How gaming can not only teach but inspire to action in sustainability

Imagine someone stuck with her head in her mobile phone, playing a game. Totally absorbed, the world around her barely exists. Not very hard, is it? We see these people all the time; on the bus, the train and even walking on the street.

How gaming can not only teach but inspire to action in sustainability

Well, imagine now that this person is actually learning about how to tread more lightly on the planet while she is playing, that she might even be learning about the Sustainable Development Goals, and that her learning will result in action at home and in her workplace. It may even inspire her friends, family and colleagues to do the same. Does this sound unlikely? It is not.

Changing behaviours is difficult

Many change agents across the globe are working hard to inspire changed behaviours for a more sustainable and responsible future; be this in businesses, schools or in your community. It can be hard to create change, to get people on board with changing their everyday behaviours; like using less energy, eating less meat, walking or taking the train instead of driving, use less plastic. I could make a long list of little changes which are good for us and good for the planet. Doing these changes are hard, even though we know it is the right thing to do, and sometimes even though we know it would save us, or the organisation money. Often, we are too busy working, going on with our daily lives, to make that little extra effort which can, particularly when multiplied, make a big difference. It does not matter how we look at it, our planet needs it, our children’s’ future depends on it. So, how can we crack the nut on behaviour change?

Gaming, education and the SDGs

Most people these days have a smartphone and many people enjoy playing games on their phones, it can be quite addictive as I am sure you know. What if we could use that addictive behaviour and create something good out of it? Like change behaviours for a more sustainable lifestyle?

A couple of weeks ago we held the fourth Sustainable Development Goals Network MeetUp in central London. This event was titled “Gaming, Education and the SDGs” and it was a truly fascinating evening with some great speakers; Daisy Kendrick founder of the Ocean Generation, Harriet Marshall board member of the global educator movement #TeachSDGs, Zoe Olsberg from Ecoed Game and Theo Cosmora, Social Finance Systems and SDG Foundation.

I say fascinating, because I never knew what possibilities there could be marrying tech and gaming for the benefit of sustainability.

The Ocean Generation uses music, gaming and tech to reach out and educate young people about SDG14:Life below water. And not only this, they are working with young people in the areas most affected by ocean pollution, the Island Nations. As an example, Ocean generation supported 64 young people in the community of Micoud, St Lucia, providing them with new skills and education, by curating a week-long course of ‘documentary film making’ about our oceans.

Through gaming apps, like The big catch, Island Nation Defence and as launched for Christmas – The last straw, Ocean Generation are reaching out to millions of individual players, able to deliver educational messages about our oceans as well as creating action where players make pledges to turn off lights, eat less meat and using alternative, more sustainable modes of transport, like cycling.

Gaming can be for everyone, whatever the age, and this is what Ecoed Gaming is hoping to introduce through their Ecoed Game app. This is an online tool merging gaming, education and very importantly, action in the real world. The app can be combined with seminars and workshops, whether in a school or in an organisation, to engage your students and your staff. What I really like about Ecoed is the possibility of applying it in business. We all like a bit of competition, and with gaming, staff will not just learn, but even more importantly can be incentivized to act. Actions which will have a positive impact on your organisation’s environmental footprint – and save you money. The aim is to create an “Ecoed mindset” to continuously detect opportunities to reduce the organisation’s environmental footprint and to act on it. What is there not to like?

What next?

Theo Cosmora is taking the learning and gaming a step further. He has developed the SDG Game, an app which is specifically tailored to the SDGs and which uses tokens as a reward. The philosophy behind it, is to bring the classroom to everyone and to make learning rewarding. While playing the SDG Game, the player will learn about the Global Goals, and when successful, he will earn points. SDG Points won in the game, can be converted to mobile minutes and air miles through partners and SDG Token Crypto Currency through SDG Sponsors.

Does it sound complicated? Well, it raised a lot of interesting questions and a fantastic discussion at the SDG Network MeetUp event. It is intriguing to think that other types of value other than the traditional monetary value that we are used to can be used in sustainability. Imagine creating reputational value or environmental value – that you can then use to pay for your train ticket to the next edie Sustainability Leaders Conference!

It is only our imagination which sets limits to what can be achieved.

What can you do?

From organising this event, I know that we have barely scraped the surface when it comes to gaming and sustainability. I believe it can be a great way to engage your staff (or your students if you work in education) in your sustainability programme, to inspire changed behaviours for a more sustainable and responsible business.

If you are looking to invigorate your sustainability programme, to create more engagement with your staff or to educate your people on what a sustainable lifestyle is all about, consider using some gaming ideas to make it more fun and interactive. That would be a truly rewarding gift for both your organisation and our planet this Christmas.

Carolina Karlstrom

Topics: edie
Tags: behaviour change | children | Cycling | education | film | students | Sustainability Leaders | sustainable development | transport | water
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