Gamified Solutions for Energy Efficiency Programs

Gamified Solutions for Energy Efficiency Programs
9
Feb

Who doesn’t love a good game?  In business, game based strategies use the fun, camaraderie, competition, self-esteem, and social capital that games engender to motivate people. Utilities, and many other businesses, are finding ways to use gamified solutions in their customer energy efficiency programs.

Games captivate a large number of people. “Gaming has woven its way into all areas of pop culture — sports, music, television, and more. Its appeal goes far beyond teenage boys (women are now the largest video game-playing demographic!),” observes a 2014 Think with Google article. And Nielsen surveys have found that people are spending more time playing games.

Games aren’t only for boys — or children and adolescents. According to the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB): Girls and women comprise 40% of gamers, and the average age of a gamer is 34 years old. Three quarters of the people who play games are adults. A little more than a quarter (26%) are over 50 years old. In 2010, the average gamer spent eight hours per week playing. Even comparatively simple games played mostly played via Facebook, phone, or tablet can reach millions. Last year, the game Trivia Crack had over 100 million users worldwide, and in 2014, Candy Crush Saga had 93 million active users per day. To put that in perspective, the population of France is about (66 million) and the population of Germany is about (82 million).

Gamified solutions

Games get and hold peoples’ attention, sometimes by the millions, by being fun. They do this by challenging players without frustrating them too much, providing rapid feedback for behavior, and providing ways to cooperate and compete with other people and teams. In recent years, more and more industries have tried bringing the fun of games to other activities by gamifying them.  Today, utilities are getting involved.

A recent ACEEE study (discussed more below) defined “gamification [as] turning something into a game — using features of games to accomplish real-world objectives.” These, “gamified solutions transform everyday activities into game-like experiences.

Gamified solutions make games of real-world behaviors by bringing the fun, motivation, and social aspects of gaming to other domains. Utilities are trying it. Two years ago (January 2014), IDC Energy Insights estimated that, “worldwide utilities IT spending for gamification tools, applications, and services to be approximately $13.5 million, rising to $65 million in 2016.”

Last year (2015) a study (downloadable PDF) by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) made recommendations to developers of gamified solutions for utility energy efficiency programs.

Gamification works. The ACEEE study, “analyze[d] 22 game-based solutions,” that energy efficiency programs used, or could use. It found that these solutions work (page 4). “Evidence suggests that games definitely can encourage positive behavior change…. [A] number of games have been developed that motivate consumers to save energy,” (Executive Summary, page v).

Gamified Options for Utilities

Utilities have a range of options in implementing gamified strategies. They can: “[1] use a software-as-service option, [2] adapt an existing game, [3] go with a packaged solution, or [4] develop the game from scratch.” The study did not find any known instances of the option 1, i.e., software-as-a-service gamification tools that, “[offer] generic gamification platforms that support game mechanics, management tools, social media integration, and analytics.” Six of the games in the study were option 3 solutions: “highly developed,” customizable packages. They found that, “This approach has clear advantages in terms of cost, reliability, and quality,” (page 45).

Many of the remaining games were custom developed. This custom development, the study found, “is not for the faint-hearted. For one thing, the design team’s expertise needs to be prodigious…. [and] upfront custom development costs are steep compared to those of packaged solutions,” (pages 45-56).

Disclosure: We agree! Brilliency provides game-based engagement for utilities, so it’s not a surprise that we know how firsthand much work goes into crafting a good gamified energy efficiency solution for utilities. Next week, we will go into more depth about the elements of successful games and how to integrate them properly into a strategy.

Photo credit: “Electric Company” by Tom Taker.

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