Accelerating the Energy Transition Through Serious Gaming

Imagine you have the ability to be a mayor and change a whole city towards a more sustainable place, how would you balance pollution, energetic productivity and happiness of the population? Travel back in time and picture yourself as a superhero with super powers that can save the planet from total destruction. How would it feel to be in control of human decisions and forces of nature that lead to carbon pollution and other impacts on the environment?

These are just some examples of scenarios offered when playing serious games, understood as games intended to fulfil a purpose, to convey ideas and values and sometimes at persuading the players. They are part of an entire genre of energy-related serious games that offer powerful tools for communication and education. Serious games on this topic energy issues have grown and diversified exponentially over the last years but, especially, these types of games have experienced most progress in an online format.

Different web platforms are available to the public and for free that serve as a repository of these types of games, such as Games4Sustainability or Gamepedia, targeting academics, trainers, NGOs, teachers, students, and anyone interested in this topic.

“We-Energy Game” is a good example, a serious game that address the urgency and complexities in the provision of affordable energy from renewable sources for an entire town. During the game, players negotiate, from their respective roles, which energy source they want to employ and on which location, with the goal to make a village or city energy neutral.

In search of innovative approaches to reach young people, whose communicative paradigm has become more interactive and participatory, the use of serious gaming in formal education is gaining attention among scholars and practitioners: they can foster skills and abilities, contribute to content development of complex issues by integrating insights from different disciplines, and permit learning experiences that are not possible in real life. The paper “Accelerating the Energy Transition Through Serious Gaming: Testing Effects on Awareness, Knowledge and Efficacy Beliefs”, published by Dr.Tania Ouariachi and Dr. Wim Elving in the Electronic Journal of e-Learning, uses “We-Energy Game” as a case study to show how the game has contributed to raising awareness and understanding on the urgency of energy transition among a group of hundred Hanze students -Dutch and international students that belong to different disciplines such as marketing, international communication and engineering-. The study also shows how the game has slightly increased efficacy beliefs among students –the extent to which they believe that they are capable of doing specific tasks in order to achieve certain goals- especially collective efficacy due to the fact that the game encourages teamwork and dialogue among players.

Source: Ouariachi and Wim (2020)

Most students perceive the game as a fun activity and usually prefer this type of interactive practices rather than traditional teaching methods. However, effects on actual attitudes and behaviours remain to be seen. More research is needed in this domain. In addition, discussions show how educational games in this field have still a long way to go to achieve the high levels of engagement of commercial games.

Reference this paper: Ouariachi, T., and Elving, W., 2020 Accelerating the Energy Transition Through Serious Gaming: Testing Effects on Awareness, Knowledge and Efficacy Beliefs. The Electronic Journal of e-Learning, 18(5), pp. 410-420, available online at www.ejel.org.

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