Doughnut Economics Games Gatherings - May 2024

Insights, discussion and links from those designing and using games based on the ideas of Doughnut Economics


On 30th and 31st May 2024, DEAL hosted two gatherings for people interested in games based on the ideas of Doughnut Economics.

16 people came to the gatherings, with a fairly even split between those who have designed or were designing games, and those that wanted to use games for particular audiences.

Each gathering was 90 minutes. We started with a 'go-around' to introduce each other. Then we went into a conversation - facilitated by Rob Shorter, DEAL Communities and Art Lead - which included time for some people to share about their games, time for some people to ask questions, and time to share thoughts and insights in response.

The 'collective intelligence' of each group emerged and here are a few of the topics of the conversation, along with some links to the games shared.

Who's your audience and objective?

We spoke about a number of different audiences for games, that included NGOs, gamers (gaming experts), families, businesses, schools and young people. For each of these audiences a game will likely have different objectives.

For young people, we discussed how enjoyment of a game was the most important reason for playing, raising the question 'how can game designers design around an enjoyable hook?'

Through enjoyment and play there could then be discovery and learning as a bi-product of the game. An popular game example was that through playing Minecraft, people learn about geology!

Families were also seen as a particularly receptive audience where you can introduce ideas through games in interesting and playful ways.

Games in the context of NGOs was seen a bit more like 'preaching to the choir'. However this goes counter to the insights of the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre, who DEAL collaborated with in 2023 with this event, that showed how games can reveal dynamics relating to climate shocks and disaster response.

In terms of a Policy-Makers audience, it was seen that games needed to have more depth and have content that made the game credible so that people respect it. There is a term 'serious games' that could be used to describe this, but that terms was also seen to have certain connotations that wasn't necessarily helpful.

For businesses, people were interested in games to facilitate online networking, to introduce new ideas, to explore the harmful outcomes of extractive businesses practices and to reveal ways in which businesses can transform for good. We wondered - how might game-play be used to lead into the Doughnut Design for Business tool?

In terms of an underlying objective of a game, we discussed the distinction between games that introduce ideas and games that reveal and explore dynamics that have the potential to bring about systems change. And that both are valuable.

How do you introduce ideas to a skeptical audience?

In both gatherings we spoke about bringing games to audiences that were orientated to mindset that is quite far from Doughnut Economics, e.g. a mindset of GDP growth and wealth maximisation, or a mindset that switches off as soon as the word climate is mentioned.

A theme that emerged was about having games that start in one way, with parameters that align with a mainstream mindset, e.g. with objectives including GDP growth, or with dynamics that include wealth maximisation, but that through the game, things are introduces so that these objectives and dynamics begin to shift.

This approach meets people where they are and then takes them on a journey, allowing for a more welcoming start, and then space and opportunities to open thinking to new things as the game unfolds. So how might you 'bake in the growth assumption' at the start, and through the game, move to something entirely different. In this way, games that 'focus on now' to start with could be a good way to get to the topic of 'exploring the future'.

One specific example was where someone had done a Climate Fresk type game but framed it with a known problem in the area that didn't mention climate at all - 'You're stuck on the M50 (a motorway), why?' In this way, it was a relatable starting point to most people, and it allowed them to introduce systems thinking and allowed people to explore systems dynamics that would be the same as those explored in a climate game.

Something else raised was to first seek to understand people's motivations and to introduce the appropriate game based on that. In this way you're 'bringing the message closer to home' as one person put it.

How game dynamics shape our behaviour

We spoke about game dynamics and how they promote certain types of behaviour - for good or not. One game we discussed was the popular game Civilisation, and someone shared how they felt playing the game exercised certain ways of relating with people and places that perpetuated deeply harmful colonial behaviours and patterns. And this prompted the question whether there are any decolonial games that people knew of.

We also spoke about how physical cards, such as those used in Climate Fresk, that people have to pick up, examine, then choose where to place in relation to other cards, creates a engaging way to introduce content, and brings about explorative behaviours and opens people's sense of curiosity.

In the Doughnut Economics the book, Kate Raworth dedicates a page of the book to the story of Elizabeth Magie, the creator of the Landlords game, that had two sets of rules, in order to reveal economic choices we have, but how the game was crudely reduced to only the wealth maximising set of rules in the forming of the most well known game Monopoly.

What possibilities are there for different DE 'scoring systems'?

This was a great question for the DE game designers to think about and discuss.

It was acknowledged that many games are designed around 'number goes up' metrics but what do you do if you want to find balance, like the Doughnut? It's maybe less of an incentive than the 'number goes up' approach to scoring. For example,  if you take a typical city build a game like SimCity or resource based game, there's kind of this natural in built need to grow, to capture as many resources possible.

