To build a website, apps, to fill them with relevant content, to launch them and run some sort of organization around this isn't exactly easy, but we can no doubt manage that. The crux with this idea is to do this in such a way so that enough users are attracted and retained over time. So to reach our goal it is key that we understand the target audience. Allow me a few thoughts around what I believe about our future users, and what motivates them.
Apparently there are people who would like to spend time and money on improving society. I know, because I count myself in and I know many others. If you look at Maslow's hierarchy of needs (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maslow%27s_hierarchy_of_needs), I'd think that what drives us is self-actualization, level five. We already have a pretty stable life on all the underlaying levels, but feel a need to do what we have a potential to do.
It is of course attractive to reach more people on level five. If we're good, we might engage them to channel their energy our way. There aren't terribly many in this category, however, so we need to extend our search. To reach people struggling on the lowest two levels is most likely futile. This is true even in those cases where the issues they are fighting are due to the climate. Luckily, there aren't very many people on these levels in the western world. So the broad categories to target are the ones who are seeking "love, belonging, friendship, esteem, power".
I am certainly not alone in having done this analysis. I'd guess a marketing education program passes this point somewhere the first week. Another categorization from marketing is the kind of message you use. You could use rational arguments. I expect that should never be a problem for our cause. Or you can play on feelings. One marketing manager names (in swedish, https://www.hemsida24.se/2016/09/13/7-kraftfulla-k%C3%A4nslor-framg%C3%A5ngsrik-marknadsf%C3%B6ring-m%C3%A5ste-inkludera-33357990) seven feelings that often occur and are combined in marketing:
I think that in our project, we have ample possibilities for leveraging them all. I believe the more of them we can weave into the gameplay experience, the stronger it could get.
Fundamental pillars in the climate game
+ Mission, level
Today, a lot of people feel that it would be a sacrifice to skip a trip to Thailand. It wasn't like that 25 years ago. So a displacement has happened during these years, a displacement in our collective consciousness. This displacement has happened slowly and gradually. The same kind of displacement can of course happen in the reverse direction. Through an evolving and repeated exposure to new thoughts and ideals, mountains can be moved. And populations.
In order to break old habits and create new ones, one have to get outside one's habitual patterns. This costs energy, and therefore we have an inner resistance to change. To overcome the threshold to a possible change, we need to raise a sufficiently strong inner energy within the target. Anger, belonging, compassion, etc are good sources of energy. A particularly efficient mixture is what we call a challenge, like "could you manage without meat for a week?". The challenge contains a little anger, a little fear, a little surprise and there needs to be some sort of reward for anyone who finishes the challenge. It mustn't be too hard, that only gives disgust. It mustn't be too easy, that feels like a waste of time and the sense of accomplishment is lost (http://www.phrasemix.com/phrases/feel-a-sense-of-accomplishment). Therefore I believe it's important to have levels in the missions. Even so, I believe it may be a good thing to occasionally see missions that are too hard or too easy. It gives a sense of where one is in one's climate career. "I'm way past that level", or a mental preparation for things laying ahead.
Levels improve the possibility to find reasonable suggestions for missions, and increases the pride/joy for finishing missions by the good feeling associated by a level up event. To further boost the feeling of accomplishment when clearing a level, the levels can be made to look and feel different, e.g. by giving they varying themes. Both with respect to a level's area (energy, transport, food, ...) as well as regarding context (me at home, my family, work/school, spare time activities, economy, social media, ...). It should be possible to level up without having completed all missions on a certain level. This is to ensure nobody gets stuck on a level just because there is one or a couple of things the player can't (imagine) doing.
The missions should ideally be very disparate, to cover all feelings. Missions with elements of "negative" feelings should be coupled with a "positive" one. For example fear with joy or humor. Or sorrow with belonging. Missions that are founded in rational actions should have a link or explanation so that anyone who'd like to understand more or criticize a mission can see the reasoning or any calculations behind. Some missions should appeal to other human sides than the rational. A mission might for example be to write a song or a rhyme, have a climate coffee with a fried or arrange a party with a climate theme.
I think it gets considerably more fun and more challenging to choose missions if the choice has an element of lottery/kinder egg. Players do choose their missions, byt the information available in the choice situation is a highly nebulous hint at what it might be about. Perhaps blue missions are about food, and a number "4" might indicate that it's a relatively easy one. Then the player has to open it up and look at the details. It is certainly possible tro decline a mission if it really isn't suitable, but this way the player is challenged to consider even such missions that he or she might never have opened otherwise. In the long run this becomes a process of acclimatization. The thought becomes normal.
Missions should have an associated deadline. Some missions are about holding out until the deadline, e.g. staying off meat for a week. Or you have to accomplish something within the deadline, e.g. talk to your bank about fossil divestment within a month. A particular kind of missions, which has no associated deadline is what I call a lifestyle choice. They apply from now until further notice.
