51. Changing Energy Behaviors with Cool the Earth Gamification App
Climate change needs to retake the front seat in the minds of the US population. Political support for climate change legislation has ebbed and flowed since 1989 when President George H.W. Bush promised to take action to reduce GHG emissions. While progress at times seemed possible, the last 20 years show federal legislative attempts have largely failed. Similarly, public attitudes towards climate change in the US have fluctuated.
While the latest research shows an increase in the percent of Americans believing global warming is happening (70%, +13% in 2½ years) and that human activities are the main cause (54%) there is still a disconnect in getting individuals to take action with less than 1/4 of the US doing anything to address it (Leiserowitz, Maibach, et al, 2011).
If people don't become personally involved in the crisis, mitigating or adapting to climate change becomes unattainable due to lack of public will and acceptance. They must be motivated and inspired to take action.
Cool the Earth intends to catalyze families to take personal action to slow climate change through a groundbreaking technology that connects internet based games with real world situations/challenges, an approach known as "gamification.” Through a child-driven gamification approach, CTE will inspire families to take personal action in energy efficiency and conservation, sustainable purchasing, and build political will.
Looking to expand its reach and rapidity of its work, CTE is embarking upon an innovative approach to social change through gamification, which is considered to be at the forefront of technology, with industry experts already calling it as important as social and mobile. Through gamification, CTE will entertain, educate and empower kids to lead their families in change.
Unlike other organizations who market to adults or strictly to children, CTE has six years of direct experience and success doing both: engaging 7 to 12 year olds and motivating them to bring change to the family. CTE will meld gaming techniques, behavior change methodologies and popular technologies to create a gaming experience that reaches into the real world. The primary platform will be apps for smart phones and tablets.
Of near equal importance to game design, a smart and creative marketing approach will influence the game’s success. An invaluable marketing asset in CTE’s favor is its annual network of over 35,000 students and their families participating in the program. CTE will capitalize upon its position in schools to create an instant launch pad.
Further specifics about the game concept, implementation and evaluation are below.
• Shift American households into action to slow climate change
• Bring about change in households to reduce energy consumption, build green markets through purchases and motivate civic engagement
• Entertain, educate and engage kids
• Create a fun game with strong hooks for repeat play
• Engage parents in change through an innovate game architecture
• Motivate kids and parents to reduce carbon footprint
• Increase CTE brand to grow schools program
Internally the game is code-named “Koda,” the polar bear star of CTE’s schools program. Koda will be designed for a US audience of 7-12 year olds, and will be a series of apps. Below are some initial ideas in game design (actual game features may vary):
Three main elements to app:
a. Meter: representing player’s world; actions in game and real world effect meter; connects actions and climate change
b. Game(s): multi-stage, multi-level game using current CTE characters; ability to unlock characters when real-world action taken; leveling up adds new game to app
c. Photo journaling: real-world actions prompted in game; action taken photographed and sent to game central server (e.g Instagram); gaming rewards for each action plus real-world incentive once certain actions completed. Actions to include energy, water, waste, food, transportation plus engagement activities (writing to elected official, green purchasing, etc.)
CTE has assembled an expert team to create the app consisting of:
- Carleen Cullen, CTE’s founder and ED combines her experiences at CTE with her entrepreneurial success in the information technology field to bring vision, direction and management skills to the project. Cullen recently trained under former Vice President Gore to become a designated climate leader.
- Mick West and Chris Ward, Guitar Hero Series creators and founders of Neversoft Entertainment. Mick and Chris bring their immeasurable talents to the project. Together, West and Ward have exceptional talent and success in the gaming industry. Guitar Hero is credited with improving music education, stimulating major growth and innovation in the gaming and music industries and pioneering gaming as a family engagement activity.
- CTE Board and staff bring a broad and deep spectrum of success and experience to the project, including tech and business entrepreneurs, energy engineer, environmental lawyer, environmental scientist, marketing experts, a demographer and a psychologist.
Through built-in school program channels along with a mix of social and traditional media exposure, CTE will promote the game with pre-launch, launch, and sustained efforts.
Along with the CTE program and social media channels, an extensive PR campaign will be launched to game reviewers, gamification and behavior change communities. Our unique approach to a game for good app and the notoriety of consultants Ward and West will help distinguish our app. Channels of communication will include program channels, social media, and PR.
CTE will conduct a multi-phase study on the game’s effectiveness in changing behavior in families by comparing families exposed to the game and program to a control group of families exposed to just the program and another exposed to neither the game nor the program.
Why it should be recognized:
Time spent gaming is at an all-time high and growing. On average children spend 17 hours a week gaming (Kids Media Usage USA today 1/20/10). Additionally, smart phone penetration among adults is 45% and growing. Tablet/e-readers have a current penetration of 19%, nearly doubling in 6 months (Pew Internet & American Life Project 2012). There are 38 million families with children in the US (US Department of Labor, 2012), representing a significant source of carbon emissions and a significant opportunity to mobilize change.
Gaming provides an opportunity for broad reach in a booming market, at economies of scale. A review of the gaming landscape shows games for social change can be classified as follows:
• Games from NGO’s or government agencies with strong educational bias, but lacking creativity
• Cause-related games with some entertainment value due to in-game goals and simulations, but tending to be depressing and heavy-handed.
• Private sector games combining social good and real life activities with entertaining games.
There is an opportunity for CTE to build a user base through entertaining games which educate through fun gaming mechanics and then catalyzes action in the real world. It turns the current gamification approach of ‘social good for entertainment’ to ‘entertainment for social good.’