Can Games Replace Government and Provide Public Services?
Using Game-Based Approaches to Engage Citizens and Deliver Public Services
Nicole Lazzaro, President XEODesign, Inc.
The Obama Administration has challenged federal agencies to engage the public in meaningful ways to provide ideas, insights, and comments on new policies and existing services in order to make them more citizen-centric. The Administration’s Open Government directive asserts: “Public engagement enhances the Government’s effectiveness and improves the quality of its decisions.” Many agencies, however, are finding that few citizens are participating in their initiatives. Even the White House’s “We the People” petition initiative has found that most of the petitions submitted have been frivolous, such as petitions supporting building Death Stars, and nationalizing the troubled Twinkies company. The White House Open Government initiative is also seeking to engage citizens in other ways, stating: “Collaboration actively engages Americans in the work of their Government.” As part of these initiatives the isolated successes, such as agencies sponsoring contests and awarding prizes to citizens who develop innovations to solve public challenges have been games.
In its second term, could the Obama Administration do more to incentivize greater participation and collaboration by citizens? The answer is “yes.” One new approach could be the use of game inspired thinking to design public services. If crafted appropriately, applying the lessons from the thinking used to design games in more serious ways could have the potential to transform how government communicates, provides information, and delivers public services. It may seem odd that fanciful petitions such as building a Death Star gained so many signatures on social media, however looking at it as a game it is clear that the positive amusing emotions make signing these playful petitions more fun. This raises the question on whether positive emotions and a playful approach can increase participation in government programs and perhaps provide some of the services themselves. While some government objectives can be reached with full-on games, using game thinking as a design pattern when designing interaction has the potential to increase engagement in actions and public discussion. Games have been called the new medium of the 21st Century. For example, a 2011 Wall Street Journal article reports that for one popular game, World of Warcraft, participants have spent more than 5 million hours playing it.
Although often seen as a distraction and waste of time, inspiration from game design thinking provides the opportunity to improve the way public services are designed, approved, offered, and used. Gamification of systems by adding points, badges, and game mechanics can increase participation. Game thinking applied at each citizen touch point is an opportunity to increase engagement and adds motivation to participate. Games engage by creating a succession of activities that grab player attention in four different ways. They use novelty to create curiosity to pull the player in. Challenge creates feelings of frustration and the epic win (fiero) when players accomplish a goal. Opportunities for friendship and social interaction create amusement and social bonding as players cooperate and compete. Games also create meaning when they fulfill a player’s desire to change themselves or change the world.
There is an opportunity to use game thinking to playsource human engagement. Games already teach the political process such as iCivics’ game Win the White House. [http://www.gamesforchange.org/play/win-the-white-house/] Plus the generation that grew up playing games is now coming of age, ready to engage in the political process. Raised in an ocean of interactive media, games, and advertisements this generation expects more than downloadable PDF brochures and passive websites. They expect more participation and influence in information delivered via. technology. Game inspired information technology can be powerful organizers of human action and engagement in the face of enormous national challenges, such as AIDs, obesity, education, and climate change. For additional subject areas game designers are already addressing with games visit the Games for Change website. [http://gamesforchange.org/play] Government can deliver game inspired public services on mobile devices, including smart phones, as well as on desktop and laptop computers.
How Could Gaming Design Thinking Be Used to Solve Public Challenges?
Games are self-motivating systems and for the past 30 years, game designers have evolved interactive techniques to create emotion, support performance, encourage problem solving, develop systems thinking, change behavior, and increase engagement. The power of games to engage their users and hold their attention comes from specific designs created by game makers which allow players to make choices while playing. As veteran game designer Sid Meier says, “Games are a series of interesting choices.” therefore the focus of applying game thinking should be to borrow game design techniques in order to make citizen choices more interesting and engaging. Game designers craft emotions, situations, choices, and feedback that create the opportunity to change the way that players think, feel, and behave. Interactive design inspired by game thinking can tap into human emotions to more effectively create policy, systems, and institutions that drive behavior. With the increase of public information and services delivered electronically, the engagement language of games can be applied to the design of interactive services in which public services can be provided in new ways.
