Mom’s Choice Awards is excited to announce another post in our interview series where we chat with the inventors, designers, publishers, and others behind some of our favorite family-friendly products.
Hi, Mom’s Choice readers! Thanks for joining us for another installment of our interview series! Today, we had the pleasure of speaking with the creator and founder of the MCA award-winning company, Adventerra Games, Bryan Mundell. Adventerra Games create and develop educational games for children that are focused on environmental themes. Adventerra Games was the winner of four Mom’s Choice Awards for their games Global Warning, WaterGame, Recycle Rally, and PowerHaus! Keep reading to find out more about Bryan and his award-winning company.
MCA: Hi Bryan! Congratulations on your Mom’s Choice Award! We here at MCA are so impressed with everything your company has accomplished. It is truly remarkable how you’ve been able to create fun board games that have such powerful and impactful messages. With you and your company’s strong commitment to environmentalism, I am eager to hear about your background and how you got involved in the world of environmental games. Can you start by telling us about yourself?
Bryan: I was born in the US, and learned to appreciate nature while camping with Boy Scout Troop 45 in upstate New York. After finishing my Ph.D. at Cornell University, I taught Organizational Behavior, Human Resource Management, and Research Methods for ten years at Bocconi University in Milan, Italy. There I developed a series of games and simulations to facilitate active learning of soft managerial skills. In 2002 I founded Adventerra Games, the first company specialized in educational board games designed to reduce the environmental footprints of the players. After suffering from health problems due to the air pollution of Greater Milan, I moved my family and the company in 2008 to Lugano, Switzerland. The three co-managers and Art Director that I hired in 2018 developed a new line of environmental games for families. In 2019 I founded Adventerra Games North America with my Boston-based sister. Hobbies suspended due to Covid19 and the challenges of managing two companies remotely include soccer, hiking, politics, music, and theater.
MCA: Can you tell us about what first got you so interested in the environment as well as the world of gaming?
Bryan: From my pre-teen years I’ve always appreciated the time spent in nature. When I was teaching, a student at Bocconi University approached me and asked me to supervise her proposed thesis on the history of Green Management. The thesis took more than two years to research, and I woke up to the tremendous potential of business to address the mother of all generational challenges – global warming.
I discovered the joys and challenges of chess and other board games at 5 years of age, and historical simulations only five years later. While still in high school I organized the Cornell University Simulators Association and led the team to a tie for first place in the first play-by-mail World Wargames Championship (1975-1977). I later migrated from wargames to Diplomacy and economic games and then developed a series of games to teach MBA students organizational behavior and human resource management.
MCA: That is very impressive! I am a lover of chess and other board games myself. What needs were you trying to fill when you created Adventerra Games?
Bryan: More CO2 was released from human activity in the last half of the 20th century than in all of history before that combined. My generation has enjoyed the lifestyle and economic benefits of modern life, and I feel a particular responsibility to address this issue. The problem is how to develop ordinary behavioral habits that conserve natural resources (energy, water, and materials made from non-renewable substances like fossil fuels or minerals).
Habits are best developed at a young age and are much more easily absorbed while playing games because barriers to learning are down. When my daughter was young, I looked everywhere for games that taught good habits to save the environment and found only academic games to memorize the names of birds, the relationships in food webs, and similar. The niche that Adventerra Games is filling is clear – teaching people everyday behaviors to reduce their environmental footprints by reducing their consumption of energy and natural resources.
MCA: It is so refreshing to see a company that has such a strong commitment to the environment and teaching children eco-friendly habits at a young age. These games sound so interesting, can you tell us about more about them and their unique features?
Bryan: The game mechanics and designs came from my experience, in collaboration with my co-designers from my gaming group at Cornell University, Dr. Miljenko Mervic (a retired biochemist), and Mr. Joe Sepe (a printer). We went through several prototypes over a period of months or years, and we hired various artists and graphic artists.
Because people are not all alike, we aimed to satisfy a broad variety of players by developing games with a balance of competitive and collaborative aspects. Each game has a different mechanism to reflect the collaborative aspect of team play; examples include the community water jug in WaterGame and the earth’s temperature indicator in Global Warning.
The content research was facilitated by the wide variety of materials already available on the internet in the new millennium and carefully examined and improved by subject matter experts in the US and Europe. Translations were made into three foreign languages, with Spanish translations of all four games to be made available soon.
MCA: I’ve read that the games are printed and made with eco-friendly materials in Poland, what was the inspiration behind this?
Bryan: For many years we had printed our games in upstate New York when the US dollar was very weak against the Euro. After the USD strengthened, we printed the first run of our new line of games in Germany, and were very happy with the quality, although it was expensive. My three co-managers did some research and found several printers in Eastern Europe, and after careful comparison and a bidding process, we selected the Polish factory that we are currently working with. They offer a good combination of excellent quality, materials with only a modest impact on the environment, and a reasonable cost of production.
MCA: What has the response been like to all of the Adventerra Games?
Bryan: For many years we included a one-page questionnaire in our games, and whenever we conducted projects in schools I always collected this feedback. There is a range of responses, but on most questions, the average score our games receive is four points on a five-point scale (i.e., above the average). Questions include fun, clarity of rules, playability, quality of the artwork, educational value, and behavioral changes learned.
Additional positive feedback has been received by our being selected for a total of 25 toy industry awards for our four games, including your own Mom’s Choice Awards. All four games also received STEM.org authentication (in the 94th percentile) in January. The comments we have received from many of the reviewers have been very gratifying, as have comments from our social media sites.
However, the most satisfying feedback that I receive regularly comes from parents whose kids have played my game. To cite one example that I have heard over the years – “Bryan, my little Johnny played your WaterGame in school, and now ever since I’ve got to turn the tap off while I’m brushing my teeth!”
MCA: That is such a rewarding response! It’s so wonderful to know when your product makes such a positive impact. What is next for Adventerra Games?
Bryan: We have been working on several new lines of games and puzzles that will be released in the second half of this year, with many aimed at younger players, ages 2 to 6, and a few aimed for middle and high school students and adults. This summer we will also conduct a joint Kickstarter project with OjO, a brand of educational STEAM games based in the UK. At the same time, we are hiring marketing experts to promote the German and French versions of our existing games.
MCA: That all sounds very exciting, please keep us posted!
You can learn more about Bryan Mundell and his award-winning games by visiting his MCA Shop pages.