Board Games Aren’t Great For The Environment, Could Be Better

As we veer ever closer to climate catastrophe, more and more people—and businesses—are working to lessen their impact on the planet. Cars are going electric, straws have gotten organic and even video game cases have gotten slimmer. One industry that’s lagging well behind, though, is board games.

With an emphasis on wowing customers with big boxes and plastic miniatures, and a manufacturing process based largely in China and with questionable sourcing of materials, board games could be doing a lot more to show that they care as much about the planet as they do shifting units.

That’s an argument anyone could make over the table, but it’s also one that is now being made professionally with the publication of the Green Games Guide, a paper published today by a group of designers, industry representatives and academics.

It breaks down how the board game industry works and what its current focus is, pointing out how its driven almost entirely by what it thinks will sell, not what’s best for the environment. It then offers a range of frameworks and potential solutions to this, based on a wholistic approach that takes into account not just how games are made, but how components can be recycled and the rights of the workers making them all protected.

Some of these solutions include minimising the size of game boxes, avoiding the use of excessive packing materials (and wrapping everything in plastic), moving away from plastic components, making sure that wooden and cardboard components are sourced responsibly and ensuring that renewable energy is used wherever possible in the manufacturing process.

Like a recent video game paper that we also covered (and which shares some authors), rather than just rapping everyone on the knuckles the Green Games Guide looks to give companies a range of grades and options, highlighting where current choices are the worst possible, and outlining ways they can make them better.

While most of the paper is intended for the industry—though it’s worded in a way that it’s super interesting reading for anyone into board games and/or climate policies—there is some advice for players in there as well, noting that we can be on the lookout for games made with FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) and similar certifications, and can also pressure companies into making more positive changes by contacting them and letting them know.

It’s not all negative, either; some positives are listed as examples to follow, like the Spiel des Jahres-winning Kingdomino, which is “is a great example of efficient and attractive game packaging.”

Kingdomino’s components stack and tuck away nicely in its box, keeping the game’s packaging to a minimum

Kingdomino’s components stack and tuck away nicely in its box, keeping the game’s packaging to a minimum
Image: Kingdomino

“The size of the box walks a fine line between fitting inner components without compromising on ease of access and not leaving too much empty space”, the GGG says. “The fact that the domino tiles are pre-punched avoids the issue of transporting extra weight, and also avoids taking up space that becomes unnecessary once the tiles are removed from the larger sheets on which they are printed.”

“At the same time, the box size still presents a substantial art surface for attractive display.”

If you want to read the whole paper, you can check it out here.

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