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Power Agent: Playing mission possible

Here is another eco-feedback tool developed by the fine folks of Sweden’s experimental Interactive Institute (the people behind the Power Aware Cord). In the paper  “Evaluation of a pervasive game for domestic energy engagement among teenagers,” authors Anton Gustafsson and Magnus Bång present a mobile phone game called Power Agent, which targets teenagers and their families. The game is designed to both promote an energy-aware lifestyle and influence behaviors associated with energy use.

Power Agent Screen Shot

Screen Shots from Power Agent
Source: http://tii.se/files/ACE_2008.pdf

The basic idea of the game is that players must compete in teams to collectively decrease consumption of household electricity, and in the process, learn how to conserve energy. While the paper has results from only a small sample of players, the game can be scaled up as it is designed to work with networked power meters, which is used by Swedish power companies for tracking consumption among customers. The researchers based a certain amount of this research they had done on a previous game called Powerhouse, which you can read more about in the paper “The PowerHouse: A persuasive computer game designed to raise awareness of domestic energy consumption.”

The game includes specific missions and tips for saving energy, and each morning agents are updated on their progress towards increases energy conservation. Each player has to cooperate with their family as well as with three team members. These teams then compete against a team in another town.  A successful player is characterized as one that is able to persuade all family members to conserve as much electricity as they can during the period a given mission, which was typically between 5pm-10pm.

While this form of indirect feedback is typically found to be less effective than direct feedback, the results of the brief 10-day experiment were able to demonstrate lower levels of consumption during mission times. However, the authors note that agents were also able to displace energy use to non-mission times. Further, energy consumption returned to pre-game levels a few weeks after the game sessions, despite a commitment on the part of participants to stick to new lower-levels of consumption.

The paper details the social side of the game, both in terms of how agents worked with their families and with other agents to decrease energy use. Some participants stated that they would like to play this game again in the future, and that the element of competition in tandem with a good deal of peer pressure was very motivating.


Anton Gustafsson & Magnus Bång. Evaluation of a pervasive game for domestic energy engagement among teenagers. In: Proceedings of the ACM SIGCHI International Conference on Advances in Computer Entertainment Technology (ACE 2008). Second Best Paper Award on ACE 2008. Web: http://tii.se/files/ACE_2008.pdf


M Bang, C Torstensson, C Katzeff. The PowerHouse: A Persuasive Computer Game Designed to Raise Awareness of Domestic Energy Consumption M Bang, C Torstensson, C Katzeff. Lecture Notes in Computer Science, Vol. 3962 (2006), pp. 123-132. Web: http://w3.tii.se/files/ThePowerHouseFinal22Names.pdf

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