The Birth of Brunch Bosses: Varying the Voices

By Krista Lee Malone, PhD & Laya Liebeseller, MS
Anthropologists, Geeks, Game Designers, and Scholars

Brunch Bosses is the brain child of Dr. Krista-Lee Malone and Laya Liebeseller, both anthropologists of Geekery and Nerdom in its various forms. Krista-Lee, an alum of UWM and founding member of what Serious Play is today, is a professor in the Curriculum & Instruction Department teaching Game Design at UW – Madison. Laya Liebeseller is a PhD Student in the Anthropology department at UWM, focusing on analog roleplaying games. This particular show begins in a smoke-filled car, during a spring time sunset drive, and a long discussion about what it means to have feminine voices highlighted, respected, and seen both in Game Studies broadly and also within our own group of Serious Play.

Brunch Bosses LogoFrom the founding of the Serious Play Channel women have been key in its creation, cast, and the behind scenes work required for a project of this kind. Despite this feminine participation it became clear that as we grew as a channel and more shows were added to our weekly programming, feminine voices, our voices, were being lost. Lunch Zone remained our communal point of contact where everyone was welcomed, but the new shows being added to the docket were decidedly male spaces. We were slowly creating the illusion of a good old boys’ club that was not the reality of Serious Play, or where we wanted it to lead. Thus, Brunch Bosses was born in the Spring of 2018.

We, that is Krista-Lee and Laya, the core women of Serious Play at this time (which has now expanded to include Kelly Brajevich, the new Dungeon Master of Doctors and Dungeon Masters: Stream City) decided to start a Sunday morning stream we called Brunch Bosses: Battling Boss Mobs over Mimosas. In true club house fashion, the lab would become strictly NO BOYS ALLOWED for 2 hours each week while we explored the world of co-op games and made a space for the feminine voices of Serious Play. After a while we realized that evenings worked much better for us and we rebranded the show Brunch Bosses: Vampire Edition. (Well, verbally we did at least.) When choosing a name, we wanted something that would both highlight the show as a feminine space, and our wicked skills as both academics and gamers. Brunch was for many years a decidedly feminine activity and is often still coded as such in popular culture (although I have a feeling that some of those in the Queer community might be willing to fight us on this ?) and Bosses, well that speaks for itself.

We had a vision that Brunch Bosses would be a consistently shared game experience, with little to no hierarchy, equity in workload and participation, where there was no anxiety about being heard, and consistent communication about our shared vision. For this reason, the show sticks largely to games that we can play together. When not playing co-op games, we make sure the controller consistently changes hands, which has interestingly been a frequent topic of conversation in its relation to varied gendered practices during play (more on this in our next post). However, we also discuss work, play, design, culture, current trends, differences between analog and digital gaming, and anything else that comes to mind. Sometimes our brains are fried and we provide our audience with a decidedly less academic, but often extremely entertaining, stream (not that the two are mutually exclusive). Ultimately, we succeeded in making a space in which we, and our occasional guests, are equals, friends, and unabashedly women, kicking ass and taking names.


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