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Play games for serious results, says USC academic

11 Jul 2017

Playing digital games together could motivate whole households to adopt better lifestyle choices, according to a USC Marketing academic who recently helped create an app to assist people to cut their electricity use.

Lecturer in Marketing Dr Rory Mulcahy, who is based at USC’s Fraser Coast campus, said the success of the game ‘Reduce Your Juice’ had highlighted the potential for fun gaming experiences to positively influence behaviour.

The game currently is being offered free to selected households in eight regional centres, including Hervey Bay and Bundaberg, as part of the State Government’s new Energy Savvy Families Program.

“Based on the success of the program, there is evidence to suggest that gamified learning can encourage changes in behaviour at a group level,” Dr Mulcahy said.

“This expanded on previous research that focused on how serious games, designed for purposes beyond entertainment, influenced individuals.

“There are many areas where gaming technology could help whole households to adjust their habits for social good and wellbeing, such as stopping mobile phone use while driving and quitting smoking when pregnant.”

Dr Mulcahy’s research into digital marketing and consumer behaviour was used by Brisbane’s sustainability agency CitySmart and research partner QUT in designing and evaluating the ‘Reduce Your Juice’ program.

The app works by helping people adjust three simple habits, including washing clothes in cold water, that have a big impact on their energy consumption.

“On average, households who played the digital game together in the pilot research project saved an average of $220 on their annual electricity bill and reduced energy consumption by more than 12 percent,” Dr Mulcahy said.

“It appears that sharing a fun, simple gaming experience helps to start conversations between family members and housemates, and motivates them to adopt positive change.”

Dr Mulcahy said research into this app also provided new insight into how social marketers could use technology to assist low-income consumers, a market segment that was often neglected in marketing research.

 — Clare McKay

USC Lecturer in Marketing Dr Rory Mulcahy

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