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Gamification; From a Non-Gamer

By February 23, 2015November 7th, 2021Energy Efficiency, Energy Rant

The ACEEE just released a study on energy efficiency programs delivered as games – gamification.  At this stage of my career, I never dismiss something that works, for some people, as dumb.  Gamification does not seem to be something I would be interested in as a participant, but it does seem to be a hot item; behavior based, and therefore, I am interested in learning what this is all about, as best as I can, from the ACEEE report.

First, I start with my experience, which doesn’t matter, but you’re going to get it anyway.  I would need a psychiatrist or a social psychologist to determine why I loved games as a kid, but here is my theory.  I am the youngest of four kids.  Some said the youngest is the coddled one.  Ah, no.  In my case, I liked to beat the siblings at whatever I could, and that happened to be games.  Certainly, I would get creamed in most things that required physical strength or skill.  Actually, one of my favorite games is an Olympic sport: table tennis.  The second was old school video games, namely Intellivision, and I liked the sports games the most.

We played table tennis for hours, and truthfully, it didn’t look a whole lot different than the pros after a while.  It was fast and these balls bend in flight like nobody’s business – that is the key.  Intellivision Baseball was my favorite video game.  You could throw guys out at first from center field – how cool is that!

I stopped playing meaningless games once I started college.  I played varsity sports in High School, wasn’t good enough for anything in college, and I thought, “What’s the point in participating in meaningless intramural sports?”  If there wasn’t a “big” crowd or newspaper coverage, I wasn’t interested.

Ever since, life has been my game.  That was grades in college, getting a job, and professional achievement.

When I board a plane or use a lavatory during flight I always observe what passengers are doing with their time.  It amazes me, especially in first class (not that I ever reside in first class), how passengers who are obviously on business travel are using their phone or iPad to play a stupid video game.  I’m thinking, really?  Don’t you at least have a business book to read, some papers to review, or even a newspaper to learn something?

I may have just offended three quarters of readers.

The ACEEE paper notes that games are used to achieve just about every good thing (not just energy efficiency), although world peace is not noted.  It says human brains are wired for challenges, positive feedback, and social bonding.  I’m thinking, what about beating the tar out of the competitors?

Frequent flyer and hotel rewards are considered games.  I guess I’m a player.  However, I just accumulate points by the billions and rarely cash in – only when I can spend miles on upgrade to first class, for instance.  With Hilton, I get a couple bottles of Aquafina for free.  I feel special.

For sure, games are serious business.  The paper states the oldest ones in energy efficiency date back to 2007 with most appearing after 2010.  As I browse through the game descriptions in the paper, I see promoted activities in common with my personal practices: checking tire pressure, calculating fuel mileage, and taking the subway.  JouleBug has a suggestion that may actually waste energy.  They say skip the lid on your next coffee.  The thermodynamics: the lid helps keep hot beverages hot for substantially longer because the primary heat loss is evaporation.  Keeping a lid on it virtually stops evaporation.  A fresh coffee is too hot to drink for me so I take the lid off a few minutes to cool it down a bit, and then put the lid back on to hold it longer at my preferred temperature.  This is not to mention I get nervous with a tall glass of anything within 4x its height away from my computer.  In other words, if there is a “yard” of beer in the room, my computer will not be in that room.

What I see and like in these approaches, is many of them provide attractive means to inform customers about their impacts – the results of their actions.  I have long been a big believer in the “why”.  The “why” and information therein is critical for persistence.

Here is a game idea that I didn’t see in the 22 or so samples I browsed over, and the idea is free of monetary exchange, but if you use it, you must tell 10 of your clients this is the best blog you’ve ever read – ever[1].

You assign someone in the household – probably a kid but not necessarily, to police the energy hog(s) of the house.  This person(s) could be called the energy butcher.  The butcher chases the hog around the house and shuts off lights left on by the hog in unoccupied rooms[2].  The butcher gets a dime from the hog for correcting every offense.  The butcher gets a quarter if instead of keeping the cash, it goes to a charity.  The butcher tracks fines with a Sharpie on the main door/entrance to the abode.

[1] Proof required.  $10,000,000 fine for non-compliance.

[2] I am constantly turning off lights in my house and gave up on the schooling.  Maybe this would work.

Jeff Ihnen

Author Jeff Ihnen

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