© 2019 by Pinar Ceyhan


Tools / Adobe CS6, SPSS, HTML / CSS / MySQL    Role / Literature Review, Information Architecture and Wireframes, Data Collection    Team / Joey J. Lee, Pinar Ceyhan, William Jordan-Cooley, Woonhee Sung, Brian Musti Welkin

The literature on climate change education recommends social, accessible action-oriented learning that is specifically designed to resonate with a target audience’s values and worldview. Greenify is a real-world action game designed to teach adult learners about climate change and motivate informed action. A pilot study suggests that the game fostered the creation of peer-generated user content, motivated informed action, created positive pressure, and was perceived as a fun and engaging experience.

Upon designing and developing a working prototype, a formative assessment was conducted using Design-Based Research (DBR) methods (Design-Based Research Collective [DBRC], 2003). This served two primary purposes: (1) to explore the feasibility and potential value of a social, crowdsourced, gamification-based system for climate change education and (2) to iteratively develop and test such a system. The purpose of the study was to evaluate certain design features of a working prototype that can later guide to design and develop a system; therefore, the generalizability of results is limited.

Research Questions:

Research Question 1: Can Greenify foster the generation of messages that are accessible and relevant to the community of users?

Research Question 2: Can Greenify create positive peer pressure on climate change issues?

Research Question 3: Can Greenify promote meaningful action?


Research Question 4: Do players perceive Greenify as a fun, engaging game experience?

Research Design:

26 adults from two graduate-level courses at a large private university in New York were selected as part of a convenience sample.

Questions included basic knowledge about climate change, and 7-point likert scale questions exploring attitudes and behaviors.

Participation in the 6 week long study was optional and had no bearing on grades.

For 6 weeks participants voluntarily used the Greenify website to connect with each other online, take on challenges, create content, and educate themselves on climate change.

Additionally, in-game logs recorded various player data related to gameplay.

Questions included basic knowledge about climate change, 7-point likert

scale questions exploring attitudes and behaviors, and different from pre-survey questions about the Greenify design and what players perceived as its impacts on

their behaviors, attitudes, and knowledge.

Semistructured interviews were administered to six students, focusing on the positive and negative aspects of the experience, and the effects of the game on their behavior and what they learned. The six interview respondents were chosen based upon their self-reported level of prior climate change knowledge: two participants with high knowledge, two with medium, and two with low.






When creating a working prototype four main goals are identified. Based upon these key goals, a number of design features were conceived. The four main goals and the corresponding design features created to address these goals are explained below:

Goal 1: Accessibility and Relevance: An effective climate change education strategy needs to provide information that users feel is relevant to their values and worldview.

Features: The Greenify system seeks to harness this generative power to create messages on climate change that can appeal to the enormous variability of worldview and values. This is accomplished by allowing and motivating players to populate the site with user-generated content. The intended result is a crowdsourced, collective knowledge-sharing environment populated with messages that can speak to and inspire a diverse audience.

Goal 2: Positive Peer Pressure: Leverage normative and committing power of social groups.

Features: Several design features were developed in order to create a culture and community that value discussions about climate change and make sharing knowledge—and taking action—a socially commendable thing to do. These features include the ability to see recent activity by other users in a news-feed format, a publicly viewable profile and status, and the ability to show appreciation and give positive feedback

Goal 3: Informed Action: Practical everyday steps for making a difference.

Features:The Greenify system challenges players to complete real-world missions in four categories: personal (e.g., choosing green product choices), energy (e.g., transportation choices), resources (e.g., usage of water and electricity), and communication (e.g., debating issues and sharing knowledge with others).

Goal 4: Fun, Engaging Game Experience

Features: The Greenify system was designed with game elements such as the ability to earn points for completing and creating real-world missions; a leaderboard that displays top scores daily, weekly, and all time; a player profile with progression mechanics; and a page that provides recognition for top-rated content and deeds.

The Greenify Experience: The above design features were integrated into a website with three main sections: Explore, Take Action, and Create. In addition to these core sections, the website features a Recent Activity feed and a Wall of Fame. Players could read three kinds of articles within the Explore section: News, Scientific Concepts, and Stories. In the Take Action section, players could browse and accept real-world missions in four categories: Personal, Resources, Energy, and Communication. Missions were user-generated and varied from practical everyday actions that reduce carbon emissions to missions that involved problem solving or sharing creative ideas to complete. The Create section encouraged players to create new Missions and Explore articles for others.

Main Findings:

1) Content was generated by players in the forms of Missions, Deeds, and Explore articles. In the 6-week period of gameplay, 27 Missions and 44 Explore articles (News, Stories, and Scientific Concepts) were created and read 595 times. Mission completion led to 193 Deeds—anecdotal experience of the activities and personally relevant user stories.


In survey responses, 46.2% of participants agreed that they were far more aware of how their lifestyle and actions impact the environment. When asked whether they believe their actions contribute to global warming and climate change, 88.5% agreed.


By combining general knowledge with specific actions that people could take, Greenify increased personal relevance and accessibility, gave players a sense of meaningful accomplishment, and reduced the feelings of fatalism common to the issue. Furthermore, the missions provided easy, bite-sized actions that helped players overcome the feeling of being overwhelmed when dealing with such a large and complicated issue. Players reported feeling empowered, as they reported a new understanding that individual actions can make a difference. 

2) 61% of players expressed that sharing knowledge, ideas, and deeds within a social network was a very positive and motivating experience. Social interactions (e.g., commenting on others’ missions and deeds) were perceived by most players to be valuable.

65.4% of participants agreed that the peer teaching and learning afforded by Greenify motivated them to want to teach others about climate change more. Survey responses and interviews revealed that some players pointed out the power of collective actions that changed their opinion about the role and impact of individuals.

3) In-game behavior logs revealed that during 6 weeks of gameplay, 27 missions were completed a total of 193 times. 9 Resources missions, including missions that challenged players to reuse bags for shopping purposes and to create homemade eco-friendly cleaning products, were completed (a total of 76 times). 6 Personal missions, including missions to donate unwanted items or to eat organic and vegetarian meals, were completed 51 times. 3 Energy missions, including shutting down the computer when not using it, and choosing to take public transportation to work instead of driving, were completed 32 times. 9 Communication missions, characterized by peer communication-based asks such as debating climate change issues and sharing news, information, and photos, were done 34 times.

In addition to game logs, survey responses indicated that our sample believed Greenify affected their everyday activities. Nearly all participants in the sample (82.6%) reported that Greenify changed their behaviors, with 13.8% reporting a score of strongly agree on 7-point likert scale items.

Notably, likert scale item responses determined that participants at least somewhat agreed in the post-survey that they became more careful about the kinds of foods (61.6%) and personal products (65.4%) they buy because of the issue of climate change (an increase compared with 46.1% and 46.2%, respectively, in the pre-survey). Furthermore, the number of players who reported taking practical steps to curb trans- portation-based emissions rose from 30.8% before playing Greenify to 50.0% after.

4) Importantly, Greenify was viewed as a fun experience for nearly all participants (79.3%). A frequency-based word cloud based on user survey responses for “What do you think of Greenify?” was produced. The most frequently used words were informative, interactive, fun, and actions, followed by practical, social, and engaging. It can be determined that GREENIFY was largely viewed as a fun and engaging experience.