Twenty years of research by one game design firm, XEODesign, found that games create their legendary engagement in four ways. People play for:
- Hard fun (challenge)
- Easy fun (novelty),
- People fun (friendship), and
- Serious fun (meaning).
We call these the “Four Keys to Fun” and they are the secret behind how player’s favorite moments in games create engagement. Best selling games have at least three out of the four keys to fun and players move between three of the four in a single play session.  By offering a variety of interactive styles people experience a wider variety of emotions and stay engaged longer. Gaming have evolved many engagement techniques to make multiple types of activities fun. Therefore game inspired services delivered on various platforms offers the opportunity to increase public engagement and to redesign public services.
Using Gaming Technologies to Increase Public Engagement
Game inspired services delivered on social mobile platforms have already transformed how people participate and shape the political process. The number of people who follow or like a post becomes a point system in the “game” of Facebook or Twitter. Joining political discourse through social media has lowered the barrier to entry (simply open a web-browser to protest), while at the same time increasing feedback for how influential an individual contributor can be. To gauge public opinion, as well as to participate in public discussion, federal agencies now actively participate in social media. Adding game mechanics to social media will increase their viral effects.
When our democracy was founded, there were 30,000 people per representative. That number is now almost 700,000. Mobile technology that is increasingly social inspired by game mechanics provides the opportunity to rethink the way government engages with citizenry and design new, more participatory systems of government, change how they operate; and rearchitect the services government provides. Interactive social games provide governments with new channels to hear from and be influenced by the people they represent. Crafted to respond to human needs and motivations, these new government systems can also improve efficiency and more importantly, the quality of life of citizens.
Using Gaming Technologies to Redesign Public Services
Game inspired thinking has the potential to redesign the delivery of public services. In the way that Craig’s List replaced newspaper want ads [http://craigslist.org] or the way Wikipedia replaced the Encyclopedia Britannica, [http://Wikipedia.org] it’s possible that a social game played by millions could deliver one or more government services. For example Zooniverse harnesses the power of “citizen science” to systematically collect data and analysis by a network of hundreds of thousands of volunteers. It employs quests, puzzles, and research activities to create a resource for inquiry-based education tools. [http://www.gamesforchange.org/play/zooniverse] In the future engaging social or simulation game could deliver a variety of public services, ranging from providing health information and emotional support to planting trees in urban areas. Games have the potential to deliver selected public services at a higher quality and at a lower price. In some cases, games can provide services that government has historically provided. Game thinking can offer interactions and feedback to participants increasing engagement and make the process more rewarding. In the future, information services, such as career training and job placement, could be gamified in a social way such as these job interview preparation games http://www.ehow.com/list_6020349_interactive-job-interview-games.html . The rest of this paper focuses on a three policy areas in which games could have a major impact:
- Inspiring healthy lifestyles,
- Improving educational outcomes, and
- Improving the environment
In each of these areas, the federal government’s crowdsourcing innovation website, Challenge.gov, has already supported the development of games that have now been launched. Examples of Challenge.gov competitions are presented throughout the paper.
Games in Action: Inspiring Healthy Lifestyles
Information on nutrition can improve one’s health. Game-like interaction with health information has the potential to inspire changes in lifestyle to improve diet and exercise, and combat the rise of obesity in children and diabetes in adults which are now at epidemic levels. Government can provide important information and motivation in the context of a game. Information delivery is just the first step in improving health, what counts is the behavior change. Nutrition games can help people take that information and reward players for turning that information into action. Weight Watchers 360 is a point based behavior modification game stemming from the research of BJ Fogg. [http://www.weightwatchers.com/plan/apr/index.aspx and http://bjfogg.com]
In the best of these types of games, players must master the content and change their behavior to succeed at playing the game. Games can inspire curiosity to learn more and experiment with new, healthier choices without sounding preachy. In addition to raising awareness on how to eat better, games can make it fun to take action and change behavior.
