To paraphrase Mary Poppins, in every energy efficiency behavior that must be done, there is an element of fun. You find the fun and snap! the job’s a game. The eponymous musical is set in 1910, during the infancy of suburban electric power. A century later, the power of fun and games remains, and utilities are harnessing it, generating results in efficiency and engagement.

Why games?

Games are engaging and fun, and they captivate a large number of people. Nielsen surveys have found that people are spending more time playing games. “Gaming has woven its way into all areas of pop culture — sports, music, television, and more,” observes a 2014 Think with Google article. Despite the stereotype, games aren’t only for boys — or children and adolescents. Google goes on, “Its appeal goes far beyond teenage boys (women are now the largest video game-playing demographic!)”

The Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) was only a little more conservative, finding that girls and women comprise 40% of gamers, and that the average age of a gamer is 34 years old. In fact, 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.

For years now, even comparatively simple games played mostly played via Facebook, phone, or tablet can achieve user bases the size of countries. (For instance, the game Trivia Crack had over 100 million users worldwide in 2015, and in 2014, Candy Crush Saga had 93 million active users per day. The population of France was then about 66 million and the population of Germany about 82 million.)

Gamified Solutions Harness the Fun

A recent study by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) 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. Gamified solutions fun because they engage and challenge participants without frustrating them too much, they provide rapid feedback for behaviors, and provide ways to cooperate and compete with other people or teams. This helps people to make changes that they often otherwise struggle to make.

Utilities are on board. IDC Energy Insights estimated that in 2014, “worldwide utilities IT spending for gamification tools, applications, and services [is] approximately $13.5 million, rising to $65 million in 2016.”

In 2015, the ACEEE study mentioned above made recommendations to developers of gamified solutions for utility energy efficiency programs. It, “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

The ACEEE found that 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 no surprise that we know how firsthand much work goes into crafting a good gamified or behavior based energy efficiency solution for utilities.

Request a demonstration to learn more about our gamification platform and how to create gamification software to promote more customer engagement, specifically in the utility industry.

What is a gamified solution for energy efficiency?

Gamification helps customers to change energy consumption by making it fun, and by giving feedback and context about the effects those changes are having. Today, we go into more detail about the elements of gamification — what it is — and a little about what it is not.

What comprises a gamified solution?

Researchers have not reached a consensus on the elements of gamification. Different papers have different lists. As recently as 2014, research on gamification (by Darina Dicheva and others), found that, “there is not a commonly agreed classification of game design elements.” A 2011 paper by Sebastian Deterding (direct link to the PDF) and others classifies elements from, “concrete to abstract,” and gives examples within each category:

  1. Interface design patterns such as badges, levels, or leaderboards.
  2. Game design patterns or game mechanics.
  3. Design principles or heuristics: guidelines for approaching a design problem or evaluating a design solution.
  4. Conceptual models of game design units….
  5. Game design methods, including game design- specific practices….

Spectrum of solutions

There is a spectrum to gamified solutions, a spectrum that extends beyond the game’s boundaries.

Not a rewards program: Gamification isn’t the same thing as a rewards program either. Though, as the ACEEE paper notes, a gamified solution may share features with a rewards program, they are not the same thing. A rewards program is all about the rewards. “Rewards programs (e.g., frequent flyer miles) engage people by promising them a tangible reward in exchange for some action. Customers are motivated to engage because they will be compensated,” (page 2).  In gamified solutions, any rewards are secondary to the fun and feedback designed into the game.

Less than a game: In one way, a gamified solution isn’t a full fledged game. Deterding et al, distinguished the two like this: “Gamification is the use of elements of game design in non-game contexts. This differentiates it from serious games and design [only] for playful interactions,” (page 1).  Gamified solutions do not necessarily have only one singular goal or definition of “winning.” Wherever they might land on a leaderboard, all customers who make their lifestyles, homes, or businesses more energy efficient can accurately see themselves as winning, and a gamified solution can reflect this.

More than a game: In another way, gamified solutions extend beyond the traditional boundaries of a game. The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) analyzed 22 gamified solutions and published some findings in a paper last year (2015). The ACEEE paper was, “careful to distinguish such solutions from… video games…. Whereas a video game is designed to entertain its players, gamified activities are meant to motivate and help the players to perform real-world actions.” To put this into an energy-specific context, “In an energy efficiency game, players may have adventures and rack up the highest scores, but those achievements are not ends in themselves but a means of encouraging them to save energy,” (page 2-3).

Don’t wait around for a magical character to show up and sing a song; contact us today to learn how we implement utility-specific gamification platform for utilities like yours!

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