+ Lifestyle, pin
A lifestyle choice may be to become a vegetarian, never fly to Thailand or only purchase green electricity. They have great value, and the lifestyle choices a player has made should definitely be clearly visible, perhaps as a pin? Because many of these steps might be perceived as major changes and perhaps sacrifices, we should be careful with listing too many of them that the user hasn't yet accepted at any one time. It could easily be too much for a player to realize how much more lies ahead, and may cause aversion for players with a long climate career ahead of them. Unfortunately that applies to most of us.
Lifestyle choices should have a connection to which missions that are (not) displayed. I mean if you accepted "vegetarianism" as a lifestyle choice, you don't need to see the mission "stay off meat for a week". It may not be trivial to get all such connections into the game, however.
+ Review, avatar
Now and then during the gameplay, a review should appear. Maybe every time the player reaches a new level? A review is a comprehensive check of the player's lifestyle. There may be a few questions, but perhaps some answers might come from lifestyle choices made or perhaps through some of the missions finished. Finally a view is presented of how climate smart the player is and how far in the climate career he has come. Depending on the results, an suitable avatar is awarded.
Apart from missions, I strongly believe that the game should have a section for recommendations. Where players can add tips and ideas for climate smart solutions to all kinds of everyday problems. E.g. restaurants with good vegetarian options, carpenters that work with green methods and materials, banks with good competencies in climate smart investments, which app to download in order to get around Berlin in a climate smart way. There is great potential in this. Both to become the place that everyone goes to in order to find climate smart solutions, and also to be the marketplace where companies that provide these services and products would want to be displayed.
To publish news in the game is also a cornerstone. These news items will show how much that's really happening in the climate sphere. On top of that, the news flow quickly turns into a need. TV news live on exactly the same kind of craving that makes us want to watch the next episode of Game of Thones, or any sitcom. The news provides know this very well, it was one of them that told me. Further more, news make the game even more the go to place for keeping track of what's going on in the climate sphere. For engineer-types, this sort of thing is irresistible ;-)
Incoming news is also a perfect reason for an app to seek the player's attention a couple of times a day, and display one of those little red circles with a number inside. They make it hard to resist opening up the app with regular intervals.
Essential for feeling as a community member rather than a customer is that players are able to affect the content of the game. To be a member increases the identification significantly, which is why lots of consumer businesses spend a great deal of effort to fill our wallets with membership cards. A very tangible way to make a player feel as member is to let him create and curate the content in the game. To let users themselves author missions, recommendations, link to news, invent possible lifestyle choices, etc also solves the problem with finding enough authors that can invent suitable proposals, and helps finding things that is suitable in environments (countries, personality types, economic layers) where we might not have recruited authors otherwise.
To let players author proposals will clearly also give us some headaches.We may safely assume the quality will vary significantly. Some players might come up with proposals which aren't very well thought through when it comes to the climate or environment. I could even imagine some companies filing proposals that would benefit the company more than the climate. Therefore we'd need a mechanism for selecting the best proposals, ever improving them and remove outdated content. This too can be done by the community, through voting. You could let all users continuously vote for the best proposals. The more votes a proposal has, the better chance it has at getting presented for additional users.
In ordet to ensure the content gets good, even with voting, I'd think more experienced players with higher level should have stronger voting power than newcomers. Actually, it's probably best to keep players on lower levels completely out of the proposals and voting loop. Maybe only players on level 4 and above are able to add missions, news etc and start voting.
Anyone who adds missions, news, recommendations, etc. are rewarded with points for this work. Home many points depends on how many votes the proposal receives. E.g. 1 point for 20 votes, 2 for 40 votes, 3 for 80, etc. To make it clear: it does not matter how climate smart the player is. Points are not awarded for being climate smart. Points are awarded for being active with the climate issue. Everyone, regardless of how far they have come on the climate career can contribute by being active on their level.
Of course we have to leverage social media effectively. Every time a player finishes a mission or declares a new lifestyle choice, there has to be a proposed tweet of facebook update that can be sent with a single click. We should not forget that FB and twitter aren't the only social channels around, especially for the younger audience. It must of course be as easy to share an interesting news link or recommendation.
I also think we should have basic social functions built-in to the game itself. Players should be able to add a picture of themselves, link to friends, write short messages to them. Of course all finished missions, pins and lifestyle choices should be displayed on each player's profile page. Maybe level and score as well.
+ Fun and varied
It has to be fun to use the site and apps. The content has to have a certain degree of humor. The graphical appearance should associate more to a game than todo-list, more DuoLingo than your bank app. The appearnce should vary a bit from one time to another, so that the app feels alive. From time to time, the app should display unexpected graphical effect or messages, e.g. that today it's exactly one year ago since you started using this app.