Over the past few years games have become a serious business. The traditional gaming industry is worth billions with some online games having more players than the population of many European countries. The average gamer is no longer a teenager playing World of Warcraft, it is a woman aged 35 to 55 playing Candy Crush Saga, and this means that games have become more social. Many games are now linked to social media, with an offer of Scrabble via Facebook being the new 'let's meet for coffee'. Many companies have known for ages that games are a good way of engaging customers, from the 'guess the number of sweets in the jar' of the Victorian shopkeeper to the 'invent a new flavour' competition from a well known crisp manufacturer. Games provid
e a new level of engagement, a sense of fun and shared space between retailer and customer that overcomes asymmetry and engenders trust.

Around ten years ago these games were put on a more formal footing with the coining of the term 'gamification' to describe the use of game techniques and theory in non-game situations. This new discipline has it’s own norms and techniques, with the building blocks being points, badges and leader boards. There is a clear overlap between gamification, loyalty schemes and competitions but the main element is the interaction between players. In competitions the interaction is normally between customer and retailer, but with gamification there is competition between customers and the link with social media can intensify this resulting in the development of gamified communities.

So how does this work for the water sector? There has been little use of gamification for water. We believe that there is huge potential especially in areas like water efficiency and sewerage, where new metering and sensor technology could enable the allocation of points leading to badges and leader boards for households or communities, and this could be communicated via social media and linked to incentives.

Waterwise held ‘Gamifying Water’ in September 2014, a national event bringing together key thinkers in water efficiency to help shape the future application of these new approaches in the water sector. Waterwise and WRc are running a project with a number of UK water companies to identify how gamification could work for them, and to pilot some approaches. Waterwise have also teamed up with Leaderboarded to bring a monthly leader board of ‘water brands social media influence’, an example of gamification in action.

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