Wednesday, March 4, 2015

The Link Between Gamification and Energy Savings

I know many will look at the title of this piece and ask what in the world is gamification? It may sound like a back to the future term to most, but in actuality it is leading us to an energy efficient future and I will explain how.

Before we go any deeper I would like to give you the technical definition of gamification. The definition reads as, "the application of typical elements of game playing (e.g., point scoring, competition with others, rules of play) to other areas of activity, typically as an online marketing technique to encourage engagement with a product or service."[i] But that sounds way too formal to me. So in my own words I think of it as making learning to make changes fun!

Now that I have covered what gamification is lets dive deeper into how and why I am talking about it in the first place. SAVING ENERGY!

Gamification is becoming a growing tool for many to create positive behavior changes in others. The reason why this type of thing works is human brains are wired to enjoy challenges, positive feedback and social bonding.[ii] We all enjoy stepping away from reality after long busy days at work, right? Well why don’t we make that step away from reality better ourselves and our environment.

One such example of an exemplary game that has modified energy behavior is Energy Chickens. Sure this game sounds like a kid’s game, but its actually an online office game. This online game gave players a virtual pet that they were to keep alive by making energy conservation changes within your office. Researchers who developed the game set a baseline plug load five weeks prior to launching the game. During the game office workers would log into the game and make a pledge to reduce energy consumption by 15%. Then each player would receive 5 virtual chickens to take care of. Each of those 5 chickens corresponded to one of their work appliances.

If players were to unplug, turn off and or reduce their appliances energy use their chickens would thrive and even lay eggs. While on the other hand if players did not improve their energy usage their chickens were knocking on death’s door as you can see in the picture below. The eggs that were laid by the healthy chickens during the game were used as currency at the virtual general store.Players were able to buy certain supplies to keep their chicken farms going. Besides knowing how their energy usage was doing by just looking at their chickens players were given graphs that charted their energy usage as well. Players were also able to see how the rest of their coworkers were doing on saving energy and turn it into a friendly office competition.

Results of this game are what truly show that it was a success. Researchers found that there was a 13% plug load reduction while the game was being played. Researchers also noticed that even on non-work days there was a 23% plug load reduction. And the final and most important part of it all the behavior modification results. Players stated that after playing the game they are more energy conscious at home and in the office. To me that sounds like a success in its self-right there.

These type of thing make many of us realize what bad energy habits we actually have. Though we do not want to be pointed out as an energy looser I think we need to be smacked around with reality of our habits. And more than anything I think gamification is helping to stir up the conversation around behavior modifications in energy. There are many games on the market right now that are free that can help you to change some of your energy habits. Take a look online or even on your app store and see what works best for you. 

Become an energy saver!   

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