Sensors & Behavior (ARPA-E) > Behavioral Interventions

Multiplayer Online Game

Multiplayer games may be the most engaging, sophisticated and collaborative media ever to be applied to changing behavior in serious contexts. This project developed “Power House” to see if games can be used to build energy efficiency habits?

Investigators: Byron Reeves, James K. Scarborough, James J. Cummings, Leo Yeykelis, June Flora, Dante Anderson

The 400 million people worldwide who play multiplayer online games are surprisingly diverse, with more in their 40’s or 50’s than in their teens. Games offer a compelling new context for home energy information that may engage families and change behaviors. The online, multi-player game developed in this project, “Power House,” displays players’ actual energy use data from smart meters and other sensors. Players are challenged with energy efficiency tasks and rewarded for real-life actions with points in the game.

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Publications and Presentations

Increasing energy efficiency with entertainment media: An experimental and field test of the influence of a social game on performance of energy behaviors
Environment & Behavior
Reeves, B., Cummings, J.J., Scarborough, J.K., Yeykelis (2013)

Can Games Change Energy Behavior and Reduce Consumption?
Behavior, Energy & Climate Change Conference
Reeves, B., Cummings, J.J., Scarborough, J.K., Flora, J., Anderson, D. (2012)

Leveraging the Engagement of Games to Change Energy Behavior
International Conference on Collaboration Technologies & Systems, Denver, CO.
Reeves, B., Cummings, J.J., Scarborough, J.K., Anderson, D., Flora, J. (2012)

Future Work

Researchers will revise some elements of game; acquire a large population of users by leveraging online social networking and viral recruitment, including hiring a community manager to initiate game play and recommend the game to new players; and develop and implement a commercial business model around this version of the game. Possible considerations include directed advertising for recruitment, corporate sponsorship and utility licensing. Future research efforts may isolate and investigate the relative contribution of particular game play elements (e.g., leaderboards, team-based play, energy challenges, virtual currencies) to the effects currently observed.