Gamification Helps People Live More Sustainable Lives

As much as we’d all like to exercise, eat healthier, drive less, and recycle more, daily responsibilities and our most basic urges have an annoying tendency to get in the way. For many of us, a little bit of motivation can go a long way towards moving us to act. If you are looking to make positive changes in your own life – not just for yourself, but for the community around you – gamification can provide the impetus you need.

Today, there are many mobile apps and games that help individuals recycle, reduce electricity and gas consumption, shop locally, and take other actions, all of which can have a positive impact on the environment. How do these apps accomplish this? By making these activities fun and rewarding.

Using Gaming Mechanics as a Motivational Tool

The concept of using gaming mechanics to incentivize people to take actions that they might otherwise not take is called “gamification.” The idea is rather simple: by rewarding individuals for meeting milestones, and by making normal activities and tasks fun, you can encourage a specific response or action. Think of it this way – to get someone to commit X, you must offer Y.

There are many real world examples of gamification, and the technique is proven to work. In fact, you likely have experienced gamification yourself. Perhaps you’ve taken part in a pedometer challenge at work, or know someone who has. Perhaps your company has implemented a productivity or overtime challenge. Even more simply, perhaps your company’s sales team partakes in monthly challenges to see who can sell the most product. This is gamification in a nutshell. A goal is determined and a method (and reward) is devised to help achieve this goal.

What makes gamification an appealing concept is that it can be applied to a whole slew of behaviors. For example: if you want to reduce your impact on the environment but don’t know how, gamification can provide the solution you are seeking. Thankfully, mobile apps and video games can put gamification right at your fingertips.

Can Video Games Really Change the World?

To some people, the idea that mobile games and apps can have a positive impact on the environment may be a tough pill to swallow. However, it’s important to remember that every little bit helps. The Tragedy of the Commons states that each individual acting in his or her own self-interest, even if done in a responsible manner, leads to a depletion of community resources. This is because the individual members of the community fail to recognize that their behavior is being duplicated hundreds, thousands, and millions of times over by other people. Thus, they do something that unto itself may be harmless, but repeated thousands of times is detrimental.

However, the inverse is also true. Many people fail to take actions that could yield positive results because they assume that their actions alone will have no impact on the community around them. Sadly, if everyone in a community makes this assumption, then no action is taken at all. In the end, something that is achievable fails to come to fruition because individuals were unable to work together as a group.

How does this relate to gamification helping people live more sustainable lives? It’s a good question. The answer is simple. You may not think that using a mobile app that promotes recycling can have an impact, but imagine if you and everyone else in your community used this app as a group – the results could be tremendously beneficial. Gamification can and does work, so why not incorporate it into your life in a positive way?

What Can YOU Do to Live More Responsibly?

If you want to be energy efficient in a digital world, you should put the tools that you already have at your disposal to good use. This means turning your smartphones and tablets into devices that can help you live a more eco-friendly lifestyle. Consider the three Rs: reduce, reuse, and recycle. There are a number of mobile apps and games that can help you achieve these goals, and in the process, lower your impact on the environment.

With the best mobile processors for gaming found in many of today’s phones and tablets, there is practically no limit to the types of applications that can be run on your mobile device. This includes energy conservation apps, like OPower and Leafully, and recycling apps, such as Greenbean Recycle (a college-focused app) and Recycle Bank. Not only do these apps make recycling and conservation fun – you can compete with others or try to best your own high score – but the rewards in many cases are monetary. Not bad simply for shutting your lights off when you leave a room.

Hardware clearly isn’t a limiting factor, and many of these mobile games and apps are free. So what are you waiting for?

You Have the Tools So Take Action!

Ultimately, living a more sustainable and eco-friendly life requires action on your part. If you already have a smartphone, tablet, or both, why not use these devices to your advantage and the benefit of the community around you? Today’s mobile apps and games making recycling fun and rewarding, and can provide you with the motivation you need to finally start doing your part. Stop hesitating and start acting!

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