Using Gaming to Reduce Energy Usage

by Tyler Dean

Increased energy efficiency is a crucial factor of energy and climate strategies in our mission to reduce carbon emissions. While many efforts will resort from technological inventions and innovations, efforts in changing human behavior must compliment and match them. Reeves performed an experimental field test on the effects that media entertainment can have on energy efficiency. The reason for the study was energy information could have been too complex and uninteresting for consumers to assimilate. Media entertainments, such as video games, offer a compelling means of engagement with energy information and can help change consumers’ behaviors. Reeves built a social game about energy usage in a virtual home and designed an experiment around it. Participants in the experiment significantly increased their energy efficient behaviors after playing for 30 minutes in the lab. The game walks the player through a virtual home as an individual family member while making sure they turn off the appliances and make efficient choices. It then elevates the number members the user is controlling to increase difficulty and keep the player interested. The results proved that the actions carried out in the game were also partially implemented into the participants’ daily routine. The reason for this is games increase retention, encourage production, and provide motivation to improve. “Games enable interactive experiences that exploit several sub-processes that govern observational learning.” Games also increase awareness and practice of good habits, while decreasing the complexity of making better energy choices. This makes them attractive and relevant and gives them huge advantages over the existing sensors and energy monitoring technologies existing today. Games offer a new and compelling context in which to place important information about personal behavior. “Social games tied to Facebook are played by tens of millions of people daily, and counter to stereotypes, gamers are increasingly middle-aged, gender-balanced, healthier, and well-connected socially.” From this, we can conclude this benefits are invaluable. Embedding serious information involving energy efficiency is a beneficial and effective method of evoking behavioral change by millions of people.

Reeves B, Cummings J, Scarborough J, Yeykelis L. 2015. Increasing Energy Efficiency With Entertainment Media: An Experimental and Field Test of the Influence if a Social Game on Performance of Energy Behaviors. Environment and Behavior 47. 102-115.


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