Gamification as a Promoter of Sustainability


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This article by Sriram Kuchimanchi, co-founder at 500eco, was published in issue 07 of Social Technology Quarterly.
Summary: Gamification is being used to drive sustainability and many companies believe this is an opportunity to create engaging applications for initiatives towards sustainable living for the future.

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Gamification as a Promoter of Sustainability

  1. 1. Gamification is being used to drive sustainability and many companies believe this is an opportunity to create engaging applications for initiatives towards sustainable living for the future. by Sriram Kuchimanchi Photo Credit: epsos Gamification is here to stay. There are no two ways to this notion. It is a statement strongly backed by a Gartner prediction - “By 2014, a gamified service for consumer goods marketing and customer retention will become as important as Facebook, eBay or Amazon, and more than 70% of Global 2000 organizations will have at least one gamified application.” All of us have converted flight and credit card points into free tickets and gift cards. Indulging thus, we have already become ‘gamers’. To define, gamification is the use of game design and mechanics to engage people in non-sport situations. In doing so, gamification has succeeded in blending fun to influence human behaviour. The globally accepted definition of sustainability has been, “Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” However, subsequent changes have thrown up plenty of different interpretations. For, the term itself is vague enough to allow this flexibility. Hence, in line with the objective of this article, let us consider this contemporary version given by Forum for the Future, “Sustainable development is a dynamic process which enables people to realize their potential and improve their quality of life in ways which simultaneously protect and enhance the earth’s life support systems.” The magnitude of the societal change necessary for such sustainability would have to begin with a paradigm shift in behaviours. This behavioural change can ultimately bring about the realization towards maintaining quality of life while not compromising on protecting the planet for future life sustenance. Triggering such a change needs a personal connection with individuals while inducing cooperative social interaction. Communities Gamification as a Promoter of Sustainability
  2. 2. Kuliza Social Technology Quarterly Issue 07 Unlike traditional marketing, gamification brings social cooperation into focus. Technology plays a big role to make this happen. Coupled with creative thinking, online games have the potential to foster collaboration while being motivated enough to address any challenge. Jane McGonigal opines, “A game is an opportunity to focus our energy, with relentless optimism, at something we’re good at (or getting better at) and enjoy.” As for a challenge, humanity need not look any further. The very sustenance of life on this planet is at stake, with the increased implications of climate change - a major influencer being human actions. This is where games come to the party. Well- designed games can be great at inducing positive traits in humans for a better world. Motivation towards relatable and achievable goals, instant feedback, and rewarding success - these are typical qualities of any game which make gaming enjoyable while delivering measurable activities. These can be green behavioural changes. In fact, this synergy between gamification and sustainability is increasingly exciting individuals in social technologies with a focus on the environment. Several companies are considering it as an excellent opportunity and are coming up with highly engaging applications which can advance sustainable initiatives. The impact ranges from rewarding simple, yet effective, everyday green actions to corporations incentivizing employee green behaviour. After all adopting greening is as important at the community level as much as it is necessary at an individual level. In doing so, typical challenges that mar adoption of sustainability - outreach, employee engagement, and branding, have been successfully addressed by early visionaries. Here are a few success stories which can be easily adopted around the world. Case Study 1: Sacramento Reduces Energy Consumption Sacramento, the capital city of the state of California, was known for its forward thinking policies and has been one of the leaders in city-level green initiatives. In 2008, they innovated on energy consumption. The Sacramento Metro Utility company decided to send more informative the bills to customers. They picked 35,000 residents and sent them the following information in each bill: • Monthly consumption • The lowest energy consumers in their neighbourhood • Current average of energy consumption in about 100 similar sized households Over 18 months, they saw an average reduction of around 15 percent across the board.Akey learning here is the difference in the approach. Typically, government bodies take the high-ground method. They would make policy changes and soon implement policing to force residents to reduce energy consumption. However, this is a more novel, bottom-up approach, wherein the residents were engaged without any form of coercion but by using basic game elements. Case Study 2: Online Applications The other end of the spectrum is how modern start-ups are coming up with simple applications to encourage sustainable behaviour. 1. Oroeco is dedicated to the idea of fostering sustainability, has built game elements into its offerings. With instant feedback and informative suggestions, they help their customers make eco-friendly choices. The tools are easy to use and the intersection of sustainable values and financial comfort level is always at the centre of their thought process. This is only one of the many such applications that have recently mushroomed in the marketplace. However, it is perhaps the most comprehensive solution amongst them all. 2. 500eco is [full disclosure: the contributor is co-founder at 500eco] modelled on the popular photo sharing site, Pinterest. This is a visual, one-stop solution for sharing and learning about anything sustainable. The application was originally built for an individualasaudience,buthasbeenadopted by large, mid-sized, and small businesses, and communities. The ease of use coupled with seamless social connectivity with the pictures based application has made them gamify the usage. Companies are today using it to challenge employees to share green actions while others are using it to showcase their internal green initiatives. With typical social workflows such as ‘Like’, ‘Follow,’ and ‘Share’, the vernacular is nothing new. There are others, such as TrashTycoon, that are popular Facebook games. Guaranteed to induce positive green actions among its players, TrashTycoon stands at the forefront of digital and physical world meeting in a Farmville kind of setting. Games encourage people to take small steps first and over a period make these develop into good habits. These, then help leverage reforms and changes at a community and societal level to improve sustainability. References Bruntland Report of the World Commission on Environment and Development: Our Common Future,1992 “What Quality? Whose lives?.” Greenfutures Magazine.Forum For the Future,19 May 2001.