Save the Planet

Felicia Brown (email:
Torrey Trust (email:
Sun-ah Kwon (email:


Instructional Objectives

The target audience for “Save the Planet” is high school or young adult environmental science students. The game itself will give learners the opportunity to apply and extend their knowledge and understanding of environmental science as well as help them to establish effective “personal, practical, and positive (PPP)” environmental actions that can ultimately help human populations/societies achieve environmental sustainability on Earth. Specifically, there are three main learning objectives to be met as a result of playing “Save the Planet”; they are:
  • First, during the game, learners will be able to correctly apply current knowledge of environmental science terminology and concepts to content specific questions.
  • Second, at the conclusion of the game, learners will be able to list and describe the three main categories of “personal, practical and positive” environmental action: land, water, and air.
  • Third, at the conclusion of the game, learners will be to identify the “personal, practical and positive” environmental actions that they can achieve in order to SAVE THE PLANET.

In addition, since this is a game related to most environmental science curricula, there are some specific curricular objectives to be met from playing the game, they are:

  • Learners will be able to explain how human activities affect global and local sustainability.
  • Learners will be able to describe the actual and potential effects of habitat destruction, erosion, and depletion of soil fertility associated with human activities.
  • Learners will be able to describe the effects and potential implications of pollution and resource depletion on the environment at the local and global levels (e.g. air and water pollution, solid waste disposal, depletion of the stratospheric ozone, global warming, and land uses).

Learners & Context of Use

The "Save the Planet" game is designed for high school or young adult learners of environmental science. The typical age range for this learner group is 14-21 years old. The grade levels that would correspond to this age range would be 10th grade in high school through junior year in college. The typical learner in this group would be interested in the subject matter enough to take an elective on-level high school course, advanced placement high school course or college level course in environmental science. In addition, there may be learners in this group who only possess a sincere interest in learning basic environmental sustainability principles for the simple purpose of application to their lives, in general, and not as a serious student of the subject matter. Moreover, regardless of the motive, both learner types targeted by this game will be able to learn and apply basic environmental sustainability concepts addressed in the game.

The game would be used in environmental science courses in high school and in college and would be used primarily by instructors and students of environmental science. In order for proper play of the Save the Planet board game, there is a need for ample space to set up and play the game. Therefore, large square, rectangular or round tables would need to be available or, at the very least, student desks would need to be combined to form a proper play area. Also, as an alternative, desks and tables could be moved to allow the game to be played on the floor.

Actual play of the game is facilitated, first, by the design of the game which allows it to be played multiple times for a dramatic learning effect. And, secondly, because it allows play between individuals or teams. Moreover, the learning effect is made possible because the game is more of a review activity, performed after content is learned. Learners benefit, during game play, as they recall information and apply learned concepts to environmental situations as well as after game play as they "save the planet" by applying the environmental sustainability concepts to their personal lives.

Competing Products

Frogs Can Tell You if the Environment is Healthy by EcoKids is an online and interactive game. Players answer 3 questions by clicking on one of three pictures. While this game helps children learn about water pollution, it does not cover any of the land facts such as soil depletion or reforestation. Because the game consists of only 3 questions, so it can only be played once. In comparison, our game is played on a board where players answer a variety of questions related to land, air, water, and sustainability and compete against each other to be the first team to save the earth.

Wildlife DVD Board Game by Imagination Games is a board game where players answer trivia based upon video clips. Recommended ages for this game is 8 years and up. There are over 200 clips about wild animals that can be found at the Serengeti Wildlife Park. Players answer questions like how many vertebrae are in a giraffe's neck. When players answer correctly, they collect cards that help them move around the board. This is a trivia game where the questions appear to not be relevant to how to help save the planet.

Earthopoly by Late for the Sky is a board game similar to Monopoly. This is recommended for players that are 8 years old and up. Players go around the board and increase the property value by exchanging carbon credits for clean air. According to customer feedback on TerraPass, the players do learn fun facts about the earth. However, another customer complained that the game mechanics are not conducive to learning how to save the planet.

