If you want get 20-somethings to accomplish something, turn it into a video game. It works, according to a new study published in the Journal of Design Research. Researchers at the University of Technology in the Netherlands saw students cut their home energy consumption by up to 45 percent when they played a game based on energy reduction.
In the game, Energy Battle, 20 student households were given direct feedback on ways to reduce their energy consumption, everything from switching off lights, to using energy-saving light bulbs, to unplugging unused electrical equipment. The games also were turned into a contest with teams ranked and given tips on how to improve.
According to the study, the participating houses were provided with an energy meter and access to an online platform where the students were instructed to upload their energy use data. The online platform consisted of a dashboard breaking down electricity consumption; tips about electricity saving; ranking of all the teams; and a game with building blocks. “By saving energy the teams gained credits that could be used to buy building blocks. The more a team would save, the bigger and nicer a construction they were able to build,” the study said.
Playing Energy Battle, the student households were able to cut their energy consumption on average, by 25 percent through the gamification of efficiency. However, the most efficient household was able to cut their energy use by 45 percent. Once the game was over, energy use in most of the households increased but remained below the baseline recorded prior to starting the game.
“A game such as the Energy Battle appears to provide a powerful means to stimulate energy saving in the short term,” the researchers explain. When the researchers conducted follow-up interviews, they found that some of the players had in fact changed their energy-use habits for good. This has left the researchers wondering if “gamification” of energy efficiency can be exploited for long-term reductions in other areas, such as lower fuel consumption.
“The test of the Energy Battle in student households demonstrates the potential for creating insight among households on how to save energy and the formation of new habits,” the team says. “The next step would be to make a translation of the findings from this study to tailor the Energy Battle for other target groups, such as families with children.”