Ideas centred around a dashboard of metrics that interrelate, as one goes up, another could go down. But there are also regenerative metrics where there are positive reinforcing feedback loops of regenration that could prove motivating for players, and thinking of benefits as co-benefits, where ecological regeneration then leads to more satisfying of social needs - e.g. more urban tree cover leads to reduced heat island effect and healthier environments for residents in the summer.

Games that people had made, were developing or liked

There were lots of great games shared that people were either developing (Doughnut Odyssey) getting ready to crowdfund for (Earth 2053: Tipping Point) or generally knew about.

Doughnut Odyssey
Players embark on a journey to build thriving societies while navigating the delicate balance between economic prosperity and environmental sustainability

The Good Life for All
Facilitating "balancing acts" between social and ecological parameters

Bold Donut
Online games focused on the issue of waste-contamination in Ireland and the UK

Climate Change Playbook
Simple and interactive exercises to help citizens better understand climate change, diagnose its causes, anticipate its future consequences, and effect constructive change.

A nation-state level game, where you try to maximise health, education, income, equity, and at the same time, you see how human activity around the world is depleting natural resources and accelerating climate change.

It was utterly remarkable how similar the board layout is to the National Doughnut chart! You can see all the National Doughnut data here.

A picture showing Ecopolis game board and the National Doughnuts scatter chart side-by-side

Earth 2053: Tipping Point
Players represent countries that work together to prevent a global climate catastrophe. Crowdfunding Preview:

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Terra Nil
A game about transforming a barren, lifeless landscape into a thriving, vibrant ecosystem. Turn dead soil into fertile grassland, clean polluted oceans, plant sprawling forests, and create the ideal habitat for animals to call home.

Game-Changes: The Game
a public storytelling board game between Capitalists and Commoners as they battle it out to seize the hottest buzzwords of the new economy. Watch a game being played at the Regen Alliance Unconference, organised by Trusted Seed:

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Half Earth Socialism
A planetary crisis planning game.

An environmental card strategy game with climate change as your opponent.

Climate Fresk
In just 3 hours, the collaborative Climate Fresk workshop will teach you the fundamental science behind climate change and empower you to take action.

Post Growth Toolkit
A tactical card game inviting players to explore a number of key notions to facilitate collective debate

Networks, studios and events for like-minded game designers

There were many ways to connect with the wider community of games designers orientated to ideas similar to that of Doughnut Economics, and one event was shared.


Designing Virtual Alternatives: Social Economy, Games, and Change on 22nd July 2024


Society for the promotion of radical analogue games

Anticiplay: an NWO-Vidi funded research project that explores how games can help imagine and realize sustainable futures for all

Gaming for the commons

Green Game Design: Inspiration for sustainable greener games

STRATEGIES — Sustainable Transition for Europe’s Game Industries

The International Game Developers Association Climate Special Interest Group (IGDA CLIMATE SIG)

Inclusive Games:  A Game Community Where Every One and Every Body Belongs

Games Studios

Gaming Gone Good

Tesa Games Collective

Gaia Games


Playgen (no longer in operation)

A call for game research projects

Game in Lab, an organisation that supports game research has a call for game research projects open until 6th Septmber.

This year’s endowment is 45 000€.
Each project will be eligible to a maximum grant of 20 000€.

Find out more details here. Note that Game in Lab is completely independent of DEAL and we are sharing it here for the purposes that it may be of interest to DE game designers.

How can the DEAL Team and the DEAL Community support you?

We ended both gatherings reflecting on how the DEAL Team and the DEAL Community support their work, either as game designers, facilitators or players.

Some ideas that came out included:

  • Finding people to play test new games - how might members of the DEAL Community connect DE game designers with organisations and audiences that might like to play test a game that's in development?
  • Academics and experienced DE practitioners to review games - Something that was identified as a challenge for DE game designers was knowing enough about DE topics (including, for example, the science of Planetary Boundaries), but not being enough of an expert to spot if something needs to be corrected (in the game). So having access, or being connected with academics and experienced DE practitioners would help catch any mistakes that could be corrected.
  • Carrying on the role of convening - the DEAL Team can continue to offer spaces such as this so those interested in games can meet each other to share ideas and discuss common questions together.
  • Evolving the gatherings - it was acknowledged that it might be good in future to have gatherings divided into those designing games and those looking to use games with their audiences. It was also suggested that in future, it would be good to have people talk about their experiences of playing certain games with certain audiences, so they can offer inspiration and advice for others.
  • Connecting with funders and publicising crowd funders - how might the DEAL Team and members of the DEAL community support DE game developers to connect with organisations, including games studios, that might be able to fund game development, and/or help publicise upcoming crowd-funding projects.
  • Create a Discord community - the platform Discord could be a space where those interested in DE games could stay connected. And we can also be asking - who's not here and how can we reduce barriers to participation?

Watch this space

Thank you to everyone who attended and contributed such interesting questions, insights, links and more.

Do follow the topic of games based on the ideas of Doughnut Economics and we hope to bring more opportunities for connection soon!






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