Games Can Provide Information on Nutrition. Games can enhance each stage of the nutrition cycle from planning menus, shopping for food, and putting it on the table. For example, future interactive information services, such as the Choose My Plate eating guides (http://choosemyplate.gov) to better nutrition, can tap into the contents of one’s refrigerator or grocery bill. Game like design can inspire and challenge a player to make new choices and track their progress, find social support, and make their accomplishments through gameplay more meaningful, last longer, and connect with real world change. At the point of purchase, players can make moves in the game where they see the nutrition content of their bags of groceries printed on their receipt. There could be customized pie charts tuned to meet the person’s individual health or nutrition goals and compared to the national recommendations. In the future, a heads up display on their smart phone, or a code they can enter on the game’s website, could display progress. Augmented reality mobile games played in the grocery aisle or checkout stand can dynamically show the combined effect of nutritional content of food from scanning the UPC with a smart phone. This could be done before or after purchase. The game could analyze the groceries on the counter for their nutrition content or from a photo taken of a meal.
Games Can Spark Curiosity About Nutrition Choices. In addition to challenging players with games to achieve specific health goals, games can also inspire curiosity by encouraging exploration with opportunities to combine foods to reduce fat and calories and increase nutritional value. Players can enter their favorite recipes and get real time feedback on the nutrition profile of their choices. Games can challenge players to find the secret ingredient or add an extra nutritional boost to a meal. With additional analysis, games could suggest ways to compliment a protein or reduce fats and sugars. The environmental impact or the sustainability index of food offers other ways for players to win the nutrition game. For citizens on SNAP or WIC, feedback could be targeted towards the nutritional goals behind the program. In addition, more information about both price and nutrition could make benefits stretch further.
Interactive simulation games can now show the effect of nutrition and other health choices over time. Games can track changes in exercise, changes in eating habits, and offer relaxation techniques. To increase engagement, the quality of life impacts of health care and preventative care decisions can be visualized with humor and style. These games illustrate the effect of simple shifts in diet, such as adding steamed veggies to a meal to reduce fats. For example kids can go virtual food shopping and meal planning in Nourish Interactive’s Ride the Food Label Game http://www.nourishinteractive.com/kids/healthy-games/7-ride-the-food-label-game-nutrient-information and Build a Meal Game http://www.nourishinteractive.com/kids/healthy-games/6-kevins-build-a-meal-game-balanced-meals Fun “3D fly throughs” and role playing can also increase comprehension and compliance with medication such as with the cancer fighting educational game called Remission by Hope Labs. [http://www.re-mission.net/ ] This game is a first person shooter where the player learns about their cancer medications by flying through a body on cancer fighting missions. To increase activity along the lines of Michelle Obama’s Get Up and Move games such as Zamee, also by Hope Labs have shown to increase physical activity by kinds by 59% http://www.hopelab.org/innovative-solutions/zamzee/ https://www.zamzee.com/
Social Games Can Connect Communities of People With Similar Health Goals. Social games played on social networks such as Facebook or Twitter can also connect like minded individuals to commit to change their behavior or lifestyles, such as stopping smoking or losing weight. The development of interactive preventative services provided electronically could increase the effectiveness of brochures or websites of best practices around promoting healthy lifestyles. Social games can connect people on line as well as help them find a support network in local community. Social games can be designed to be self-organizing, where people help each other and connect on a volunteer basis, further reducing the need for government resources. Taking this one step further are games that create and deliver services through self-organizing social games (a combination of meet ups and support groups) which can provide social support and provide feedback at a very low cost once the platform is built. The combination of real world meet ups and just in time support access on a mobile platform has the potential to provide affordable treatment options. As an added benefit, social emotions between players requires and builds trust. Building a trust network around a public institution can have a spill over effect and increase trust in that institution as well.
