Researchers look to develop green app for gamers

Researchers investigating the potential impact of educational computer games in contributing to sustainable behavioural change are now looking to create a prototype app.

The Scottish Crucible funded project, which was launched in October 2012, has been led by Robert Gordon University (RGU) researcher Dr Joanneke Kruijsen in collaboration with experts at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC), Glasgow School of Art, the University of Strathclyde and Heriot-Watt University.

The cross-sector team set out to explore whether the idea of creating a fun game utilising real data from players in a competitive social environment could contribute to people changing their behaviour.

Over the course of a number of workshops, involving both potential game players and policy makers who might utilise the information generated by the app, the researchers sought feedback on a range of aspects relating to its development.

These included what would incentivise people to play the game; how willing they would be to share the data they input on their energy, waste and water usage; the most effective branding for the game; and the key behaviours the game aims to influence.

Dr Kruijsen, who is a research fellow at RGU’s Centre for Understanding Sustainable Practice (CUSP), said: “The challenge that we face when trying to encourage people to adopt a more sustainable way of life, is that the ultimate goal – that of climate change – is so abstract and so long-term that it can be easy to lose sight of.

“The idea for developing a smartphone and tablet app arose out of a need to reach people without preaching at them. It taps into the way people are interacting and sharing information across social media networks on a regular basis and the ways in which that can impact behaviour too.”

She continued: “What came out very strongly from our research was that any app must have a strong element of fun and competitiveness, allowing users to measure in real terms the effect of their behavioural change.

“We also found that users needed some sort of personal incentive to change their behaviour and needed instant, simple feedback on the effects the changes they make are having. Focusing on easily quantifiable elements such as household waste and recycling was identified as a good starting point.”

The project team, which includes experts in visualisation and design, human behaviour and educational gaming as well as sustainability experts, is now seeking further funding to allow them to develop a prototype app.

Dr Kruijsen said: “All the partners involved in the research up to this point have been inspired by the project and we are currently exploring funding options which would allow us to develop the app itself.”

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Jenny RushCommunications Officer | Design and Technology