How I ended up creating a climate board game (the last thing I expected!)

After only reading a few pages of the Drawdown book back in 2018, it was already my favorite book of all time. Here was a compilation of the most unique and surprising climate solutions that I had ever seen. It was so easy to read a few pages a day and think “where could I fit into this solution?” or “how could I make that solution happen faster?” When I heard that the first ever Drawdown conference would happen in September 2019, I immediately bought my ticket. 

I had never been to a conference before. It was September 2019, and as I got off the plane in the miniscule Penn State airport, I had no idea what to expect. However, I was certain that I would meet some very cool strangers. I stayed at an Airbnb with 4 other strangers who were attending the conference, amongst them Daniel Poynter, founder of Indiana Drawdown, and subsequently Carbon Neutral Indiana, and Ryan Hagan, founder of Crowdsourcing Sustainability. Throughout the conference, I met many other incredibly cool people, such as Elena Crete, the program manager for the UN’s Sustainable Development Solutions Network and Henk Rogers, the entrepreneur behind Tetris as well as other incredible initiatives such as the Blue Planet Foundation and the International Moonbase Alliance

Enjoying dinner after a successful day 1 of the Drawdown conference

I was very impressed with how the Drawdown research team fielded questions about their work from the various experts in the crowd. 

On the second day, we went to a cool innovation hub downtown called 3 Dots, where we attended an inspiring community brainstorming session about how to make the town more sustainable. The attendees varied from teens to grandmothers, and many wild ideas were generated. 

One of our friends from the conference, Sam Lapp, had brought a very cool card game that he had developed called Darwin, based on the science of evolution. As we sat down to enjoy the game, he told us about how he invented the game and produced it from scratch. I made a mental note that I would love to make a tabletop game in the future – especially something science-based, since it seemed like a very tangible way to channel my creativity and attention to detail into something impactful. 

Sitting at 3 Dots after the conference playing Darwin

On the third and last day of the conference, we held an ‘unconference’: a brainstorming session where the event attendees formed teams and brainstormed about how to turn the Drawdown research into climate action. I hopped around between the Transportation and Energy groups. 

At the end of the session, the mic was passed between the group leaders to announce the results of the brainstorm, Henk, of course, led the group on gamification. One of his ideas was to turn Drawdown into a card game. I heard him say that and immediately started brainstorming the rules in my head. I knew exactly how this could all work out as a more elaborate board game! 

After the session, I talked to a member of the Drawdown team, and I talked to Henk; would it be ok if I turned the idea of a Drawdown board game into reality? They both said yes, although I doubt either believed I would follow-through with it at the time. 

Almost two years later, the game is almost ready for launch. It has taken thousands of hours, and many tough design decisions, which I will talk about in the next post