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Sustainable Opportunities Summit ’12: Sustainable Behavior Change? Aaron Dignan Says, Game On.

aaron dignan

Note: For the past six months the GoGreen Conference has been engaged with CORE, a fantastic non-profit in Colorado working to advance a coalition of sustainable businesses within the region, to produce the 2012 Sustainable Opportunities Summit. We have been lucky enough to interview some of the incredible speakers on this year’s Summit line up and are distributing them here for you to enjoy & learn from. 

Aaron Dignan believes that games can fundamentally change how we work, act and play — essentially making us more productive, motivated and happier at the same time. He also argues that gaming concepts have the power to change our behavior in ways that many other systems have failed. For sustainability advocates this an idea with huge potential. It’s no secret that behavior change from our earth damaging habits to more sustainable ones has been hard to come by in the mainstream. In this interview, the Undercurrent Founder/CEO and author of the book Game Frame tells us what’s on the horizon & just how powerful these ideas really are.

Sustainable Opportunities Summit: How great is the potential impact of gamification within the realm of sustainability? What kind of problems can it help us solve?

Aaron Dignan: The potential for games to impact our behavior can’t be overstated. Gamification for sustainability could help us crowdsource solutions to complex problems, or simply change our behavior and choices on an individual level. Home power consumption compared to neighbors and peers on your bill is one promising area.

SOS: Why is gamification so effective in generating a shift towards greener behavior where governments, incentives, the media, dire & conclusive reports, branding & advertising — even good ol’ fashioned common sense — have failed?

AD: People have to be motivated to engage with an idea. Most sustainability messaging is about reduction – have less, do less, get less. By bringing elements of competition, creativity, and luxury into the mix, that message can be more like: achieve more.

SOS: Is the effect based in a social construct of our culture? Or are most human beings wired to respond to the allures of games across the board?

AD: Our hardwiring for games goes far beyond our culture. The basic wetware of the human brain is structured to crave, to chase (and be chased), to explore the world around us looking for rewards. The very idea of a game is just an emergent manifestation of our basic nature.

SOS: What are some of the coolest ways you have seen gamification principles applied for sustainability’s sake?

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