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The Power of Inclusion

I have played the tabletop role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons since I was nine years old. In this game, players create heroic alter egos and run them through adventures that use a mixture of wargaming and theater of the mind to see how things turn out. Did our heroes save the kingdom and defeat the dragon? Or did they fail and end up in a dungeon somewhere?

Unlike a novel or a movie, role-playing games like Dungeons & Dragons invite the players to become part of the game itself, adding their own imaginations,

Bill Coffin, Editor-in-Chief, Ethisphere Magazine

interpretations, and innovations, so that the game feels more like a campfire storytelling session than a trip around the Monopoly board. It is also a personal kind of entertainment—that alter ego you play always reflects you to some degree. This is why representation matters. If the game only presumes a certain kind of person saving the day, it sends a terrible message to any players who don’t fit that model: we can imagine elves, magic, and dragons, but we can’t imagine you as a hero.

This bedeviled the wider role-playing game industry for a long time. Games, and their players, were not always welcoming of women, BIPOC, and LGBTQ+ players. This discouraged a lot of new players from getting into the hobby, which deflated sales. The publishers had to be solution here: Why not write a greater sense of inclusivity in the games themselves? Why not show heroes who are Black, LGBTQ+, in a wheelchair, to show that imagination has no barriers?

When the latest edition of Dungeons & Dragons released a few years ago, the game was much more progressive and inclusive than previous editions. It embraced gender fluidity. It acknowledged neurodivergence. And it vastly widened its representation of women, BIPOC, and disabled adventurers in the text and artwork. The message was clear: we see the hero in everyone.

The latest D&D game book, Journeys Through the Radiant Citadel, comes out this June. It is written and illustrated entirely by Black and brown creators, drawing upon fantastic elements of their own cultural heritage. This kind of inclusivity is a big reason why the current edition of D&D is by far the most financially successful one in many years. It has encouraged huge numbers of new players to try the game by speaking to their experience, making them feel seen and respected, and removing a pain point from their exploring their imagination. This hobby is now a safe and welcome place for more people than ever before. What a wonderful thing.

Dungeons & Dragons is published by Wizards of the Coast, which is owned by Hasbro, which is a 2022 World’s Most Ethical Companies® honoree. I personally do business with about 40 companies currently on this list. This one feels the most personal to me, since I have played this game since I was nine years old, and even wrote games like Dungeons & Dragons for a living, once upon a time. And this also touches on one of the many reasons why this list is so important.

It’s easy to think of these large organizations as faceless monoliths. But the cultures of integrity they create matter. They percolate all the way down to the customer and can make a very real impact upon them. Just ask any kid playing D&D for the first time because they finally see themselves in the game, and that helps them get a handle on whatever other challenges they’re facing in life. They will tell you. None of this is for show.

Congratulations once again to each of the 136 organizations of the 2022 World’s Most Ethical Companies list. You deserve this. You earned it.

Bill Coffin
Editor in Chief

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