Games Can Provide Real-Time Feedback and Fun. Games have been proven to provide long term outcomes. Games can encourage healthy behaviors with real time feedback, competitive, and cooperative mechanics to make exercise more fun. They can show long term outcomes and make invisible processes easy to see. In fact, games that target exercise already exist. To increase interest in exercise, a watch with progress meters and graphs such as Nike+ FuelBand  helps players reach their goals. In addition to being reminded of an individual’s commitment to exercise every time a player checks the time, the watch makes it easy to record stats and graphs progress towards fitness goals. A social game can bring in friends’ times and individuals can compete side by side with their times, even when running on their own. Fun themes can be seen in games such as being chased by zombies or training as an Olympic athlete or getting coached by a real one. Zombies, Run!  humorously maps the desired behavior (speed of running) with the fiction of being chased by zombies to provide light hearted motivation. With the promise to Get Fit. Escape Zombies. Become a Hero, players must run fast enough to outpace the zombie horde through interval training, including training for a 5K race. Fun fantasies, points, and progress feedback help exercise games with real world sensors get up and move.
The context established by a game whether a zombie chase or caring and feeding veggies to a virtual pet dragon increases excitement and the real time progress offers player a hope of feeling of accessible stages of success. The surrounding fantasy and enhanced encouragement for these nutrition and health games change the emotion profile of the activity making it more interesting to do, more memorable, and provide encouragement. Game can change behavior by changing the emotion profile of what the player wants to achieve. This success spills over into real life. Inspiring health outcomes changes behavior in a more long lasting way is best when done in short session everyday, which is the perfect format for a mobile game. Because a person’s smart phone is always with them, mobile games provide just in time experiences and training, when played 15 minutes a day.
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Challenge.gov: Apps for Healthy Kids Challenge
(Sponsored by the Department of Agriculture)
Description of Competition: The Apps for Healthy Kids competition is a part of First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! campaign to end childhood obesity within a generation. Apps for Healthy Kids challenges software developers, game designers, students, and other innovators to develop fun and engaging software tools and games that drive children, especially “tweens” (ages 9–12)—directly or through their parents—to eat better and be more physically active.
• Pick Chow!, a website that allows children to create meals by dragging and dropping foods onto their virtual plate with a meter showing the nutritional values as well as a meal rating in a fun and easy way.
• Trainer, a game that gives the player the responsibility of caring for creatures that all have dietary and fitness needs.
• Work It Off, a mobile application for Android phones, teaches children the correlation between the calories they eat and the calories they burn.
• Tony’s Plate Calculator, an online tool that can help you calculate the nutritional values for a single item, an entire recipe, or a full day’s worth of food.
• Food Buster, a game that asks you to carefully stack food items that don’t break our scale. For each round you’ll try to find foods with the fewest calories, least added sugar, and least amount of saturated fat. The fewer the calories, the more points you’ll get.
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Games in Action: Improving Educational Outcomes
Games play a vital role in learning. Game-inspired design that provides challenge, mastery, and progress can change how people learn at school and at work. Play serves a vital role in how humans learn and grow. A child’s job is to play, and all games teach. For adults, play is where we build our future selves; whether it is playing with ideas of role playing a new management style. Serious Games in public education has the promise to increase the effectiveness of learning by offering clear goals, new ways to learn, and an enhanced sense of accomplishment. An overview of research on the educational use of video games can be found here: http://egenfeldt.eu/papers/game-overview.pdf
Games Can Set and Pursue Goals Letting Students Experiment Without Fear. Using game thinking helps players set clear goals and let them experiment without the fear of consequences. After all, it is only a game. For example Motion Math teaches fractions with a fun bouncing ball game on smart phones and tablets. [http://motionmathgames.com/] Teachers, such as Tim Vandenberg, are now using traditional board games such as Monopoly to teach statistics  and other teachers use Civilization  to teach history. Sid Meier, the designer of Civilization, regularly receives letters from teachers saying how more history is “learned” by playing Civilization than through traditional teaching methods.  Even casual games like Diner Dash designed by Nick Fortugno and published by PlayFirst provide opportunities to explore new goals and teach the basics of running a restaurant. [http://playfirst.com/game/diner-dash] In addition to tests, students of the future will compete in electronic competitions where they can see their test scores earn points for their class or their school for every question answered correctly. Social collaborative games encourage cooperation and peer tutoring because the class earn a group score, as well as an individual score. To help their class win, top performers mentor others, benefiting both students.
