Thoughts of a small publisher - Value Add Games

We are a small publishing company from Slovenia. We primarily focus on family and smaller board games in which we are always trying to add some additional value. We also make custom board games for corporate clients, which make great business gifts. We have our own team of game designers, graphic designers and illustrators. This allows us to have complete control of the game design process from the start to the very finish. With this blog, we plan to share our experiences we have picked up in board game and graphic designing, illustrating and publishing. We hope that both newcomers and experts in the industry will find this blog informative and interesting.
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Environmental impact of board games

Value Add Games
Slovenia
Ljubljana
Ljubljana
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publisher
In the light of the latest IPCC climate report it is becoming ever more important to consider the effect we are having on the environment and what we can do to reduce it. While there are many ways one can do this (using public transport, reducing the amount of produced waste etc.) in this blog, we are going to discuss the environmental impact our hobbies can have - especially board games.

The first reaction one would probably have when hearing this would be: “Board games aren’t harmful to the environment! Just look at all these other hobbies that are so much worse!” And they would be right to some extent. Compared to some other free time activities, board games are far from the worst offender. However, environmental impact is rarely black and white. Things are not either environmentally friendly or damaging, but often fall somewhere in between. In this blog, we will take the effect of board games on the environment as they are, without comparing them to other hobbies and we will present to you the steps we can take as customers and steps we have taken as a publisher to minimize the effect on the environment on our end.

Note that this is our current view on the matter based on our experiences and will be glad to get any additional information and hear different perspectives you may offer - we are always happy to learn new things and broaden our views.


Shipping

A hidden impact on the environment that games have that is rarely considered is shipping. Game boxes have to travel from the manufacturer to the distribution centers and then finally to the stores where they are sold. The further the game has to travel, the greater its impact.
When it comes to games, shipping is mostly unavoidable. Even if the manufacturer and distributor are fairly close to one another, people still buy games from all over the world and the game has to reach them. So while this effect on the environment can be somewhat reduced it can never be fully removed from the equation.

To reduce the environmental impact of shipping on our end, we have decided to produce almost all of our games and products in the EU, since we are located here and since we sell most of our products in the EU.


Packaging

This factor is the one people usually notice and consider when it comes to an environmental impact. Board games come covered in a thin plastic layer called shrink wrap to protect the games from moisture and dirt. Again, this factor is mostly unavoidable since if the games didn’t have this wrap, the damage moisture could cause to a shipment of games could be so big that it would require the manufacturer to print a large number of games, just so a sufficient number of games would survive the shipping. But the current trend is trying to get rid of plastic wrapping also, so soon in the future a new solution will need to be found. Where the effect can be reduced is what is inside the box. Some games come with a lot of additional packaging to protect the games’ components. However, these materials are mostly discarded when the game is unpacked. While some of this packaging cannot be avoided it is still possible for the manufacturers to rethink which packaging is absolutely neccesary and where it’s amount can be reduced or replaced for a more environmentally friendly option.

What you can do to minimize the impact of packaging as a customer is to watch an unboxing video of the board game and pay attention to the amount of packaging it has. This way you can inform yourself beforehand and you are able to give priority to the publishers who are considerate of the effects the game has on the environment.

In one of our board games, WolfWalkers - My Story, for example, we have replaced the shrink wrap that usually comes around decks of cards with paper one. While this option was more expensive we deemed it worthy in order to reduce the effect of the game on the environment.

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Paper wraps instead of shrink wrap around WolfWalkers - My Story cards


Components

After the game has been unpacked, this is the second factor that people pay attention to when it comes to environmental impact. Board games are made from a variety of materials: paper, cardboard, wood, plastic and occasionally even metal. Some of the materials are more environmentally friendly than others, the best of which being paper, cardboard and wood, since they are biodegredable. Metals can often be recycled if the composition of the component is known. The biggest offender here is plastic since it is not biodegradable and its creation requires non-renewable resources such as crude oil.

However, there is more than just materials that the game is made from. One should also consider what is on those materials - prints and coatings. A lot of components are usually colored and have additional markings on them and can also be coated with various materials to further protect the components from damage and moisture. However, these coatings and colors can use a variety of chemicals which can both be impactful on the environment and make the component non-recyclable.

What you can do on your part as a customer is, again, to watch the unboxing videos of the game beforehand and see the materials present in the game. We also think you can somewhat tolerate the use of plastic components in the game, since games are not a single-use item but will be used for years. However, we still suggest you pay attention to the amount of excessive plastic in-lays.

We also recommend that you pay attention to the FSC symbol on the game, which guarantees that the wood and paper was obtained from a source which is not harmful to the world's forests.

As a publisher we try to manufacture with manufacturers who offer FSC and when designing games we try reduce plastic components as much as possible.

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On bottom left: FSC symbol on WolfWalkers - My Story


Discarding games

When we buy games, we do not usually consider how we will throw the game away. We quite often keep games for years even if we don’t play them. We often also trade or give our games away or sell them. However, just throwing the game away rarely comes to anyone's mind. But occasionally, this can be unavoidable. The game can suffer damage (water, fire or mould) which makes it unplayable. While some components can be salvaged, such games are usually thrown away.


While we think throwing a game away is a very rare and drastic occasion, it can still occur. Either due to damage or because we have too many of them. And if it still comes to throwing a game away, it is up to all of usto properly sort the components to correct bins and not just throw the whole game away.

Conclusion

Even when we attempt to minimize the impact that board games can have on the environment, they are still bound to have an effect, even if it is minimal. Compared to other forms of entertainment we can easily sort board games into a low-impact category. However, this still doesn’t mean that we should not pay attention to the impact the production and shipping have. We recommend that you support publishers and those who do pay attention to the effects of their products.

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Value Add Games
More about us: https://valueaddgames.com/en/
Our shop: https://shop.valueaddgames.com/en/
WolfWalkers Games and Puzzles Landing page: https://valueaddgames.com/wolfwalkers/
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