I’ve been noticing a trend recently among car makers who are implementing game play in their products to change otherwise ingrained behavioral patterns. Note the following sequence of events:
First, a week ago, I was forwarded an email from my father which had a link to The Fun Theory. This is VW’s site wherein they try to get people to recycle more, or clean up their refuse, or even, god forbid, take the stairs occasionally. Here are the 3 videos from their site which are all delightfully addictive.
Next, I was watching TV when I spotted a commercial featuring a the new 2010 Ford Fusion. I’m unable to find the commercial, but below is a nice demo video. Notice around 45 seconds in, how increasing your MPG allows you to magically grow a tree or a bush or whatever that plant is. If driven in Florida, it will even sprout oranges.
The last component of this trifecta appeared before me in a brief apparition last night when I saw a commercial for the new Honda Insight Hybrid with “Eco” mode. The Honda site has a nice, albeit un-embeddable video which can be viewed here. Honda goes a few steps further than Ford and will notify you via 3 different meters how efficiently you are driving: 1) a color gradient which shifts from green to blue as your MPG decreases, 2) a bar graph which will tell you if you are braking too hard or accelerating too quickly, and 3) surprise, surprise, plants that bloom when you are being efficient.
The true testament to whether these are gimmicks or not will be whether or not the 2011 editions of these cars will have the same notifications. I personally think that Honda has the right idea with the acceleration/braking bar graph and the color gradient…I just think a plant growing is too cheesy to be effective. Honestly, a better implementation of game play would be to set up target MPG’s and then see if you can surpass it with each tank of gas. Ford/Honda could even have a website dedicated to high scores – it would be an arcade game for adults! Let’s be honest, who wouldn’t drive like an 80 year old woman with cataracts in order to conserve gas then?