Games celebrate student success whether it is progress at 5-10 second intervals or achieving a longer term goals such as completing a lesson. For example, students can earn badges for meeting curriculum standards. Similar to Kahn Academy  which breaks math into individual units with a badge for each, students feel concrete progress for each lesson they master, and are excited when they unlock a rare item or special content. The “challenge” element of the Four Keys to Fun motivates the sense of completion and enhances a student’s feeling of success. Each nugget of information mastered gets recognized, feels tangible, and is something they can feel proud of showing off to their family and friends.
Simulation Games Can Encourage System Thinking, Problem Solving, and Creativity. More profound shifts in the future of education will come from using game simulations to teach content in ways that we now use video or illustrations today. Simulation games, like Will Wright’s Sim City , model concepts of larger systems involved in city planning and offer experiential learning as players attempt to meet specified goals. Mastering complex simulation games means students master the content modeled by the simulation. Eventually simulation games may become as popular as current assessments method, such as essay questions or multiple choices. Simulation games also teach system thinking and complex problem solving. Simulation games such as Oregon Trail have students apply educational content to a virtual environment. This can teach challenging engineering content skills, such as design, problem solving, and system thinking. James Paul Gee states that simulation games offer a huge potential to transform education at scale because mastering the game requires mastering the content. [Book by James Paul Gee What Video Games Can Teach Us About Learning and Literacy] Simulation games also model more complex systems where students master multiple inputs to achieve desired results.
Group Games Can Teach Cooperative and Leadership Behaviors. Cooperative group games with quests, such as in World of Warcraft , require collaboration, team work, and offer opportunities for leadership. Correctly designed extremely challenging puzzles will build minds for the future, enabling students to model and understand complex factors that lead to global world problems, such as climate change and AIDs. Such cooperative games can prepare students to create more sustainable interlocking systems and new solutions for these world challenges.
Games also promise to improve motivation to learn through more immediate real time feedback. This will change the way courses are graded. Educators, such as Lee Sheldon , are now replacing traditional bell curve letter grades with game inspired experience points. In games, when you fail a level you can try again. It is up to the player to keep working until they master the challenge. In Sheldon’s classes, students can repeat their coursework until they earn enough points to pass. Some argue that the current letter grade system wastes human potential because grading on a curve requires a certain percentage of players to fail for others to win. The traditional grading on a curve system penalizes people who need more time, effort, or encouragement to master the content. The traditional grading system penalizes those who need the most educational service. The traditional grading system teaches people at the bottom of the curve that trying to learn is to fail. Educational games can change this.
“Games work best at teaching when the challenges are organic to the experience, rather than out of left field. This is why so many educational games fail — just strapping an incentive structure on rote practice doesn’t work very well, compared to instead building a long-term goal structure, and then presenting challenges on the way. Asking students to calculate how many cubes can fit in a larger cube doesn’t work as well as giving them command of a sailing ship and letting them figure out how best to fill the hold with valuable goods. This is because the students have a goal that isn’t learning; instead, they have goals of their own, and real motivation.”
–Raph Koster, Author of A Theory of Fun
In the future games can improve education because they provide constant feedback on player’s choices as well as on their progress towards their goal. Educational games contain the inherent message that the content is winnable, that it’s ok to try and fail, eventually the student will be able to master the content and win. They also don’t have to wait until the end of the semester or term paper to see if they are succeeding. What if an educational system gave every student the chance to succeed instead of requiring that a set percentage fail? Should a teacher be required to assign as many F’s as A’s? In the new economy we must provide all citizens with an education.
To get the most benefit from games in education requires making them fun. Flash cards, drill and kill, and earning points or badges are not the recipe for fun. Students want novelty, challenge, create friendship, and for what they learn to have meaning. The biggest mistake most educators make when designing serious games is to not provide “fun failure” states. When designing their first education game, some designers resist modeling “failure” as it is “success” they want students to learn. To do this ignores one of the fundamental rules about play. Players love to explore outside the golden path and having a dark side to the game makes winning more rewarding. Hand a player a nuclear power plant game and the first thing they will try is to go for core melt down. Without “off track play,” players are disappointed and the game feels overly didactic and less like a game. Lack of exploration decreases engagement. The best educational systems make winning and exploring failure fun.
