Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Poke-shoot Me Now

In a broad effort to stay both relevant and sensible, I am trying to keep a reluctant eye on Pokemon Go and acknowledge its benefits. The challenge is accepting that it is getting people out walking, rousing depressed people from their illnesses, and luring secluded people into the community. These are all great concepts, of course, but the bigger issue is whether these victories -- exercising, conquering illness, reconnecting with the world -- are diluted and "cheapened" but attaching them to a video game. Are people really achieving a sense of accomplishment associated with exercising if they are not really focused on the exercise, their bodies, or the world around them? Depression is more complex than deep sadness and involves a chemical imbalance in the brain that can't be corrected by a video game. So is this an authentic solution? I have colleagues and acquaintances who swear by the efficacy of Pokemon Go in getting them moving and out into the sunshine; I suppose my question is whether this is really a genuine connection to what makes the sunshine great, or a temporary, shiny object lure. What will happen, for instance, when the video game is no longer novel? Will these people still go outside? I guess time will tell. 

Authenticity aside, I have seen some great examples of the way real-time feedback is increasing awareness of important issues and subsequently improving motivation and productivity in a variety of contexts. This article on How Pokeman Go Relates to Gamification in the Workplace is an interesting, general look at how principles of immediate progress and feedback (ie; in fitness trackers) can prove valuable and effective. This is an authentic experience because you enter your food and fitness into your Fitbit and know immediately your caloric balance for the day. The improvement here is that people didn't necessarily know how many calories are in a Heineken and how much running it takes to burn one off, but now they do and can make changes accordingly. 

I work in construction trade publishing and have seen a marked improvement in building energy reduction thanks to real-time energy consumption technology. Previously, a building would be constructed to meet a series of energy reduction goals and to achieve some kind of environmental rating such as LEED or Living Building Challenge. If the building successfully met all of the requirements of the rating system, it received a nice plaque for the front door and the owner enjoyed the benefit of charging more for rent. 

The trouble was, an important study found that the majority of buildings were not meeting their environmental / energy reduction targets one year to 18 months after occupancy, largely because building occupants were not using the building and its various technologies appropriately. One of the most effective ways of managing building use was installing real-time energy monitoring devices on and throughout buildings so occupants can see precisely how much energy buildings are using and whether their individual contributions to the building environment are effective (they are). This type of technology is revolutionizing building use and reversing a negative trend against energy savings. 

I noticed Lockheed Martin is using a similar tactic to help Americans understand energy use. Its Education, Action, Analytics campaign is bringing every user into the proactive fold, and showing them they do indeed have the power to make a difference. These are all great examples of how gamification, by way of accountability and not by way of diluting reality, can make positive change as a realistic and authentic teaching tool.

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