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.

Shane Fumagall