Energy Crisis Gaming

The prophecy of our current energy crisis is in many respects old news.  You may recall Jimmy Carter’s 1977 plea to the american public  then interpreted as a tedious history lesson. The tone of the speech was indeed somber with references made to great energy challenges, energy reserves, and painful yet meaningful sacrifices from business, government and citizens alike.  And as recalled by Rosalynn Carter  “Jimmy had made several speeches on energy… and it just seemed to be going nowhere with the public.”

During that same year Sid Konikoff created the board game Energy Crisis  The board game was designed to draw from the popularity of “Monopoly” and many other popular board games of the period.  The exception, however, in this case was the game’s underlying message; change energy consumption habits, or as we would say, better understand and influence behavior through game dynamics.

Energy Gaming

Fast forward to 2012 and we are still addressing energy consumption habits and a crisis that has never truly been addressed.  To this end the UN has released its own mobile application for citizens to track their individual carbon footprints. This app comes with a handy visualization tool to make the information even more accessible and applicable.  However, what may still be lacking in the current offering of mobile personal energy apps is a game layer – an incentivized competition of sorts.

The game dynamic is a powerful concept in the ability to influence behavior especially in the energy sector.  As a design tool the game dynamic provides a compelling platform to incentivize model behavior.  Our experimentation with it is in the creation, integration and management of spaces.  The game dynamic is used to enhance user experience in the management of energy while  crowdsourced behaviors are mined and ultimately rewired through gaming to benefit energy conservation.  This is similar to a best practices kind of logic but goes several steps further.  Firstly, targeted and unique experiences are capable of being generated based on and for unique user groups, and locations.  This offers unique solutions and or enhancements eliminating a one size fits all strategy.  Secondly, a game dynamic can be monitored and adaptations to the game dynamic can be implemented to steer future results and behaviors toward a particular desired effect.

Similar to the board games of old, game dynamics encourage participation, in fact it is the foundation.  According to game research leaders like Seth Priebatsch, Chief Ninja of SCVNGR & LevelUp, and Jane McGonigal of the Institute of the Future, we can harness and leverage gamer power/ dynamics to solve real-world problems.  Participation in urban and cultural events and environments by citizens, policy makers, temporary visitors and workers etc. broadens the levels of engagement providing a diverse snapshot of the behavioral tendencies and preferences of the diverse groups.  Incentivizing in the form of honors and rewards, heightens the participation in the realm of connectedness as well as harnesses a collective based on shared experiences, values and beliefs.  We believe this could be a magic bullet in the realm of predictive modeling in the positive sense whereby behavior changes begin to reflect the desired collective model and or goals.

We’ve all heard the proverbial saying ‘life is game’. Well, the gaming logic is being introduced as a key design tool and being implemented in our newest pilot project “Juice.”  Juice is new and fun way to get building occupants, both commercial and residential, to compete for feel good environmental honors and future real rewards in the form of energy credits.  The premise is an easy one, through a series of initiatives and mobile and web based applications occupants track and log their energy usage over weekly and or monthly periods and compete with and against neighboring buildings / occupants.  Win and you level up in honor, rewards, and real incentives.  This only make sense, as we’ve always believe in smart people more so than smart buildings.  And let’s face it, not many building owners are prepared to take up the challenge of potentially costly upgrades toward better performing energy systems and performance raising measures.

“Juice” is currently in development and we are feverishly working toward a beta release.


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