Dudley Dodo's Environment Game is a board game published by Brand Makers International. Players travel around the board answering questions about animals, the universe, water and plants. Unfortunately, the game does not seem to help players realize what they can do physically to help lessen the environmental impact they make. Unlike our game, this one is geared toward families with younger children.

Modern Society is a board game created by Gryphon Games and Tuonela Productions Ltd. This game deals with a much wider array of issues than our game from four categories - militarism, economy, human values, and green values. While the game does not seem to have a recommended age, this game appears to be for players that are 13 years and up. The players are all living in the same "modern society" where they try and get the most influential power in order to leave their mark on the world.

R-Eco is card game designed by Susumu Kawasaki and originally published in Japan. Here, you are trash collectors and you need to place the recyclable materials in the correct facility. If you try to carry too much material, you may end up having to dump some of it illegally.

Save the World is an online, interactive game where the player goes to seven different countries and must install alternative energy devices in order to save the planet. Before you play, the website gives a brief description of how generators work to store electricity. This is a single player game online that is focused on establishing alternative energy devices compared to our game where teams compete against each other while learning about land, air, water, and sustainability.

Endango is a board game by Elastic Earth LLC for 2-4 players ages six and up. Players are responsible for 3 endangered animals where the decisions they make will decide whether or not their animals survive. Players receive points for green knowledge and behavior and help save the animals while negative points will move the animals toward extinction.

Object of the Game

The player/team that moves their game piece around the board, lands on the Planet Earth (in the middle), and correctly answers a question about each of the three main areas (air/land/water), wins the game.

Content Analysis

Content Type
Content Elements
Game Elements


  • Land facts
    • Habitat destruction
      • 1.5 acres of rainforest are lost every second
    • Erosion
      • Louisiana is losing 25-35 square miles of wetlands per year
    • Depletion of soil fertility
      • The average annual soil depletion rate in African countries is 22kg of nitrogen, 2.5kg of phosphorus, and 15kg of potassium per hectare of cultivated land
  • Air facts
    • Pollution
      • Air pollution can cause cancer, heart disease, and bronchitis.
      • Air pollution causes premature death in many plants.
      • According to the WHO, 1.5 billion people are breathing dangerously high levels of pollution every day.
  • Water facts
    • Drought
      • In the Horn of Africa, the 1984-1985 drought led to a famine which killed 750,000 people.
    • Water Pollution
      • 1.2 trillion gallons of untreated sewage, stormwater, and industrial waste are discharged into US waters annually.
    • Resource depletion
      • 90% of the large fish have been fished out since the large scale fishing industry began in the 1950's.
  • Sustainable Solution Facts
    • Reforestation
    • Eating local
    • Organic food
    • Alternative transportation
    • Alternative energy
    • Water conservation
  • Trivia cards


  • Sustainability
  • Habitat destruction
  • Reforestation
  • Erosion
  • Eating local
  • Depletion of soil fertility
  • Organic food
  • Air pollution
  • Alternative energy/transportation
  • Water pollution
  • Drought
  • Resource depletion
  • Consumer awareness
  • Water conservation
  • Trivia Cards
  • Critical attributes that must be acquired


  • How human activities affect global and local sustainability
  • Trivia & Recycle Bin Cards


  • Steps for taking personal, practical, and positive environmental actions
  • Recycle Bin cards



  • How far individuals move for their turn (based on roll of die)
  • Trivia cards
  • Group Play
  • Personal, Practical, and Positive trivia cards.
  • Controversy cards (group play)
  • Landing on the same space as an opponent
  • Route Switch card
  • Dice
  • Randomly drawn cards
  • Trivia cards
  • Recycle Bin cards


  • The Earth (made up of land, air, and water)
  • Board game design

Vantage Points

  • Routes
    • Land route (medium)
    • Air route (longest, easier questions)
    • Water route (shortest, hardest questions)
  • Board game design

Game Materials

  • Board
  • Die
  • 60-second hourglass
  • 20 Land cards
  • 20 Air cards
  • 20 Water cards
  • 40 Recycle Bin cards
  • 6 game pieces (pawn avators - 6 different colors)
  • 1 green token with a tree sticker on each side

