From CS 160 Fall 2011
Project: The Race for Effeciency
Target User Group
Target user group would be individuals who most importantly want to learn how to maximize energy efficiency or efficiency in general, and learn about the benefits and shortcomings of alternative energy sources. Other important but secondary qualities are an enjoyment of video games in general and willingness to user/access to their tablet every day.
The problem is that while a good deal of individuals may already know about several kinds of alternative energy, they only understand the benefits and downfalls in passing, or their knowledge is not grounded in practice or recent events. One example is how ethanol at one point seemed to be the future of car fuel in the United States, as a result of commercials and a news frenzy some years ago, but currently no longer seems to be the case. Simply informing individuals who lack or have inaccurate information in this regard only puts them back where they started - in some time will need another lesson. However, a game can not only teach users about alternative energy, it can give them a means to interact with them in a more memorable and meaningful way.
Problem Context and Forces
The analysis section should give more background for the problem. What aspects of the situation might influence the problem solution? Think about location, time, environmental factors etc. Then think about aspects of the user group, their education, available time, motivation, values etc. What related or complementary solutions exist already?
Knowledge of alternative energy is ultimately not very meaningful or impactful on someone's life except in select situations (a vote coming up on the issue). This stems from the fact that alternative energy sources aren't readily available for many individuals, or they are simply beyond individuals' means. In addition, this kind of information seldom comes to people who do aren't students, or just don't have a interest in learning about alternative energy. However, many individuals are interested in learning about alternative energy, because almost everyone agrees the current energy situation is simply not sustainable. The only thing standing in the way of these people learning is a good vehicle - something that they can learn from but not something that requires extreme commitment of them.
Give a very brief sketch (outline) of the kind of solution(s) you are considering. Since your problem has barely been specified and you haven’t done any user interviews, you probably don’t have enough information to make many design choices. So your solution sketch should be very general. This is an excellent place to make use of real sketches (drawings) as well as text.
Create a game, Race for Effeciency, where users are challenged to manage some area, a country or some city perhaps, where they are challenged to provide sustainable energy to it. At a given time each day a player is given some set of funds in order to purchase new buildings to power their area, or research new technologies to provide a different kind of energy. This limitation on how much money a player gets creates not only creates and incentive for people to play the game every day, but also allows people who only play occasionally to still remain competitive and have fun, as others may have more time and therefore opportunity to play.
Create a scoring system based on a bunch of criteria - how quickly one gained access to certain energy alternatives, how independent of certain natural resources an area is, and so on. Update an online leaderboard with these scores to not only foster competition and interest in the game but to cause discussion about strategies of energy efficiency and management. "Seasons" of the game could start and end at a pre-determined time, where a winner is declared and everyone's progress is reset, so that every once in a while people who haven't been playing as long get to play a season and start on even ground. This fostering of competition only furthers discussion on the decisions that individuals make in the game - that is, decisions regarding energy choices, our end goal.
Idea inspired by Fate of the World, a favorite game of mine: http://fateoftheworld.net/. Key differences include RfE's focus on solely energy (no explicit political or social focus). In addition, in FotW the player enacts only policy regarding things - there is no base/home building aspect. FotW is also singleplayer with no online leaderboard or metric for how well you've performed in a given scenario, and overall does not really evoke commentary in the real world about decisions one makes in game.
Many games also implement a metered income/limited playability per day. See:
Kingdom of Loathing: http://www3.kingdomofloathing.com/login.php?loginid=eebf114f30a548c8adcf6df46ea26015
and many others.