Desertification – Gamifying The Desert


The game of countering desertification

Some time ago we were contacted by Andreas Buechel and he shared with us some of his creative ideas. This week’s post will be about one of his ideas, a gamified experience to counter desertification.

First of all let’s define what desertification is. According to the Encyclopaedia Britannica :

desertification, also called desertization, the process by which natural or human causes reduce the biological productivity of drylands (arid and semiarid lands). Declines in productivity may be the result of climate change, deforestation, overgrazing, poverty, political instability, unsustainable irrigation practices, or combinations of these factors. The concept does not refer to the physical expansion of existing deserts but rather to the various processes that threaten all dryland ecosystems, including deserts as well as grasslands and scrublands.


Andreas had a pretty ambitious idea regarding this problem which uses robots and gamers to counter it. How, you might be asking? Well, a player could be at his home controlling a robot in a remote area, many miles aways, creating some kind of a personal garden in a desertified area.

This is the simple view on it.

Getting on, a lot more have to be thought of and Andreas helped with some more details.


No garden survives without water.

This has to be carefully planed in a way so that the player and the associated robot have the necessary materials to build an irrigation system.

Since the player probably doesn’t have much knowledge about irrigation systems, or the creation of a garden for the matter, a set of tutorials is necessary to teach them.

As the game has more players the more experienced ones could earn some resources like more terrain or different seeds according to their effort to teach the new players.

In some places where this strategy could be used is very difficult to gather enough water for a constant water supply. However there are systems used to obtain water directly from the atmosphere like this example which could provide the essential water supply.


Andreas suggests once again a creative solution. Fertilizer could be obtained through micro-algae being grown in a solar-powered algae bioreactor. As a positive side effect this bioreactor would also help to reduce pollutants such as NOx and CO2 on the area.

The Deal

The countries where this game would be played would have to ensure that these zones would be treated as global biosphere reserves.

All of the equipment would also have to be guaranteed in the way of maintenance and security. In exchange, the technology could be used to help the local population taking in consideration however, that this could not interfere with the main purpose of the experience .

The costs

This experience could be monitored online through video by everyone in the world which would create a huge potential for the advertising market, being one of the possible financial sources of the project.

Another way of getting funds is asking from the players an initial fee to help cover the equipment expenses such as the robot, and a monthly fee to help maintaining it.

Keep up with the score

As in any other game, we need to be able to effectively check what the player’s score is. We have to consider two factors, the more objective and tangible one, the size of the area that the player is already having success on, and the more subjective and intangible evaluation of the amount of work developed in the garden and the relative success of it.

We have yet to consider the aesthetics and that could be easily attained by an online voting which would reward the best looking garden. Do you have some more ideas about this?

Share them with us.

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