Game pieces: 3 different colored avatar pawns

Standard 6-sided die


Play Card Samples:


Full Decks of Play cards

Land Cards (20): land_1.png, land_2.png, land_3.png, land_4.png, land_5.png, land_6.png, land_7.png, land_8.png, land_9.png, land_10.png, land_11.png, land_12.png, land_13.png, land_14.png, land_15.png, land_16.png, land_17.png, land_18.png, land_19.png, land_20.png

Water (20): water_1.png, water_2.png, water_3.png, water_4.png, water_5.png, water_6.png, water_7.png, water_8.png, water_9.png, water_10.png, water_11.png, water_12.png, water_13.png, water_14.png, water_15.png, water_16.png, water_17.png, water_18.png, water_19.png, water_20.png

Air (20): air_1.png, air_2_group.png, air_3_group.png, air_4.png, air_5.png, air_6.png, air_7.png, air_8.png, air_9.png, air_10.png, air_11.png, air_12.png, air_13.png, air_14.png, air_15.png, air_16.png, air_17.png, air_18.png, air_19.png, air_20.png

Recycle (40): move_back_1.png, move_back_2.png, move_back_3.png, move_back_4.png, move_back_5.png, move_back_6.png, move_back_7.png, move_back_8.png, move_back_9.png, move_back_10.png, move_back_11.png, move_back_12.png, move_back_13.png, move_back_14.png, move_forward_1.png, move_forward_2.png, move_forward_3.png, move_forward_4.png, move_forward_5.png, move_forward_6.png, move_forward_7.png, move_forward_8.png, move_forward_9.png, move_forward_10.png, move_forward_11.png, move_forward_12.png, move_forward_13.png, ppp_1.png, ppp_2.png, ppp_3.png, ppp_4.png, ppp_5.png. ppp_6.png, ppp_7.png, ppp_8.png, ppp_9.png, ppp_10.png, ppp_11.png, ppp_12.png, ppp_13.png

Game Token


Time Required

The game will take less that 5 minutes to set up. The game board should be laid out, the card decks place into the proper corner, play pieces placed at the "start" and the dice ready to go. Once the game is set up, playtime for 1 game can be as little as 30 minutes or as much as 1 hour or more. The play time will be determined based upon amount of time available for play, the knowledge level of the players, the understanding of the rules of the game and the overall interest in playing the game. In addition, play can be stopped easily in one play period and restarted in another.

The Rules


  • You need at least two players to begin the game. If there are more than three players, then you will need to create teams. The game can be played person vs. person, person vs. team, or team vs. team.
    • Player/Team: In the rules, “player” refers to one player or one team.
  • Shuffle each deck of cards (land, air, water, and recycle bin) and place them on their labeled corners of the board.
  • Place one green tree sticker on each side of the green game token.
  • Place the game token in the middle of the board, equidistant from all teams.
  • Each player needs to select one game piece.
  • Each player needs to select which route to take (water, air, or land). There can be more than one player or team on a route.
    • Routes: The water route is the shortest, but has the toughest questions. The air route is the longest, however, it has easier questions and more “recycle bin” spaces.
  • Keep in mind that a “turn” is a single player’s chance to play, while a “round” is everyone around the table having a turn.

Starting The Game

  • Everyone playing the game should roll a six-sided die. The player with the highest roll starts the game. The turns then go in a clockwise order.
  • The player to the left of the player that had the highest roll pulls a card relating to that player’s route and reads it aloud to the player. For example, if the player with the highest roll is on the water route, the person to the left of her must pull a water card and read the question from the card to her.
  • As soon as the question has been read, flip the hourglass over. The player has to answer the question in 60-seconds or less.
    • Correct Answer
      • If the player answers the question correctly, she gets to roll the die and move her game piece as many spaces as the number on the die. (Each circle = 1 space).
    • Incorrect Answer
      • If the player answers incorrectly, she does not get to move her game piece.
      • The first player to grab the token from middle of the board has the opportunity to answer the question. If that player answers correctly, he gets to roll the die and move as many spaces as the number on the die. If that player has not yet taken his turn in the round, he still gets to take his turn. The player must set the token back in the middle of the board.
        • If the player that grabs the token answers incorrectly, he must set the token back on the board and the first player to grab the token has the opportunity to answer the question.
  • The player that read the card must place the "used" card under the deck of cards it belongs in (i.e., if the player answered a water card, place that card at the bottom of the water card pile).
  • The next player in the clockwise order then takes his turn.
  • If the player pulls a card that says: “Group Play,” everyone has the chance to answer the question. See the additional instructions for more information.
  • Once each player has taken a turn, the player that began the game gets to roll the die and start round 2.

