Board games reflect the times. Monopoly emerged during an epoch of industrial titans and robber barons. Twister transmuted the sexual revolution into four colored rows. Now, Scott Cooney has created another game for a new era: GBO Hawaii.
Named for “green business owners,” players are impact investors in a game inspired by Monopoly. They must navigate the transition from a fossil fuel economy to one powered by clean energy. The game challenges players with volatile markets, scheming lobbyists, and unreliable politicians lining the path to helping Hawaii reach its real-life goal of producing 70% of its electricity from clean renewable sources by 2050. Today’ Hawaii still derives 90% of its electricity by burning oil.
“Our primary aim with the game was to create something fun that could inspire people to green careers and to consider sustainability as something personally relevant to them,” according to the website.
The players are clean-tech angel investors who search the islands of Hawaii to finance wind farms, geothermal plants, car-sharing services or community agriculture advancing the state’s energy target. Scores are tallied by the triple bottom line: money, green collar jobs created, and “eco-credits” reflecting how much oil, processed food, or trash is offset by the new businesses. Investing, however, is risky. Public policy decisions and market events may go your way, or unleash disaster. A deck of Policy & Event cards throws up scenarios from a Victory Gardens crusade by Hawaii’s governor that boosts sustainable food sales to plunging oil prices that leave biofuel investors deep in the hole.
The game doesn’t fully represent real life, or the lure of easy cash, since players can’t just decamp and become oil barons. “The only options to invest in in the game are ‘green’ ones,” says Cooney. “The reason is that the game is based on the field of impact investing–those people who want to invest, but aren’t at all interested in dirty businesses.”
Cooney, who is also an “eco-entrepreneur” and sustainability professor at the University of Hawai’i’s Shidler College of Business, has developed the game into lesson plans for high schools and colleges, and is now on a national tour to promote it with tournaments to be held in New Jersey, Washington, D.C., and Asheville, South Carolina.
[Image: flickr user in_2_the_fray]