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Fostering Sustainability via Gamification

Can game mechanics and social networking lead to a better world?  There is a need to explore new technology-supported approaches to address the serious challenges of climate change and sustainability.

I’m happy that my students in the Games Research Lab and I got a paper accepted in the upcoming ACM SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI 2013), the premier international conference on human-computer interaction.  This year’s theme is changing perspectives: “offering new visions of people interacting with technology.”

Given this conference theme, it’s appropriate that our paper, Greenify: Fostering Sustainable Communities via Gamification aims to provide a positive vision of how we can achieve sustainability.  Our view follows Ehrenfeld (2009) and Grant (in press) in that sustainability is the “possibility of all of life flourishing together.”  Based upon our review of the literature, it is important to frame sustainability as a positive vision that leverages autonomy, intrinsic motivation and self-determination and to leverage the social power of the group rather than the individual.

At Teachers College, Columbia University, the Games Research Lab has created Greenify, an online social platform designed to foster flourishing sustainable communities. Gamification elements facilitated the creation and completion of user-generated missions, encouraging interaction between geographically proximate communities of peers. Three elements were identified as necessary components to achieve sustainable communities: a healthy climate and environment, social well-being, and economic security.  This paper describes our approach in addressing these elements through a crowdsourced, gamified system. Implications for interaction design are also discussed.

Click here to read the paper.

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