The Second Round And Beyond

  • The play continues as before…If the player’s piece is on a regular space (no “R”), then she must answer another question relating to her route. If she answers correctly, she gets to roll the die and move her game piece. If she answers incorrectly, she does not get to move her game piece.
  • If the player’s piece is on a Recycle Bin space (denoted as “R”), then she must pull a card from the Recycle Bin card stack. See additional instructions for recycle bin cards.
  • The players continue to take turns in a clockwise manner and move their pieces around the board until someone wins the game.

Winning The Game

  • In order to win the game, you must travel from the starting space all the way around the board and into the Earth and collect 1 card from each of the 3 main areas.
  • Once you have entered the Earth, you will need to collect a land card, water card, and earth card to win. You can choose to start with any card. If you answer the question correctly, you get to keep the card. You must wait another turn to try to collect the next card. If you answer the question incorrectly, you must also wait another turn to try and answer a question from that same area. Once you have collected all 3 cards, you have won the game!

Additional Instructions

Landing on an Occupied Space

  • If you land on a space that is already occupied by another player, both you and the other player have the opportunity to answer the question.
  • The first person* to answer correctly gets to roll the die and move their game piece as many spaces as the number on the die.
*The person that reads the card determines which player answered first.
  • If you are not the first to answer correctly or if you answer incorrectly, you lose your turn and have to wait until the next round to answer a question and move. If the other player has not yet had their turn in this round, they still get their turn to answer a question.

Group Play

  • If you pull a card that has says “Group Play” then everyone has the opportunity to answer the question EXCEPT YOU, since you will be reading the card with the answer on it. You will be the judge of which player answers correctly first.
  • You must read the question aloud to the entire group. The first player to answer the question correctly gets to roll the die and move as many spaces as the number on the die. If it was your turn before the group play, then you still get your turn (even if you win the group play).

Recycle Bin

The recycle bin cards consist of a variety of cards. Here are some additional instructions for some of the cards:
  • Route Switch
    • If you pull a recycle bin card that says “route switch” that means everyone playing (all 3 individuals or teams) need to rotate routes. Here are the rotations:
      • Water route à air route
      • Air route à land route
      • Land route à water route
    • When switching routes, make sure to count how many spaces you have moved on your route and move that exact number on the route you switch to. For example, if you have moved 13 spaces on the land route, count 13 spaces (from the start) on the water route and place your game piece there
    • The player whose turn is after the player that pulled the “route switch” card rolls the die and continues playing from their new route.
  • Move up 3 Card
    • If you land on a “Move up 3” card, you have the chance to move 0, 1, 2, or 3 spaces. The card will ask you to list a number of things (i.e., list ways to reduce deforestation). If you list 1 way, you get to move your piece 1 space. If you list 2, you move 2 spaces, and if you list 3 or more, you move 3 spaces. If you do not list anything, you do not get to move.

Motivational Issues

Save the Planet engages the learner through curiosity, competition, and challenge. According to LeBlanc's Taxonomy of Game Pleasures, challenge is a core pleasure of gameplay since most games have a problem that needs to be solved (Schell, 2008). The challenge for players of Save the Planet is to answer as many trivia cards correctly as possible (which will ultimately allow the player to move his/her piece around the board and collect the final 3 cards to win). This is emphasized through group play, landing on an occupied space and challenging another player, and Recycle Bin cards. Players need to be quick enough to answer cards correctly when they are competing against another player and they need to be patient enough to answer the cards correctly when they are on their own (because if they answer incorrectly, the other players will have a chance to answer correctly and move their game piece).