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Challenge.gov: Challenge to Innovate (C2i) Gaming Challenge
(Sponsored by the Department of Education, the National Education Association Foundation, and Microsoft)
Description of Competition: The challenge sought ideas on how interactive technology game-based learning can improve teaching and learning. Ideas were sought on how to use existing gaming and technological competencies that can be translated into student achievement.
• Crime Scene Reporter
• Friends of a Feather
• Challenge the World
• The Candy Factory Game
• STEM learning with Video Games
• Game-Based Learning with Online ‘Quiz Shows’
• Dungeons and Discourse
- Learn to Earn: Game-Based Learning
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Games in Action: Improving the Environment
Games can use the virtual world to help players change the real one. In doing so players enjoy the additional opportunity to express their values and make a difference. The fiero feeling from the Hard Fun of winning disappears quickly, therefore best selling games have additional Serious Fun mechanics that amplify the positive consequences of the win such as collecting badges that remind players of their accomplishments. Even better than badges is having positive real world outcome from the game makes play feel less like a waste of time. Serious Fun is when the player plays to change themselves and change their world. Serious Fun has real world outcomes. Games targeting climate change use Serious Fun to modify change behavior to have direct positive impacts on the environment.
The challenge with improving the environment is that the factors are hard to see and the slow moving vast scale of the danger is hard to comprehend, and many feel guilty about not doing more. Therefore environment games need to have a positive approach because many feel the problem it too big or complex to understand or the solution involves too much sacrifice or is expensive. A game that makes the problem and potential solutions visible such as representing large spans of time and geography increases the understanding of factors required to master the cause and effect relationships.
Gaming Can Change Real-World Behaviors. The ultimate use of Serious Games comes when the act of play creates a benefit for the real world, or playsourcing. The goal of playsourcing games is to change the players themselves and the world around them. The real world outcome of serious gaming makes play feel more substantial and provides the opportunity for a player to express their values and create meaning. Playsourcing games allow player to express their values and create impact in the real world. Playsoucing games use play as the source of human motivation for real world impact. By design playsourcing games cross over into the real world, increasing the positive engagement and giving the player another reason to game. Playsourcing games do three things: Inform, empower, and provide feedback on progress. The most important is to be fun and not preachy, as many people feel guilty about not doing more about helping the environment.
An example of this idea is XEOPlay’s iPhone game Tilt World  where the virtual seeds that players collect results in real trees being planted in Madagascar. In this game, players control Flip, a hungry tadpole, to eat carbon out of the air and gather seeds to restore the virtual world of Shady Glen. In this playsouring game play affects the real world by planting trees to slow climate change.
 David Nakamura, “The right to petition the White House prompts grievances, gags online,”
Washington Post, December 10, 2012, accessed at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/the-right-to-petition-the-white-house-prompts-grievances-gags-online/2012/12/09/c9adf3fc-3f10-11e2-ae43-cf491b837f7b_story.html
 Cristin Dorgelo, “Challenge.gov: Two Years and 200 Prizes Later,” White House Blog; accessed at: http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2012/09/05/challengegov-two-years-and-200-prizes-later
 Jane McGonigal, “Be a Gamer, Save the World,” Wall Street Journal, January 22, 2011, accessed at: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704590704576092460302990884.html?mod=WSJ_newsreel_lifeStyle
Tilt World makes being environmental easy for example players capture fireflies as a source of alternative energy, or planting mushrooms using bioremediation to clean the soil.
Players appreciate the game’s environmental theme and the ability to do good while playing. They feel good about the game planting trees in Madagascar. After playing, players are more likely to do environmentally good deeds at home. In this way, a game can go from increasing awareness on a website to using a game to change actual behavior.
In the iOS game Tilt World by XEOPlay player’s points plant real trees on the island of Madagascar.
