Monthly Archives: April 2014

g4c

I really don’t go to conferences any more…they are usually repackaged versions of the same old topics with the same old speakers. But attending the 11th Annual Games for Change Festival in New York last week was a breath of fresh air. There was no exhibition hall at G4C …only an entrance hall filled with gaming consoles and lots on interesting games to play. The audience was fun, smart and very causal and yes I did see a few participants with Google glasses!

The topics were diverse and fascinating. Some random observations:

  • Social games can deal with serious topics but at the end of the day they must be exciting, challenging and fun if they are going to engage players and keep their attention. Interesting games can cover serious topics.
  • A handful of presentations analyzed award winning games such as Papers, Please, Gone Home and Games for Peace. On the surface they appear to be interesting “play” games, yet on closer examination, presenters explained that they are constructed to engage players in more serious issues such as ethical decision making, developing empathy, roll playing behaviors, and teamwork.
  •  A hot topic discussed at the conference was using research to develop and refine games. Opinions on this topic were shared throughout the meeting.  Some developers had no use for research.   Other, especially those game developers who had worked in teams with educators or health providers such as Planned Parenthood supported the important role of research in getting the content right. It reminded me of trying to get creative directors at an ad agency to pretest their ads. Sigh.
  •  Most games for girls fall into two categories: makeup and dress up or educational games.  In a study of girls ages 8-14 presented by Rajal Pitroda, girls interviewed stated they wanted more variety; games that reflected their interests: adventure, sports even “shooter” games. They also wanted more variety in the girl characters that are portrayed in games. Seems to me there is a big untapped market there.

I sat in on some panels on using games to cultivate creativity and innovation in schools, make math fun and even promote conflict resolution in the Middle East among young adults. I learned that PBS has reincarnated Mr. Rodgers as a cartoon tiger called Daniel Tiger. He stills wears the cardigan sweater but it is just not the same.

I also learned that parents whose kids play games are the same as parents whose kids surf the internet and parents whose kids watched television. They worry about the time their kids spend playing games; they worry about the effect of games on their brain and personality; they limit the time they can play and they encourage them to go outside and play.

To find out more about the conference go to: http://gamesforchange.org/festival/.

It is easy to forget that behavior change theories and principles can be applied effectively to energy conservation and climate change as it is to disease prevention.

What is amazing to me is that what we’ve been doing in global and domestic health for more than 40 years has not crossed over into the energy and environmental sectors as much as it should have.
This became apparent when I participate at a panel session at the American Council for Energy Efficiency Conference in Baltimore on 31 March.

As background, Another Option was invited by its colleagues at Cadmus to be on the A Shift in Perspective: From Measures to Customers panel and to present examples and experiences of successful behavior change from another sector. Public health has been applying behavior change for years and that’s our primary sector….so it was quite fun and revealing to participate.

Though I’ve done behavior change for energy efficiency and climate change in Africa what I learned at the conference about US consumers was very interesting:

I learned there are over 21 actions a person can take to be energy efficient….wonder how many there are for staying healthy?
But several of these are one-time behaviors…such as recycling old appliances, participating in a home energy analysis, or upgrading HVAC and water heating systems. Then there are the others that require on- going actions — controlling electrical use, purchasing the energy efficient appliance, and buying and loving the new light bulbs.

On paper it seems so obvious because economics or policy have changed our selection options or pocketbook choices. Appliances are more efficient in its water and heating usage; the new light bulbs have replaced the old amid grumbles and complaints; and energy isn’t cheap so keeping the windows closed and thermostat down is a no-brainer.

But for the other less regulated choices the energy companies need to know more about their consumers and users. What has been missing is an analysis of solid consumer research and segmentation by practices and behaviors, gender, geographic areas that tell us about the energy consumers and the environment that they live in – whether it supports or discourages good consumers’ behaviors.

This attention to understanding consumers is a fairly recent trend for the energy efficiency sector, and there was great interest in the programs discussed in the session. But it still is a hard sell. As it was in health. Even now we hear “just tell them and they’ll do it.”

Hmmmm….I don’t think the data supports that.

energy efficiency