games and electronic games was a white male place. That’s changing, Germain added, but when there’s change, there can be pushback.
That’s not an issue for Monte Cook Games. Both Germain and Cook said they welcome the challenges.
The company also produced No Thank You, Evil, a wildly successful children’s game that is also popular with general audiences and is used by schools and organizations like Kirkland-based “Game To Grow” to help children work through grief and other difficult issues.
“We are all searching for safe havens,” Germain said, adding that more and more people from all walks of life who never felt comfortable entering the gaming world—and especially roleplaying games—are emboldened to join the ranks and love the experience.
“And we’re seeing such diversity at game conventions and in other arenas,” she said. “That’s positive growth.”
As for what’s next, Germain, an award-winning writer, is working on a game-related novel that will come out next year. Cook, also a writer and well-known creator and game designer, said the company is finalizing production of a new tabletop game called Invisible Sun, expected out in May, that he described as surreal fantasy, filled with magic and wonder that focuses on personal change and growth.
“Most of all, it’s a game about escaping the real world for a short while and enjoying experiences in a very different realm,” Cook said. “And I think we can all enjoy a little escape right now.”