Simulation Games Can Teach Eco-Friendly Tradeoffs. Simulation games can illustrate the complex systems and choices responsible for creating environment issues. For example Fate of the World simulates the global effects of climate change, population growth, resource over-exploitation and species loss. http://www.gamesforchange.org/play/fate-of-the-world/ To encourage change in individual behavior, Serious Games can provide feedback and rewards along the entire life cycle of a mass produced product. Manufacture simulation games can visualize the effect of creating more energy efficient products and services. For example the game Phone Story visualizes the troubling creation practices behind smart phone manufacture. [http://www.gamesforchange.org/play/phone-story] Off the computer, XPrize-like competitions can encourage the development of solar cars, energy efficient lighting, heating, and cooling already encourage innovation. 
It’s easy to imagine an alternate reality game in the future where at the point of purchase, scanning UPC code of a product or an internet search on a service provider easily brings up their environmental impact score. This score could include a carbon footprint of the individual product and display how it adds to a player’s personal carbon footprint score. Players can compete for discounts and incentives by purchasing the most eco-friendly products and services. Public forums allow players to compare scores and exchange tips and tricks on how to win this eco-game and the whole planet benefits. Environmental game play can continue after purchase. Players can turn in stamps for every energy saver appliance purchased. A game user interface displays a household’s energy saver score publically or to friends. This score and associated badges could appear on a player’s energy bill and could calculate what the player would be spending had they not made these energy efficient purchases and home improvements.
Community Games Can Save Energy by Changing Behaviors. Another theoretical example is a simulation game of a neighborhood which could demonstrate and exaggerate the outcome of energy choices. Games played in the neighborhood can increase social connections between households. A neighborhood 3D map or satellite image could show super-sized SUVs cluttering the neighborhood and smoke belching energy in-efficient homes look shameful next to their energy remodeled counterparts. A group score in this simulation shows the cumulative effect of individual household choices.
Other games to conserve energy can offer point systems to encourage behavior change across a community. Game inspired design amplifies the result of actions that require little effort, such as building a new playground once a community reaches a goal of increasing recycling. Examples of this are already in play, such as Vermontivate organized by Nick Lange , where small towns competed in energy savings and the victorious town won a free ice cream party courtesy of Ben and Jerry’s.
Games can also engage by providing feedback over time. In another hypothetical energy bill game that rewards conservation can show the financial impact of energy saving upgrades. As neighborhoods compete for energy savings graphs, and simulations can demonstrate and visualize progress. The winning town gets an enhanced public service, such as an upgrade to more energy efficient street lighting or an enhancement to a public park. The web version of the game visualizes the neighborhood as a small block of houses and animates improvements such as homes that install solar panels that feedback to the grid.
In the future, game enabled delivery systems can change behavior at the point of use, such as a water faucet or electrical outlet. For example, a power strip vampire game might reward players for turning the power strip off over night. Appliances that draw electricity even when turned off would earn negative points, especially at night. This hypothetical energy vampire game measures extra energy that devices use when not in use and small vampire bats and cobwebs grow inside the game if the power strip is not turned off at night.
Players love playing together. In fact for many, it is the people whom are addictive and not the game. Specially designed social games use this People Fun encourage changes in large group behavior through harnessing competition and cooperation to create social emotions. Competitive and cooperative scores multiply the effect of individual participation. Whole neighborhoods work together and compete for prizes.
For example Social Games can reduce carbon emissions, such as the Drive Less Challenge [DriveLessChallenge.org], create a carpooling, public transit, and biking game. The goal is to reduce single occupancy travel and the reward is shared by the community. An easy enhancement to this game is a social mobile game where the player checks in to different bus stops to automatically log public transit commuter miles. Players earn credits and see progress in the dashboard of a game enabled car or through websites.
Challenge.gov: Apps for the Environment Challenge
(Sponsored by the Environmental Protection Agency)
Description of Competition: The Apps for the Environment challenge is aimed at encouraging private-sector software developers, students, and others to create innovative applications that use EPA data to promote protection of human health and the environment. EPA publishes a wide variety of environmental data, in multiple formats, as do other parts of the federal government. EPA believes that innovative synthesis and presentation of these various data could foster public understanding of environmental conditions, inform decision-making, and produce a range of other positive outcomes that protect human health and the environment.
