The Facebook game Power House may finally make all those hours spent mindlessly playing games online pay off! The object of the game is to guide a family of four through daily activities using as little energy as possible. It is addicting and challenging, and teaches players how to save energy in real life.
The game was specially designed to show players strategies for saving energy in the real world, not just the digital one. Players move family members throughout the house doing regular daily activities such as washing clothes, making coffee, and even going to the bathroom. The object is to use as little energy as possible by turning off lights and appliances.
Things quickly get complicated when more family members are added, and they are afraid of the dark and won’t enter a room unless the window shades are up or a light is on. And if you use too much power at one time, watch out! A circuit gets blown!
Science Says It Really Works
In the January 2015 issue of Environment and Behavior, communications scholar Byron Reeves and three Stanford colleagues report that people who played Power House demonstrated more energy-efficient behavior immediately afterward—both in a lab setting and in their own homes.
“Taken together, the experimental and field results demonstrate that energy information embedded in an entertaining game, one that parallels the features and goals of commercially successful applications, can change energy behavior,” Reeves and company conclude.
First, the researchers did a lab test where they had participants play Power House and another popular Facebook game dealing with food service for half an hour. Participants were instructed to lock up the office when they were done. Those playing Power House turned off 2.5 of the five powered fixtures in the office, compared to 0.5 fixtures for those who played the food service game.
Researchers then took things a step further by working with Pacific Gas & Electric in California to see if selected players translated the techniques in the game to real life. 51 adults were recruited to play Power House over 17 days while their power use was monitored. The results showed a 2% drop in energy use during the Power House-playing period, compared to a month before and a month after the experiment.
This is certainly not a groundbreaking result, but researchers are encouraged that the simple act of playing a game has any effect at all. They call for the “gamification of energy use” through similar standalone games or by embedding these goals in other applications.
“[T]he prospect of even low single-digit reductions in electricity usage across potentially millions of game players would likely justify the expense of building and marketing an entertainment product that cost only thousands of dollars to produce,” they conclude.
Now, wasting a half hour on Facebook can be good for the environment, and your wallet!
Source | Images: Fast Company.