EGU General Assembly 2023
© Author(s) 2023. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Dirty Matters: The Soil Game

Emma Burak and Christina Christina Van Midden
Emma Burak and Christina Christina Van Midden
  • Cranfield University, UK

The presenters would like to showcase a game they have created through funding allocated by the British Society of Soil science. The original brief of the project was to demonstrate the ability of soils to deliver on the UN Sustainable Development Goals, specifically Zero Hunger, Clean Water and Climate Action. We also wanted to capture the interlinking complexity of soil in a simple, fun, and educational format in order to promote how amazingly intricate and fascinating soils are.

The resulting game is called Dirty Matters: The Soil Game and focuses on how soil management practises affect soil, which in turn affect the SDGs. Dirty matters is a fully cooperative game where the players embody soil organisms (including the mole, earthworm, and mycorrhizal fungi) and move around the soil implementing soil management techniques (such as cover crops, no tillage regimes, and adding manure) to counteract the events that negatively impact the soil (such as soil compaction, acid rain, and erosion). This is all done with the overarching aim of keeping the soil healthy enough to meet the yield requirements of a growing population whilst trying to avoid polluting water and excessive carbon loss.

The process of making this boardgame initially involved brainstorming sessions to form a game design and then rigorous research to make sure our concepts were backed by up-to-date science. Once a playable game design was achieved, we started play testing with other soil scientists and a variety of other communities to make sure both the mechanics and science worked, tweaking the game after each session to incorporate feedback. The final stages included making it look appealing by engaging with a graphic designer. As of today, Dirty Matters is free to download and printer friendly educational tool to advance the understanding of soil and how we should take care of it and everything in it.

How to cite: Burak, E. and Christina Van Midden, C.: Dirty Matters: The Soil Game, EGU General Assembly 2023, Vienna, Austria, 24–28 Apr 2023, EGU23-17593,, 2023.