• EarthFriend, a mobile app game designed to educate users by incorporating data from EPA databases.
Applying the thinking used to design games in more serious ways can transform how government communicates, provides information, and delivers public services. Game design can inspire new types of interactions to provide information, inspire action, increase motivation, and feedback on long term progress. Playsourcing games can inform, change behavior, and even create real world change. Games do this in three ways. Playing a game informs players with interactive demonstrations of concepts and themes rather than just listening or reading. Games encourage practice and exploration of outcomes unfeasible in the real world. Games can inform, motivate, challenge, and reward new behaviors. At their best games breakdown complex relationships and processes into easy to achieve steps. They can make practice fun. Games can organize human behavior and shape patterns to transform communities. And finally, games raise awareness becoming more than a website brochure, and because they are about choice, games can inspire and motivate the actions that we need our nation’s citizens to take.
Nicole Lazzaro is a world-renowned game researcher, designer, and speaker who makes games more fun. The President of XEODesign, she discovered the Four Keys to Fun in 2004, a model used by hundreds of thousands of game developers worldwide. She used this model to design the iPhone’s first accelerometer game in 2007, now called Tilt World which aims to plant 1 million trees in Madagascar. For 20 years she has helped clients such as Sony, EA, and Disney increase engagement. She is one of the 100 most influential women in high tech, top 20 women working in video games and gamification. She has advised the White House and the US State Department on the use of games to unlock human potential to improve our world.
Special thanks to: Lee Sheldon, Asi Burak, Amy Jussel, Nick Lang, and Carrie Heeter.
1. Lazzaro, Nicole, “Why We Play Games: the Four Keys to Fun,” White papers on emotion and the fun of games: http://4K2F.com
2. The Re-Mission cancer treatment game, Hope Labs http://www.hopelab.org/our-research/re-mission-outcomes-study/
3. Surgeons who play a few hours a week make one-third fewer errors in the operating room. Scientific American Mind Feb/March 2009 pp 23-29
4. Nike+ FuelBand http://nikeplus.nike.com/plus/products/fuelband
5. Zombie Run! https://www.zombiesrungame.com/
7. The Function of Play in the Development of the Social Brain by Sergio Pelis, Vivien C. Pellis, and Heather C. Bell American Journal of Play Volume 2 No 3 http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=sergio%20pelis%20rats&source=web&cd=12&ved=0CGwQFjAL&url=http%3A%2F%2Fneuromorphs.net%2Fnm%2Fraw-attachment%2Fwiki%2F2012%2Fsoc12%2FThe%2520Function%2520of%2520Play%2C%2520AJP%25202010.pdf&ei=lwCgUNKDK-m0iQLm24DgCQ&usg=AFQjCNENSD2yZp8gQ_OLNZQbkqb4MPpb8w
8. Tim Vandenberg “Monopolized” his 6th grade math class. http://www.slideshare.net/gzicherm/tim-vandenberg-monopoly-academy-winning-the-game-of-no-child-left-behind-through-gamification-and-monopoly-the-worlds-most-famous-board-game
9. Civilization, designed by Sid Meier and Bruce Shelley. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Civilization_(video_game)
10. Sid Meier, GDC 2012 keynote
12. Sim City by Will Wright http://www.simcity.com/en_US
13. World of War Craft by Blizzard http://us.battle.net/wow/en/?-
14. The Multiplayer Classroom: Designing Coursework as a Game, by Lee Sheldon http://www.amazon.com/Multiplayer-Classroom-Designing-Coursework-Game/dp/1435458443 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lee_Sheldon_(writer)
15. Tilt World where players gather virtual seeds to plant real trees in Madagascar. http://bit.ly/TiltWorld
16. XPrize holds several contests to make the impossible possible through competition. One of their most famous was the competition for commercial space flight. http://www.xprize.org/
17. Vermontivate a community based energy competition. http://www.vermontivate.com/