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Sustainable Gamespace

March 6, 2012

Yesterday, after my Tweetchat on #eventtable, I wrote about the “Gambrian Explosion“, and addressed tips for event professionals to use gamespace (gamification) and my take on the longevity of the phenomenon for business uses.  Today, I’d like to talk about using gamespace to change sustainability behaviour.

The 2011 GMIC Sustainable Meetings Conference was the first in the meeting industry association space to use gamification in a conference to create engagement and social connectivity, enhance learning and change sustainability behaviour (case study). Event Camp Vancouver also used this model and inspired their participants to commit acts of green.  But there are other organizations that have successfully used a game platform to do this in other industries.

Powerhouse is a game prototype with the purpose of improving home energy behaviour by connecting it with an online, multi-player game, developed by one of the authors of Total Engagement, Byron Reeves, and other researchers.  The purpose is to help people reduce consumption (a demand-side issue if you are an economist) to complement the supply side solutions of developing alternate energy.  The game was designed to increase the awareness people have of home energy use by using gaming principles to increase the level of interest and engagement, including competition, a compelling interface, and real-time feedback.  Powerhouse connects home smart meters to a game on social network sites.  Real-time energy information influences the ability of people to operate in the game, the rewards they get, and the reputation they have in the game.  Therefore, real-world behaviour produces specific advantages or disadvantages and helps to change behaviour.

Recyclebank rewards people for taking sustainability into account when performing ordinary, everyday actions, which earn them points that can be redeemed with Recyclebank partners.  Users also access educational information as they move through the site.  People can earn points by referring friends and can donate points to the Green Schools Program, and there are specific initiatives sponsored by Recyclebank partners, such as Points for the Planet, sponsored by Kashi and Ziplock.  Programs have generated significant results, including savings of $500,000 (City of Hollywood, Florida); increased waste diversion rate of 16% (Philadelphia) and a 6% reduction in energy use (Chicago).

An international architectural firm used an application from Pulse Energy to help reduce daily energy consumption in their North American offices located in San Francisco, Seattle, Miami, Charlotte, Raleigh, Chicago and Vancouver.  The Energy Cup used a dashboard so offices could see how they ranked against others.  The challenge was to reduce energy use by 8%; two offices tied for a reduction of 24% energy use, with long-term energy use dropping across the board by about 17% in the case study.  A realtime dashboard can be seen here; energy use does fluctuate based on climate and weather factors.

Based on these successes, using game design and mechanics to change sustainability behaviour within event environments would seem to have a reasonable chance of success.  Now, we just need to influence more event professionals  — perhaps particularly in the association space — to create sustainable gamespace within their events.

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