Maria Wagner is the Initiator and General Manager of gamesforest.club, a non-profit organization that wants to tackle climate change in a playful way by engaging the games industry. With us, she talks about her biggest challenges and achievements so far and how everyone can support her cause.
What is the idea of gamesforest.club? What do you want to achieve? What’s your vision?
Gamesforest.club is a non-profit initiative that supports the games- and creative industries to invest in carbon absorption by planting and protecting forests. We constantly develop innovative tools and investment packages to enable the games industry to playfully and effectively conquer climate change.
Why do you focus on game companies? What can they contribute that other industries cannot?
The games industry is big enough and well equipped to take on the mission of tackling climate change. The mindset of the people is just right – people think globally, they have very active and huge communities and the technical tools to conduct a mission that size. They are the ones who can bring value back to nature by implementing the topic and related products into their content, community events, and company culture. We bring the largest entertainment industry, gaming, together with the most promising nature-based solution, forests, to tackle our biggest problem: climate change.
How can one support you? Are only game companies called to action?
First, we want to address the gaming- and creative industries (with their 30 million+ employees) and encourage companies to become club members and grant their employees the benefits of membership while saving the planet. There is also the possibility of a short-term engagement as a sponsor or donor. No matter how they decide to contribute, 70% of their contribution always goes to the project/s they choose to support, 30% goes to the maintenance of the gamesforest.club and the coverage of employees’ salaries and administrative costs. All money, which is generated above, will be used for forest protection and buying club-owned forests. We also offer media partnerships if someone wants to support us with their reach. Everyone, who wants to donate as a private person, can visit our website and donate directly there. You can also tell your friends about us, visit our social media channels and share our content.
Tell us about your biggest achievements and challenges so far.
One of our biggest challenges became one of our achievements: It was very hard to find valid projects, which can provide us with proper GPS data and documentation. After deep research and many meetings, we are now able to provide our members with 14 beautiful projects with reliable data, which is also displayed on our platform. We are very thankful for the engagement of over 25 companies, who joined our mission and supported the projects with sponsorships, donations, donation streams, or media coverage already in the first two months. The feedback is amazing and thanks to our members like Miniclip, Goodgames Studios, Matchmade, and many others gamesforest.club is growing constantly. Each digital tree within our forest represents a 100€ investment. Just visit gamesforest.club and follow the growth.
You recently won three CSS Design Awards for your website in the categories UI Design, UX Design and Innovation. How did you come up with the look and feel of the page? What were important factors that you wanted to include? Are there updates or other forms of engagement planned?
Together with the experienced agency Netzbewegung, we worked on developing something playful and visually attractive as well as number-driven. Gamesforest.club should represent the engagement of all the heroes of the games industry and encourage their communities and partners to get involved as well. That's how we came up with the idea of a digital twin, which inhabits trees representing the investments. The type of tree is connected to the continent of the project, where the money goes to. One new feature is that companies will be able to implement their own trees and elements as well.
As your initiative spreads across four continents, has the pandemic made your work more difficult?
The pandemic did not affect our work in a negative way. With the pandemic, people see more and more the value of nature and biodiversity and its benefits for health, relaxation as well as a pool of inspiration and so much more. All of our projects underwent a validation procedure and provide us with reliable data, which we carefully review. Soon our team will be enriched by an expert, who will further validate and examine the data and our partners.
Planting new trees is one thing. How do you maintain and care for the new forests and protect them from droughts, wildfires or illegal deforestation? How do you manage the increasing complexity of your task when your initiative becomes more successful?
We use satellite imagery, which is publicly available, and the information of monitoring organizations and agencies as well as the data provided by our partners to make sure that forests that are saved or planted by us are still there. Furthermore, our reforestation and conservation partners have their foresters and validators who also make sure that the forests continue thriving. We also try to choose projects, which use local species and create living biodiversity, which naturally creates a safer environment and are less likely to catch fire or suffer droughts than monoculture forests, for example.
Founding a non-profit organization is a huge personal step. Why did you choose Berlin as your basis?
The lively metropolis is a well-known business location for creative professionals within the games industry and also a hub for sustainable business models. Many of gamesforest.club's partners from the field of nature conservation, including WWF Germany, for example, as well as media partners have their headquarters in Berlin. Another advantage of the location is the green spaces and forests that the city has to offer, which can be used for networking and informative events.
You have been part of the local games community for four years. How would you describe the general vibe of the capital network?
Berlin has a very vibrant and exciting vibe. There is always a possibility to meet people with interesting and exceptional ideas and views. The number of games studios is growing as well, especially since the federal funding program. It is a great city for thriving companies, people and nature as well.