Getting your Game On for Energy Savings – SWSX Interactive repost

Race you to the energy efficiency line

A great article by the Rocky Mountain Institute, a Colorado-based  independent, entrepreneurial, nonprofit think-and-do tank, summarizes some of the innovations at the South by Southwest Interactive event.  I’ve mentioned “gamification” before, but his article really brings some concepts home and offers a great example of how gamification can be applied to transportation.  

First, they acknowledge the challenge of behavior change:

“Most people say they care about saving energy—for either financial or environmental reasons,” said Yoav Lurie, founder of Simple Energy. “But, like in weight loss, smoking cessation, and personal finance, caring is often an insufficient motivator. We find that it’s much more effective to get people to act as if they care.”

But we’re adaptive creatures, and more importantly, we’re gaming creatures that care about competition, status, and our social circles.  What that means is that games can allow us to engage in activities for those reasons alone.  With games and energy savings, it’s not about saving energy, it’s about earning points, getting a prize, your pride.  The lower energy bill might entice you to continue your own game afterwards, but not until you’ve done it and “won” those savings for yourself.

By applying principals of gaming to non-game applications, it is believed you can encourage people to change their behavior.

Or, by applying fun to generally un-fun activities, you can encourage people to do the otherwise un-fun thing and have fun at the same time.

The article cites a great example: Electric car miles driven on battery.  Mmm.  Riveting, eh?  Can a game make this fun?  Measuring how many miles driven before the gas motor kicks in?

Research on gamification says it can work.  And it does.  Visit http://www.voltstats.net to see the top competitors.  600 some folks are making driving efficient and charging their batteries a game.  They’re competing for miles per gallon, miles driven, etc.  The best news?  The game is effectively encouraging them to use the (ever-becoming-cleaner) electric grid over gasoline to power their transportation.  They all have the option of a back-up gas tank.  This game is encouraging them to skip the pump and plug it in instead.

For the environmental benefits that can come one day from electric transportation, I have to admit: We’re gonna have a lot of fun!

Article source – ThinkProgress.org: http://thinkprogress.org/romm/2012/03/29/452499/gamifying-energy-use-trends-south-by-southwest-interactive/

(Also, a great Science Friday interview about this: Gaming is Good for You …and on NPR too: ‘Gamifying’ The System to Create Better Behavior)

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