Competition is also core to our game and helps motivate all players (even the few extremely uninterested ones). The competition in this game is accentuated by the speed of play. If a player answers incorrectly, the rest of the players have the opportunity to grab the token, answer correctly, and move their game piece. It's a game of speed in terms of grabbing the token first, answering questions the fastest (group play), and moving the game piece around the board into Earth faster than the other players.

According to Schell (2008), "Play is manipulation that indulges curiosity." Save the Planet engages a player's curiosity before they even begin the game ("what happens if I choose this route instead of the other one?"). It further motivates the players with the Recycle Bin cards, which are an assortment of cards ranging from move back/forward to route switch. The game also increases curiosity for players as they wait to hear whether the player who's turn it is actually answers correctly. Once players finish game, they are curious how hard it would be to try another route, thus creating a loop of curiosity from beginning to end.

Design Process

When our team first met, we decided on doing a game with an environmental awareness theme. We originally wanted to do a puzzle type game where individuals could answer questions, collect cards, and then make a puzzle using the design on the cards. However, this seemed too much like a card game instead of a board game and we could not quite figure out how to make it work. We also wanted a more collaborative game.

We then decided to create a game where teams could compete to earn a title ("Recycle Champion"). Finally we came up with an idea that everyone on our team was excited for: a race type game where individuals could "save the planet." We tried to combine the two ideas - a race where individuals could collect cards on their way to saving the planet and the cards they collected would have to be put together as a puzzle. However, it was too complicated. We simplified our design by focusing on a race game and Save the Planet seemed like a catchy title, so we stuck with it.

We expanded the idea of a race type game by meeting and discussing the specifics of the game. We concluded that the easiest way to chunk information would be to split the content into three sections (land, air, water). We envisioned that individuals would take different routes to get to the Earth and when they got to the Earth, they won the game. We worked on our design document to flesh out the ideas. The research of similar products help us get a better idea of what games are available and what games are successful in promoting environmental sustainability.

While working on the rules, our game seemed like a straightforward trivia game, so we brainstormed some ideas for improving the interactivity. We added "Recycle Bin" cards (originally labeled "Chance") which added probability to the game through options such as the Route Switch and Move up 3.

After the rules were pieced together, we designed the board and cards. Having these designed helped us understand how our game would be played out, so we made some more adjustments to our rules. Once we thought we had everything set, we made 10 air, land, water, and recycle bin cards and Felicia Brown playtested the game with a group of AP Environmental Students.


The game was play tested on October 27, 2009 with a subset of players of the target audience. The results of playtesting are available in the attached document; click the link below to access the results.

While the game was engaging, the students provided some valuable feedback. We met with Bernie and then we met as a team to discuss the best way to add elegance to our game and engage those individuals that were not at all interested in playing. We decided to increase the pace of the game by adding an hourglass to limit the amount of time individuals would have to answer questions. We also added a token. When a player gets the question wrong, the first player to grab the token from the middle of the board has the opportunity to answer the question and move additional spaces. We also brainstormed ideas for having the players practice what they learn (i.e., earn carbon credits, collect trees to plant, etc...).

The new adjustments and additions to the game really added to the game by providing players with more opportunities to move forward spaces even when it is not their turn (which motivates the players to pay attention to the questions when they are being read and answered).

We collected more feedback during class and by sending the design document to friends/colleagues to make sure that everything made sense. There were a few more suggestions for fine-tuning the rules (i.e., who determines which player "wins" the group play), which helped clarify a few things.

Ultimately our team is very proud of the board game and we look forward to seeing it in production on the Game Crafter website. We learned many things that we will carry forward to our next game design process:
  • Playtesting and seeking constant feedback are key to creating a good game
  • It is important to focus on the elegance of the game. We did so by shifting the game away from a strictly trivia style game and getting the players to think about personal actions they could take to save the planet.
  • It is challenging to motivate players that are not at all interested in playing, however, there are ways (such as adding speed, increasing competition, and adding a "physical" aspect so players are kept "on their toes.")
  • Chunking information and developing specific learning objectives really adds to the game and helps the designers focus during the design process.