Games have great potential to educate people and encourage them to solve large-scale social problems. An obvious example was World Without Oil, which required players to work together on simple, practical ways to adapt to a world without oil. The value of the game was to get players to apply collective intelligence and imagination to develop realistic, alternative solutions to dependence on oil.
More recently less-ambitious Facebook games like Trash Tycoon are trying to educate and change people’s behaviours in relation to reducing waste and recycling. Players have to clean their city by collecting piles of litter, create fertilizer, learn what can be composted and what can be upcycled.
What is interesting is that Trash Tycoon is an initiative by TerraCycle, a fertilizer company that also produces products made from recycled materials. In order for TerraCycle to continue growing they need more people to recycle so Trash Tycoon enables them to increase awareness about both the environmental benefits and uses of recycled materials and expand awareness about TerraCycle.
It is not going to nudge people to make a holistic change in their recycling / waste management behaviour, but it will at least make people aware of how products can be used after we finish them. It will hopefully make us think before throwing things away, but stronger incentives are needed to solve waste problems.
In a new study by Satchi & Satchi S titled Engagement Unleashed: Gamification for Business, Brands and Loyalty, 55% of Americans said they were interested in working for a company that uses games to increase productivity.
Some of the key findings were:
- 50% of the US online population play social games daily
- Women play games due to boredom; men play games because of competition
- People are most interested in multi-player games and trivia challenges
- 58% said it is important for brands to be fun and playful
There are some other results and outcomes from the report that I found interesting:
- Young, employed 18-24 years were the group most willing to take a salary reduction to work for a socially responsible company. This suggests that social interaction and work culture is more important than money for some people
- TV, in its current format, will be the big loser as people look for activities that are more engaging. If people are bored they are not channel-hopping
- Employees would prefer multi-player games at work even though most games are played individually. One positive from this is that it maintains a team and social aspect to game playing
- The fact that discounts and deals are the largest incentive for participation shows how they are becoming embedded in culture
What is not be addressed is that a lot depends on the design and alignment of the game with specific aspects of work. There are certain game elements that would function better with innovation, others with feedback/appraisal processes, teamwork, etc. Getting that right is vital. Otherwise a game for game’s sake would be a waste of time and not the productivity push that the company and employees want.