Green gaming for Earth Day

Green gaming for Earth Day

Summary: It’s hard to argue about the evils of gamification when it’s being used to inspire people and corporations to act responsibly, whether that’s to improve your waistline, learn basic mathematics or, in the spirit of Earth Day, to go green. There have been many programs, both online and in the real world, that have offered cash for recycling cans, or discounts in exchange for used ink cartridges.

SHARE:
TOPICS: Tablets
2

It’s hard to argue about the evils of gamification when it’s being used to inspire people and corporations to act responsibly, whether that’s to improve your waistline, learn basic mathematics or, in the spirit of Earth Day, to go green.

There have been many programs, both online and in the real world, that have offered cash for recycling cans, or discounts in exchange for used ink cartridges.  ‘Green gamification’ has spread to the web and on Facebook as well, although it’s perhaps not as high-profile as it deserves to be.

One of the more interesting examples of this is Recyclebank, a web-based program that gives consumer points for doing things like reading green articles, recycling at home and making greener purchases (like saving paper by buying a Barnes & Noble Nook tablet). Rack up enough points and then use to them to ‘buy’ discounts on everything from lip balm to generic discounts for larger retail outlets, such as Kmart and Macys.

But, this isn’t a new program -- the company has been around for eight years, although it was recently called out by Fast Company as one of the World’s Most Innovative Companies in 2012.

Other examples include Terracycle, which encourage consumers to mail in recyclable waste in exchange for a donation to charity and Practically Green, which offers advice on how to green-ify your lifestyle.

It’s too bad that there aren't some more recent high-profile examples of green gamification or green gaming, and I would love to see some new attention paid to this space. Earth Day only comes once a year, but there’s no reason we can’t encourage people with related games and interactive features all year long.

Topic: Tablets

Libe Goad

About Libe Goad

Texas native Libe Goad resides in New York City and has spent the past decade covering technology and video games for publications including Blender, PC Magazine, Bust, Seventeen and Sync.

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Talkback

2 comments
Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Gamification for good!

    Hi Libe, great article. I agree that gamification is great for encouraging better behavior and engaging people for great causes. It's not out yet (coming mid 2012) but we are building a gamified rewards platform, called mplifyr (pronounced 'amplifier'). We reward individuals for doing positive acts and for purchasing and interacting with businesses and organizations that participate with us. It's a bit hush hush for now but you can follow us on Facebook for sneak peeks and it will be at the forefront of gamification and rewards, promise! http://www.mplifyr.com
    veronicamoon
  • thoughts

    "Its hard to argue about the evils of gamification when its being used to inspire people and corporations to act responsibly, whether thats to improve your waistline, learn basic mathematics or, in the spirit of Earth Day, to go green. There have been many programs, both online and in the [...]"

    I wouldn't argue that gamification is inherently evil. Just that there are some concerns that people should be aware of:

    -Taking time away from work.
    -Taking time away from social interaction with people around you.
    -Turning serious issues into frivolous games.

    But you know what? Gamification is also good:

    -It can turn tedious and tiresome work into something more rewarding.
    -It can encourage more social interaction.
    -It can enhance existing forms of entertainment.

    For the last point, I'll note that Microsoft's "Flight" game indeed has become more like a real game than previous versions, which were more hard core flight sims (and were indeed called "Microsoft Flight Simulator").

    Indeed, I'm seeing an increase in the gamification of games.

    As strange (and redundant) as that may sound, it's actually happening:

    -Shooters are adding in-game shops. Used to be that you just selected a gun and started shooting - now, you can buy weapons and attachments for the weapons.

    -Many games are adding achievements - rewards you get by doing certain things in a game. In the early days of gaming, such a thing was added to very few games. Today, it seems almost every game is doing it.

    -Platforms like Steam are keeping track of in-game achievements and meta-inventories. A metagame aspect is creeping in everywhere.

    It's no longer about the game itself, but also about the community and various metagame systems outside of the game.


    I don't think gamification is a bad thing necessarily - but we do have to be careful about doing it right. We need to be careful that it doesn't take away from more productive activities, and we should be careful to take serious matters seriously.
    CobraA1