ENERGY STAT: RENEWABLE SOURCES ACCOUNT FOR 23% OF ALL ELECTRICITY
GENERATION WORLDWIDE, ACCORDING TO THE NATIONAL RENEWABLE ENERGY
4 Tips for Encouraging Energy Efficiency with Games
E E Playing online games at the office
may not be the enemy of produc-
tivity that many think it is – at
least, not if players pick the right game.
Gamifying tasks – using game features to
accomplish objectives in the real world –
may actually boost occupant performance.
Instead of tending a virtual farm or
firing the titular flock of Angry Birds from
a slingshot, one subset of games aims to
help steer energy behavior – and some
could complement your energy efficiency
program. An analysis of 53 energy-themed
games offers tips for FMs looking to
improve occupants’ green behavior, according to the study author, the American
Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy
1) Know Your Objective
Before implementing a gamified energy
efficiency solution at your organization, ensure you understand exactly why
gamification makes sense for you. Simply
increasing energy savings is a good start,
but many games emphasize additional
objectives, explains ACEEE. Beat the
Peak, for example, is intended specifically
to reduce peak consumption.
“Businesses that are considering adopting a gamified solution like Cool Choices
or WeSpire need to ask the same probing
question: why?” the report asks. “The
answers might range from employee
engagement to environmental impact to
lower energy bills.”
2) Understand Your Audience
“The point of a gamified solution is
to motivate someone to do something,”
ACEEE explains. “If your game is to be
successful, spend as much time as pos-
sible getting to know your intended audi-
ence: what motivates them, what their
goals are, and what might make them
As an example, ACEEE points to
Leafully, a game that highlights the
environmental benefits of saving energy
by tracking daily energy consumption
from players’ utility data and linking the
carbon emissions of that energy use to the
health of trees, which sequester carbon.
Tree calculations are based on the EPA’s
measurement of the amount of carbon a
tree can sequester in its first 10 years. For
example, an alert might read “You used
3. 4 trees last Monday. You typically use 2.0
trees on a Monday.” Understand what your
occupants care most about to choose the
most compelling game for them.
3) Determine Your Goal
What behaviors are you trying to encourage your occupants to adopt? What
does success look like? ACEEE recommends quantifying target behaviors before
adopting an efficiency game.
“Game developers should specify these
behaviors before developing, commissioning, or adopting their solution and
quantify them if possible – not just reduce
energy use, but reduce it by 15%,” the study
For example, Energy Chickens coaches
players to reduce plug loads by tracking
the consumption of each plugged-in device
and linking each one to a chicken that lives
on a desktop-based virtual farm. In the
pilot test of the game at Pennsylvania State
University, researchers attached wireless
sensors to participants’ office appliances
and measured plug loads for five weeks to
establish a baseline. Meanwhile, posters
demonstrated ways to save energy.
When the game began, players who
reduced their energy use below the
baseline by unplugging, turning off, and
generally reducing the use of appliances
were rewarded with healthy chickens
who laid eggs (which could then be used
in a virtual general store to buy decora-
tive items for the farms). If energy use
increased, the chickens became sick and
turned green. During the game period, the
office achieved a 13% reduction in plug
load energy consumption.
Prioritizing the most important behaviors is also key to success, ACEEE says.
The organization touts the game Cool
Choices as an example because it pays out
points based on the efficiency impact of
each activity – watching less TV is worth
five points, but figuring out a new way to
share items with others is worth 50 points.
“These distinctions reflect the game’s commitment to innovation and community-level collaboration to reduce emissions,”
the study authors note.
ACEEE also recommends determining at the outset whether to focus on
short-term or persistent behavior change.
“Games that encourage extreme behavior (e.g. stop showering to win a dorm
competition) may not lead to the adoption of long-term habits,” the organization
explains. “One strategy that may facilitate
long-term change is social networking.
When a game showcases our behavior
in front of peers, we may be less likely to
4) Monitor Key Performance
Ensuring you reap a good return on your
investment means you need to be able to
track the success of your game.
“Of course one of these indicators will
be the amount of energy saved, but others might include the number of players,
their demographics, their performance in
the game, the number and type of actions
they take, and their understanding of and
attitude toward energy efficiency,” says
ACEEE. “Developers must determine
a baseline for all of these variables and
devise systems and processes for collecting
before-and-after data.” Some third-party
providers offer these analytics as an optional add-on for customers, ACEEE adds,
while in other cases you may have to track
your own metrics.
“Consider gamified solutions in conjunction with other behavioral approaches that
have a longer and more intensive history of
evaluation, measurement, and validation,”
LEAFULLY, an energy efficiency game, emphasizes the environmental impacts of reducing
energy use by linking players’ energy consumption to the health of carbon-sequestering trees.