I am a UX Designer based in Dublin. I have a varied and rich creative background that helps inform my practice - from fine art, marketing, visual design, user experience, and brand strategy. My master’s degree explores more sustainable ways to motivate towards pro-environmental behaviour through a considered, design-led approach to gamification and persuasive design.
The impact of economic and population growth since the industrial era has led to unprecedented increases in greenhouse gas emission or CO2e, which is seen as the main cause of climate change affecting human and natural habitats. However, studies have shown that increasing education and changes to consumption habits through social and technological innovations can help reduce the negative impact.
Gamification is a tool widely used in systems that aim to change behaviours or increase engagement. It does this by drawing on the intrinsic quality of games to bring an element of ‘fun’ to otherwise functional tasks. This study explores how gamified rewards strategies might be used to increase intrinsic motivation towards pro-environmental behaviour. It did this by taking a mixed-method, design-led approach to research which involved user research and definition, an iterative design process and final user testing and analysis.
Studies have found that a ‘one size fits all’ approach to gamification has led to mixed results when testing for effectiveness. This is mostly implemented as points, badges and leaderboards (PBL), which are used to reward and track user performance. However, the PBL strategy fails to recognise how users are motivated by different things, and in different contexts. Collectables are items similar to badges, that can be earned or traded, but live on beyond the initial reward by contributing to in-game goals such as customising an avatar or kitting out a virtual environment. Collectables were identified as a key motivator for Philanthropists, the dominant user type in the Hexad framework for gamification users. They are also the most likely to be engaged in pro-environmental behaviour as their intrinsic goals are around purpose and altruism. The study aimed to identify whether designing gamified applications to suit the needs of philanthropists over a generic approach, might increase intrinsic motivation towards more sustainable behaviour. In doing so it aimed to provide an alternative approach for designers of persuasive pro-environmental systems.
User research and an iterative design process saw the creation of two prototype applications for a pro-environmental habit tracking application. The experiment prototype used a collectables reward strategy where users could earn and trade items for performing tasks, in order to populate a virtual forest. This was compared to a more traditional gamified application that rewarded points and badges, which informed a position on a social leader board. A design system was created to keep both prototypes visually comparable, and game design principles were referenced to enrich the experience of both. A between-groups users test was conducted and found that no increase or decrease in intrinsic motivation between the two applications. This suggests that utilising a gamification strategy that uses collectables instead of, or in addition to, badges, will be no less effective within the context of sustainability. The qualitative analysis confirmed these findings, with an overall positive reaction to the collectables reward strategy. When comparing the impact on intrinsic motivation in philanthropist user types, the study found a rare positive statistical difference in means in favour of the collectable rewards strategy. As philanthropists appear to be a dominant user type in several studies, identifying game elements that meet their needs provide an alternative approach for designers and researchers of gamified pro-environmental systems.