01 Sep

Board games, DIY and the circular economy

With my co-founder Sofía Montuori at inaloop games, we set out to challenge the way board games are produced. As soon as we started looking for solutions to manufacture our board game Creators, we were confronted with a burning question: What would a circular business model for board games look like?

According to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, the circular economy is based on the following principles:

  1. Design out waste;
  2. Build resilience through diversity;
  3. Work towards using energy from renewable sources;
  4. Think in ‘systems’;
  5. Think in cascades.

Designing out waste

Let’s focus on the first principle: Designing out waste.

In nature, waste does not exist. To put it simply, organic matter decomposes and becomes nutrient for the soil, enriching the overall system. This is the way we should design our products and businesses as well: In such a way that materials can be reintroduced safely and optimally after being used, either as biological nutrients to the biosphere or as technical nutrients to the technosphere. Conceiving the whole production system in a circular manner is the only way we can design it to grow and enrich itself at the same time.

With the first principle of the circular economy in mind, we started looking into ways to design waste out of board game manufacturing. The first step is to try and make non-toxic products. It is already a good start. More often than not, board games are made with cardboard, thickened with layers of plastic that cannot be easily recycled – let alone disassembled to be reintroduced to the bio- or technosphere. Some innovations are already on the way for the industry, with an increasing offer of sustainable printing, and even new types of plant-based coating for playing cards.

However we wanted to go one step further and address the whole process.

A game as a restorative system

How can we design a board game as a restorative system?

Bouncing this question back and forth at inaloop games led us to the concept of a DIY game (what is DIY?). The idea is that players get to assemble Creators themselves by reusing objects and recycling existing materials available in the household.

It encourages players to look at “waste” in terms of nutrients, i.e. resources. For instance: This cereal box that I am about to throw away, could it be used as a base material to make a box for my game?

In essence, this DIY game system is like a miniature technosphere in the midst of every player’s home.

There is still much to research in the field of games and circular design; our exploration with Creators is just the beginning. What about you? Do you have ideas on how to build circular business models for games?

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This article was originally published on Linkedin and has been slightly edited to fit this blog format.

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