Gamification of the Global Goals: The Story Behind Save Terra!
Updated: May 29
How did this game get started? How has it developed? Where is it now? This post says (and shows) it all!
For the past 2 and a half years, the development of an awesome and impactful game has been going on behind the scenes here at Virescent Inspiration.
Since 2016, I have been an advocate for the UN Global Goals in the classroom. It was great to be at a schools that embraced this framework, even if I was one of the few trying to integrate these goals into the classroom. An opportunity arose in the community, a competition for educational resources for the UN Global Goals, I couldn't wait to apply!
The competition had some requirements, but mainly, the resource had to be easy to reproduce and incorporate the UN Global Goals. I decided to create a board game! Gamification is the solution to so many problems in the classroom. When kids are engaged, a whole new world opens up for the teachers. Even businesses today are using gamification more and more with their professional developments and training!
I started brainstorming the different parts that needed to be integrated into the game. 17 Goals is a lot... and they are extremely encompassing, which is good for the earth, but bad for a game developer as I wanted to try and keep the game simple enough to stay engaging, but give as much content and background as possible. This was a difficult balance, but after much prototyping and testing, balance was found!
All of the SDGs have environmental, economic, and social factors that contribute to the success of achieving the goal. The goals can even be interconnected, meaning if you achieve No Poverty (1) , you have also made progress towards Zero Hunger (2) and Good Health and Wellbeing (3). The game mimics the achievements of the goals in real life by players making good lifestyle choices and improving their knowledge and understanding of the world through data-based trivia. The game (like the goals) is also 100% collaborative. All players must discuss together and hope they can save the world from disaster!
The concept of the game hasn't changed much over the past two years, but the design has changed a lot! I was even able to involve my students to help brainstorm how to make it better and design their own ideas for the board in the beginning. I also had a naming competition (though to be transparent, that name is not Save Terra...).
If this story impacted or moved you in some way, share it with your audience to help spread the word that this game exists and it is just waiting to break free into the world!
Here is a timeline with pictures showing the evolution of the game!
Brainstorming away in my apartment! Trying to figure out the design of the board. By then I had the decks of cards brainstormed and some copies cut out, but I had to see how the flow of the game would work combining the SDGs and lifestyle concepts together!
Taking it to the classroom! I had my class brainstorm how they would gamify the UN Global Goals and get their feedback on what I was already working on. They loved the idea of working on a game, I recommend allowing kids to gamify concepts in your own room!
I finished drafting the first full prototype to test with my students. My friend Juan was super helpful and was a great motivator in this project!
Back then I had no idea just how much time and work would go into these cards. It is good that you can't see the future, I may have given up on the game right then! Despite the time and effort on these the past two years, it was for sure worth it :).
My students were so excited to test the game and it's functionality and had some great feedback! We also had a naming competition, the winner?
(today it is called Save Terra :)
The game was submitted for the competition and we made it in the top 5 and were on to the finals! I did a shout-out for help and my friend Sabra came to the rescue, lasering the design onto some wood to make a sturdy, attractive prototype for the judges.
I was able to get some quotes from some of my students which I added to the poster for the competition. It was great to see such positive feedback from all the work that was put into the game up to that moment!
The competition was tough, there were some really good ideas, and most of them gamified the experience of learning about the SDGs. It was great to network with some of the finalists and learn from each other! In the end...
There was no prize money, but we did get a certificate, and the opportunity to print some prototypes. I was able to get 10 copies made that were paid by the city. They claimed ownership those copies, so on my own I bought 2 more (not cheap...)
The reason the 10 prototypes were made was to involve them in Copenhagen's International School Sustainability day. I had much to prepare for! So I asked my students for some help to make sure the game was ready to go!
I was scrambling to finish the game pieces before the big event! When the prototypes were made, the printing company only produced the board, cards, and box. All the small pieces of the game I made by hand.
May 2019: Sustainability Day at CIS
The big day had arrived, I knew it would be a long one. In the morning I brought the game to a few classrooms to play before many, many middle schoolers would play that afternoon!
I was told I would have only 45 minutes with the students, but there would be 3 sessions, and 60 kids in each session! Challenge accepted! By the end of the day, 120 7th and 8th graders got to play, and the feedback was well worth the temporary chaos for me!
This is me at the end of that crazy day at CIS. Even though I was exhausted, I knew this was the start of something great.If the game could be so successful in such a chaotic setting, It had a huge potential. It was truly tested to the limits that day!
The story gets a bit grim here. The city immediately took the 10 prototypes of the game and I haven't seen them since... despite constant emailing to have them so I could continue sharing the creation. All I had in the end were the two copies I purchased on my own.
The school year ends and I give one of my two copies to my friend Monika who was a huge help and advocate for the game. Together we conquered that summer by taking the games EVERYWHERE to be played.
Bars, picnics, family parties, you name it!
Because school was out, the testing demographics changed from middle-school kids to adults. It wasn't long before I realized this wasn't just a game for kids, but that all different ages had a great time playing and learned so much!
August 2019 - February 2020
The validation was intoxicating, so I continued to pursue the development of the game, except I wanted to do it "right". The earlier prototypes of the game were extremely expensive to produce and not made from sustainable materials.
During those months, I learned how to use a laser-cutter, found repurposed wood to make game pieces and a few boxes which were also cut with a laser. I redesigned everything in the game (aesthetically speaking) and changed the name to Save Terra. This was a game about the earth, so it should look and feel that way!
After redesigning the game, I started presenting the game formally and continued looking for manufacturers to produce Save Terra in a sustainable and ethical way, while not breaking the bank!
I decide to do what I can with manufacture some copies myself. My vision was to create a small amount of copies to do workshops with teachers and educators, maybe even some businesses! That would spread the word about the game and help get some pre-orders at least. Then... the pandemic hit the world... hard... Cards I had ordered from a sustainable printing company were stuck in the UK, the makerspace, STPLN, I was using to create the rest of the game closed down, and I had to let go of my plans to do workshops those upcoming months.
At the time of this post, it is May 2020. So where is the game now? Still pretty much on hold for manufacturing, even if I produce locally, shipping is an issue, but I have not let that discourage me.
After this pandemic calms down, I will hold more workshops for educators. I will create more copies of the game, and I will do whatever I can to spread the word about this amazing gamification of such an important message that people of all ages should engage with... sustainability and the UN Global Goals.
BUT... there is only so much one person can do, which is where you can come in.
If this story impacted or moved you in some way, share it with your audience to help spread the word that this game exists and it is just waiting to break free into the world.
Tangible Games are extremely expensive to produce, and since I want to produce it in a sustainable and ethical way, the cost is even higher. If you want to help with starting costs of manufacturing the game, there is a Go Fund Me page that you can donate to. If you donate, there will be an opportunity for a reward/discount special for you if the project gets funded!
I hope you enjoyed this story of the development of my board game, Save Terra!
Stay Adventurous :)
Founder of Virescent Inspiration