Competitive delight, making the harder choice fun.

When reading chapter 10 of “Carbon Efficient City” about Delight and its effect on people’s decisions, I immediately thought back to an earlier class in which we discussed the inducing power of smiley faces on electricity bills. I also thought about the numerous annoying invitations to play Candy Crush that I receive seemingly every day from people all over the place. People are playing this game across the country in huge numbers, despite it having no purpose, and despite it costing you money unless you’re willing to dupe your friends and acquaintances into playing it also… Why? Delight.

I took this thought process and let it run wild for a minute, and I realized that it probably wouldn’t be hard (at least on a metropolitan level to start with) to introduce a competitive game on people’s phones that earned them points and prizes (badges, medals, etc. in the game) all for reducing their carbon foot print by riding the bus, riding a bike, taking the light rail or walking. The systems apparatus required to make this a reality is already in existence with many long-range busses already being outfitted with Wifi, bikes, shoes and wrists being outfitted with health trackers, and phones being able to internally sense speed, distance, duration, etc. By taking the feel good vibe of the smiley face’d electricity bills, and combining that with the flashing lights and sensory overload provided by a Candy Crush type of game, being environmentally conscious about the way you travel could become far more engaging and enthralling.

By adding an escalating point based system that uses the sensors in the phone to determine how you’re traveling, and tying that in with other sensors to determine by what means; car, bus, light rail, bike, foot, etc., people could be induced to use the highest point awarding systems (walking), versus the lowest point awarding (or even point detracting) systems like driving whenever possible in order to “win” at the game. Because the game would not necessarily be a monetary one, people would most likely be willing to participate at least enough to find out whether or not its fun. And by making mile stones in the game achievable by inviting friends, much like the abhorrent games like Candy Crush and Flappy Bird, the games likelihood of success would increase with each individual milestone hit by each person.

While this game obviously wouldn’t induce a general contractor to stop driving his pick-up truck that holds all of his tools and materials to work each day, it could have a large effect on those people that have the option to use mass transit or carbon-efficient transit in urban areas, but don’t because their car is slightly more convenient or because of that 1% chance that mass transit won’t immediately meet their needs in that rare emergency situation. It could provide the small yet effective impetus to use the healthier less carbon intensive method. I believe in this because I like so many, have been pleasantly tricked into walking more just based on wearing a Fitbit that tells me how many steps I’ve taken per day, almost challenging me to take more steps tomorrow. A game like this would challenge each of us “gamers” to be more efficient tomorrow than we were today, if only for a smiley-face, or a badge, or a medal that adds up to nothing more than… Delight.

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