Behaviour Change with Gamification


Rebekah Russell-Bennett came to the University of Brighton on the 13th of December to discuss how gamification can be used to effectively change behaviour in gamification. Her project was a 6.5 million dollar project, working with the Australian Government to try and reduce people’s electricity usage. This falls under the category of social gamification, i.e. trying to enact social change through gamification.

The project was called “Reduce Your Juice”. Their website states:

“Reduce Your Juice is a fun digital program helping low income, young adult renters reduce their energy use and save money on their bills. Participants earn sweet rewards by playing games and doing Energy Quests and Powerhacks, which help them become super energy-smart and save dough on their electricity bills.”

The Website can be found here:

The rising cost of energy is an issue for Australian households on low, fixed and unreliable incomes. Reduce Your Juice trials an innovative approach to assist these households to become more energy efficient and better manage their energy use.

For this project, they focused on 10 overall principles for an effective digital social marketing program:

1. Behaviour Change must be a part of a marketing system

2. Innovate and take risks

3. Focus on customer value creation

4. Build on an evidence base

5. Develop theory-based strategy

6. Identify behaviours that make an impact

7. Incentivise behaviours with rewards

8. Balance entertainment with performance

9. Facilitate offline behaviour

10. Evaluate rigorously

Reduce Your Juice on Facebook can be found here:

Here are some key points I got out of the talk:

  • Researchers assumed that the low income households being targeted would not all have smartphones but discovered that 98% of them had smartphones. This figure may not be surprising in the age we live in. However it is important to remember that there is a socioeconomic class that may not be able to afford technology. These figures show that it is important not to make assumptions about people of any class background, because what some people consider necessities, other may or may not.
  • Data showed that people played 5 times more than they needed to in order to get the reward. This is another one of many examples in which gamification can be an effective motivator in behaviour change.
  • The app in traditional family households was a way for parents to start a conversation with their kids. The app broke down barriers of conversation and put everyone on an even playing field. It suggests that games and gamification may be used as a trigger for difficult subjects.
  • For the app to work, they found that they had to balance entertainment and behaviour management in about a 50/50 ratio. If they focused too much on entertainment, it would become a game with no world value, and if they focused too much on behaviour management people would quickly lose interest. Balance is the key.

So what gamification principles where used here?
Well, because people were monitored for six weeks, it enabled them to collect data on the participants. This allowed them to feedback some data and remind them to continue the study and reach the reward. “Push style” short term feedback is a very powerful motivator as it fulfils the instant gratification need of humans, whilst pushing them towards their goal.

Another form of gamification, and perhaps the most powerful, was core drive one of Yu-kai’s Octalysis model. Core drive one is epic meaning and purpose, and what's more of an epic purpose than saving the planet. This will work particularly well with philanthropist player types because it fulfils this very need. This program could also be effective for socialisers and players however, as the game become a bragging right for many people, due to its exclusivity.

Let's not forget though, with a fairly expensive reward (such as a barbecue) that you are certain to receive if you complete the program, the extrinsic reward would have motivated many. Whilst gamification, and this program, can be successful without the extrinsic reward, it certainly helped to ensure the lesser motivated stayed on board.

About the author 

Pete Baikins

Pete Baikins is an international authority on gamification, a lifelong gamer, successful entrepreneur and a lecturer. As CEO of Gamification+ Ltd he mentors and trains companies world-wide on the use of gamification to solve business challenges. Gamification+ won the Board of Trade Award from the UK's Department of International Trade in January 2019.

Pete is co-host of the health gamification podcast Health Points and is also Chair of Gamification Europe, the annual conference for Gamification practitioners.

Pete is an Honorary Ambassador for GamFed (International Gamification Confederation), having previously been the Chair from 2014 to February 2019, whose aim is to spread best practices within and support the gamification industry.

After 15 years as a Lecturer on gamification and entrepreneurship at the University of Brighton he now guest lectures on Gamification at King’s College London and at ESCP Europe at post-graduate and under-graduate levels.

Over the past 20 years Pete has built and sold two businesses. One was in security software and the more recent one was a telecoms and internet connectivity business. He is also an Ambassador for Brighton & Hove Chamber of Commerce in the UK.

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