Feb 20, 2009

Climate Culture - a persuasive game teaching systems thinking?

I have been curious about how well persuasive games can teach the majority of us systems thinking, and help us see what our daily lifestyle impact is on the environment. Climate Culture creators claim that the game provides "personalized advice on the amount of carbon, energy, dollars and other resources they expend through hundreds of lifestyle choices and daily actions."

What does it do?
Once you sign-up, you become one of the avatars living in this virtual island. You earn badges and accessories for your avatar, and the environment of your virtual world gets better as you become greener. You can also compare yourself to your town, your state, or connect with friends or create events. [I didn't try the latter two yet].

There is a quiz up front about what I do in terms of my location, housing situation, transportation and food choices, which inform the carbon calculator to output a rough carbon footprint. What's powerful about Climate Culture seems to be its ability to tie in demographic and lifestyle information you supply into calculating your carbon footprint (using a patent-pending tool). For example, I have the option to supply the account number of my electric bill (but not an option to say I have solar panels... sad).

Based on your current footprint, the game suggests actions you can take and more importantly, track which one you've committed to. Cool indeed. Albeit time-consuming. I wonder about stickiness - what makes people come back to such a tool. A hint may be the link to the America's Greenest Campus competition as a mechanism to draw in repeated participation.

A few caveats: Currently I can't seem to get any carbon reduction point even though I committed to a few actions... help (I use Firefox on Leopard) ! These images illustrate what I mean: first I indicate I already use solar-powered Christmas ornaments, then I checked my carbon reduction amount.

Zero. Sob. I want my credit.

So here's a summary of my wish list, from a quick 20 min engagement with this app:
  • I put in my PG&E account number (with some trepidation about privacy lost), and still didn't see any reduction associated with my total carbon footprint. I know it should be lower than average since I have solar panels, and generate all my power.
  • Can't find a place to indicate I have solar panel either. Bummer. This is my biggest pride in terms of my personal commitment to carbon reduction and I would really, really like to see it reflected, and perhaps... get a badge of honor on the site for doing so. :-)
If you're hearing this, Climate Culture, please let me know when these are fixed. I'd like to spend more time on this and explore its usefulness.

Definitely sense good depth in the architecture and methodology. The graphics and the ecosystem of the game is deep, and to me, seems *really* promising. However, I fervently wish indicating "I already do this" on the recommended action actually gives me credit. It is disappointing when something simple like this doesn't even work.

Hopefully this thing works better soon, and more users jump on. We definitely need this type of games to get systems thinking out there. This is a perfect way to remember Dana Meadows, guru of systems thinking, on this 8th anniversary of her death. For those of you unfamiliar with Dana Meadows, check out her seminal work, Thinking in Systems: A Primer. I've read it twice. It is one of the best books to understand why climate change is something to be REALLY concerned about.

Developer: Climate Culture


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1 comment:

  1. I had trouble figuring out how to play this. When I got to one of the mini-games, it didn't work on my browser either. (Firefox on Mac).

    It certainly looks pretty though.

    One worry I had was that it asks an awful lot of personal questions.