The gaming news website ICV2 carried the article “‘GREEN GAMES GUIDE’ RELEASED By Group from Games Industry and Sustainability” in mid-March. As the article relates:
A group of volunteers from the games industry and sustainability have released the Green Games Guide, a report on how board games can and should be made more environmentally sustainable. The report lays out current, better, and best practices in table form, and suggests actions that can be taken by those who make and play board games to reduce the climate impact of the hobby. Topics include wood, paper and card, plastic, and box and packaging.ICV2
The actual guide itself is available as a free download. This…manifesto is a call to action by boardgame publishers and, by extension, designers and players to change their games. The group is not only concerned about the environment of the Earth, but the environment of gaming. As the Green Game Guide declares:
And there’s still more. We need to go even deeper and look critically at the games themselves. To take an obvious example: Why are so many games about power fantasies of domination and colonization? Don’t get us wrong – we love the satisfaction of bashing our friends around the game table as much as anyone else. At the same time, we can’t help but observe the connection between the way we humans treat our planet and the prevalence of games that indulge uncritically in themes and mechanics of exploitation and conquest. This may seem like a side issue. But it is part of the culture we want to change. Culture (like tabletop games) reflect the times in which they are made. But they also influence and spread ideas and attitudes. What do we want to say with the games we make?Green Games Guide
I don’t know how much traction this effort will get in today’s world of “pleasing aesthetics” in boardgames but what do I know? I’m told that I’m just a stereotypical Armchair Dragoons Grognard at heart and against progress by my very nature.
From the materials that make up a game to box size and packaging, there are far too many ways that our industry contributes to environmental destruction and wasteful consumerism. The Green Games Guide is our attempt to harness the skills, creativity and passion in the tabletop industry so that we can move from being part of the problem to being part of the solution. It contains concrete actionable steps that all of us can take – manufacturers, publishers, retailers, designers, players, and everyone else in the world of tabletop games.Green Games Guide
The group behind the Green Games Guide is led by a board composed of members drawn from across the hobby boardgame community including publishers and even a GAMA board member. The guide claims, “The suggestions in the Green Games Guide are based on science and best current practices in environmentally responsible product design.” I’m guessing that some expect this “scientification” of manufacturing to be seen as welcome by Grognard wargamers who relish in the “scientification” of their
simulations games. That said, let’s take a closer look at some of the recommendations in the Green Games Guide.
Wood, paper and cardstock
As the Green Games Guide notes in bold, “Tabletop games use a heck of a lot of wood, paper and cardstock.“ The call is to use sustainable, renewable resources with 100% FSC (Forest Stewardship Council)-certified or PEFC (Program for Endorsement of Forest Certification) materials.
The Green Games Guide includes a couple of examples of companies that have adopted FSC-standards for their materials. What I don’t see in the Guide is any indication of the impact on manufacturing costs of such policies.
From a wargaming Grognard perspective this makes me wonder about all those cardboard counters and more wood in wargames. There appears to me to be a demand for counters of certain quality that often translates as thicker or with a better finish. Counters that come with rounded corners also tend to demand more sprues. Then there is the segment of wargames that use wood, be it blocks in place of counters or cubes to show influence or the like.
Those “demands” means more materials are needed to meet the call for more “pleasing aesthetics” in games. Given most games are published in the PRC to keep costs down, and having no insight into how many of those publishers use FSC-certified materials, I’m not sure how this call-to-action is going to be received, especially if it raises the cost of games further.
Maybe the happy median is to limit the use of wood and print thinner counters without rounded corners? The corner-rounding, uh, corner of the hobby would certainly be happy!
“It’s time to face up to a hard truth: we are addicted to plastic.” The Green Games Guide‘s recommended best practices with regard to plastic is to either 1) Use certified plastic that is plant-based and compostable or 2) Design out all plastic. Again, the “price” of doing so from the Guide is framed all in terms of environmental price and not manufacturing.
From a wargaming Grognard perspective plastic in wargames is a mixed bag. If you are a classic hex-and-counter
dinosaur wargamer this might have little impact. But if you are a miniatures wargamer or a boardgamer who has fully embraced the CMOM-model of plastic EVERYTHING in a game then this is a DIRECT THREAT to your hobby enjoyment. I’m looking forward to boardgame component experts explaining to me the durability and paintability of plant-based or compostable plastics—my colloquial understanding is that the plastic tends to be the softer kind that isn’t as durable and harder to paint.
Box and packaging
“We all know how much tabletop games inflate the size of boxes in order to grab shelf space and catch a consumer’s eye – and how we shrink- wrap them in layers of plastic to make them seem even more pristine.” I see the not-so-subtle swipe at the big-box boardgaming crowd here. I also see that the Green Games Guide just doesn’t understand wargamers. Box lift? Are you kidding me!
That said, I am sorta OK with newer packaging that uses small tape tabs on edges to keep boxes sealed in transit. It’s not going to make buyers happy to see more (minor) blemishes on “new” box covers but it will likely be welcomed by retailers who don’t have to worry about ripped shrinkwrap (which means they are asked to sell it at a discount) any more.
Grognard Heart Attack
Finally, I have to wonder what impact calls for action from parts of the hobby like the Green Games Guide might have on the aftermarket or third-party content creators. There are companies like Cube4Me that sell creative packaging—using plastic—to help fit all that content into the existing box with little-to-no lid-lift. I also think if they saw the effort by Ardwulf and his storage solution for the 13 countersheets in Case Blue (Multi-Man Publishing) those associated with the Green Games Guide would die of a heart attack!
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3 thoughts on “Boardgame Bulletin 23-9: Going Green?”
If component quality dropped and price increased, of course, I would be disappointed, but the Earth and society would benefit. On the other hand, I do not imagine that the board/war game industry nor my consumerism will make much of a global impact.
I think the best thing to green up one’s gaming is to ask oneself: What do I want this game for? – If the answer is “playing” and one has dozens of unplayed games at home, maybe abstain from a purchase… as hard as that may be.
Anyway, as you touch upon, wargaming is comparably eco-friendly. Paper maps and counter sheets take nowhere near as many resources to produce as cardboard maps, wooden bits, and plastic miniatures!
While I generally agree that wargames are more eco-friendly, market pressure is driving them more the way of the rest of the hobby. Larger counters with Euro-rounded corners and mounted mapboards and thicker cardstock player aids and the larger box to fit it all demand more paper material. Sometimes I really do think Jim “The Gascon” is ahead of us all with his TTS gaming (no, I’m not going to go into the carbon footprint behind electrical power generation for it).