Sustainability has become one of the hottest toy trends over the past few years, but the idea of centering our environment in play is nothing new for Adventerra Games. Since its founding, the company has made all of its products with the same goal: To educate kids and families about helping the environment. We chatted with Sales Manager Ruthie Mundell about the company’s goals, expanding into different age categories, sustainable practices that toy companies should adopt, and more.
The Toy Book: How did the company get the name Adventerra Games?
Ruthie Mundell: Adventerra combines the words “adventure” and “terra,” the Latin name for our planet. It reflects our mission: to create exciting games that help kids care for our world!
TB: Why do you think it is important to have an educational aspect to your products, especially with a focus on teaching about the environment?
RM: We believe that green games are a great way to change the world.
When children learn that their choices matter, they are more likely to care for the planet as they grow. This is important because experts believe that apathy, not denial, is the biggest obstacle to fighting climate change. When people feel they can’t make a difference, they become paralyzed.
Kids who are gently introduced to ecological issues through play will feel more confident about tackling environmental challenges. We think they are more likely to become adults who vote, support sustainable policies, and make green decisions in their homes and workplaces.
TB: How do you balance a serious topic like climate change with creating a fun game experience for a young audience?
RM: Toys and games have always been a wonderful way to comfort children and help them feel safe while the adults around them are dealing with difficult challenges. The assumption is that kids do not have a role to play in overcoming challenges – at best they must endure.
Issues like pollution and climate change are big problems, and it’s easy for kids to feel scared. Psychologists even have a name for it: “eco-anxiety.” The recommended treatment is to help your child take action – to help them feel better by fighting back.
We designed our games and puzzles specifically to show kids that they are not helpless. By learning how to make green choices, they feel empowered!
We also pay attention to the game mechanics. As a lifelong gamer, our founder, Bryan Mundell, has always been fascinated by what makes some games more fun than others. As a professor, he found that games were a great way to teach leadership skills – but only if they were really engaging for his students. That is why everyone at Adventerra Games is passionate about making products that are a blast to play!
TB: Adventerra Games uses environmentally friendly materials to create its games. Why was that an important design decision for the company, and does it create any challenges in manufacturing your products?
RM: We can’t inspire others to live more sustainably unless we walk the talk! So we use green materials and methods in our operations.
In some ways, it’s simple to make a green game (it’s easy to find recycled cardboard). Other parts are tougher because of the pressure to keep costs low. For example, we use wood instead of plastic playing pieces, and it does cost more. We are hopeful that as our company grows, economies of scale will bring those numbers down. We also hope that as more game companies choose to make their product lines greener, more suppliers will enter the marketplace and offer less expensive wooden pawns, dice, etc.
We also hope that new technologies are coming as the industry becomes more focused on sustainability. Already some retailers not only accept but demand plastic-free options, like compostable shrink wrap or boxes sealed with paper stickers. We look forward to the day when this becomes the standard for everyone.
TB: You recently released your first games and puzzles for a preschool audience. What motivated this decision, and how are these products similar to or different from your previous offerings?
RM: There is a huge demand for green products from millennial parents. So, we developed our preschool line to help parents gently introduce environmental concepts to children ages 2 and up.
Building good habits is easier to do at an early age! For example, when toddlers play with our Saving Water puzzle, they will grow up brushing their teeth with the tap off. When water conservation becomes as routine as getting dressed or washing hands, then we will be on the way toward a greener world.
Like our previous board games for school-age kids, our new offerings all have environmental themes. The preschool line includes memory games, puzzles, and 3D games, and they include guides to help parents explain eco-friendly concepts in a really simple way to young children.
TB: What is some of the most meaningful or memorable feedback you’ve gotten about your games or puzzles?
RM: Often, after playing one of our games, parents will tell us that the whole family is making greener choices! They’ll say, “Now, my daughter always turns off the lights when she leaves a room – and she reminds me to do it too!” or “My son has us all carrying reusable water bottles. We’ve stopped buying plastic water bottles.”
This is always great to hear. We hope that as more kids play our games, more families will get excited about protecting the planet.
TB: What are some of the newest Adventerra Games titles and/or some of your personal favorites?
RM: I’m excited about Eating in Season, our new memory game for ages 2-99. As kids match the cute fruit and veggie cards, they learn that eating food in season is healthier for their body and the planet. In addition to traditional toy retailers, we think this one will interest grocery stores.
As for personal favorites, I love WaterGame, a roll & move board game for ages 7 and up. It’s easy to play and has both cooperative and competitive elements. The person who saves the most water wins the game, but you can’t let other players run dry. So, it’s fun to watch kids negotiate and try to balance that – they really get into it!
TB: What practices would you recommend other toy companies embrace to help make the industry more environmentally friendly and sustainable?
RM: Children and parents are beginning to care deeply about plastic pollution. So, biodegradable and recyclable products are going to be increasingly important to consumers. It’s crucial to think about that early in the design process. We also need to press material suppliers and factories for more affordable sustainable materials.
Companies can do a lot more to make their corporate culture and practices green: use green cleaning products, hire a compost service to pick up food scraps from the lunchroom, reward teams who suggest eco-friendly innovations, encourage professional development and training about environmental topics, and locate offices in a LEED-certified building. This will motivate existing employees who care about the environment, as well as attract new ones who will be focused on making operations and products even greener!
TB: What are some of your goals for Adventerra Games? Any upcoming projects or initiatives you’d like to share?
RM: We’ve been busy expanding our product offerings and developing our new preschool line. We are proud that they are such high-quality, super-fun games and puzzles. With exciting options for preschool, elementary, middle school, and teens, we’ve got something for everyone. We now have a total of 12 games that show kids how to protect the planet, with several more coming by 2022. There are also several new games for adults in the pipeline. So, we’re really focused on spreading the word about all of our new products!
Adventerra Games will be showcasing its newest products at ASTRA Marketplace & Academy in Minneapolis next month. To learn more about the company, visit adventerragamesusa.com.