Letter of Intent
Estimated Amount to be requested from the CSF: 
Letter of Intent: 

More than ever, the onus is on individuals to identify and solve the sustainability challenges we face, while solutions to environmental problems will continue to be interdisciplinary and complex. We therefore need ways to integrate technological, economic, and social expertise across all disciplines, and gather the attention and ingenuity of all people. We believe that web or app-based games have a unique and enormous potential to help address this need across diverse user groups and geographic areas. Games offer an efficient package to educate and promote long-term sustainable behaviors, and can reach broad audiences. They are also interactive and fun, offering an alternative to a “doom-and-gloom” approach that can lead to apathy for conservation and sustainability. When played by large groups, games offer a pathway for individuals to collectivize not only their actions, but also their awareness of and attention to problems; that collective focus is a powerful source of long-term solutions. This is our vision.

Most app or web-based games are developed with one goal: to get many people to buy it. Games around social change have other goals, including delivering information, connecting groups, or encouraging new behaviors. Knowledge of how to design these kinds of games is not currently well developed, and needs to draw information from the fields of psychology, game science, computing, education, and conservation. Furthermore, for games to be impactful requires not only that people play them, but also that the design is tailored with producing certain outcomes. These potential outcomes are diverse and could include educational metrics (e.g., player knowledge about climate change), conservation outcomes (e.g., reduced water use in a dorm), or long-term behavioral change (e.g., increased bussing or biking).

Our proposed project is to conduct a feasibility and design study for an app-based (or mobile-friendly website) environmental challenge game that educates incoming student cohorts about sustainable practices on and around the UW campus. The challenge game that we envision will orient new students to the sustainability resources in their new community, and create incentives and rewards (tangible and otherwise) for taking actions and adopting behaviors that conserve resources. We believe a temporary game or challenge will be most impactful, but the end goal is to influence behavior during the entire time a student is at UW.

Although we have the knowledge and technological capacity to create a game right away, gaming and computer science professionals agree that a feasibility study that includes some creation of prototypes are critical to improving player participation and outcomes. Design options for games are vast, and even slight differences may propel a game to widely-played success or relegate it to obscurity; we are also still at the frontier of understanding what motivates people to play a game with sustainability outcomes. Furthermore, a feasibility study will allow outreach and pre-collaborations with other sustainability efforts across campus (e.g., Earth Day events), programs that could contribute expertise (e.g., Human Centered Design and Engineering), and local businesses. The point of a feasibility study is to take advantage of the creative potential on campus to explore and develop options that would best engage new students; however, some of our prospective design ideas include:

  • A weeklong carbon reduction challenge between University of Washington and Washington State University (or UW Seattle, Bothell, and Tacoma campuses)
  • A series of challenge-based activities that students can engage in for incentives or rewards at local and campus businesses
  • A competitive scavenger hunt during Dawg Daze that orients students to campus sustainability options and needs

The feasibility study will consist of meeting four objectives: 1) a review of existing environmental games or challenges (digital or otherwise), 2) a weekend-long Game Jam to engage students and staff across campus in creating multiple game prototypes, 3) multiple student focus groups or surveys to gain feedback on the game prototypes, and 4) creation of a formal business plan to develop and implement a final game design in a future project. The business plan will include recommendations for optimal designs based on the Game Jam and student focus groups, a timeline to implement a game within the UW academic year, projected costs, and how success of the challenge would be measured. Results of outreach with campus groups, departments, and the business community would be integrated into the business plan as well.

The feasibility study will be led by an enthusiastic and highly capable team. Lauren Kuehne is a Research Scientist at the School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences, who has been fascinated with the potential for gaming applications to environmental problems and has been developing this idea for many years. Rachel Lee is a graduate student at the Information School as well as a professional artist. William Chen is a graduate student in the Quantitative Ecology and Resource Management Program, who is also deeply involved in innovative science communication. Rachel and William were both part of the 2015 UW team that developed a nationally recognized climate change board game, “AdaptNation”. All three project leads are part of the EarthGames (https://earthgames.org/) group at UW, which supports students in developing environmentally-based games. The project leads will bring their collective expertise in communication, design, research, and project management to meet objectives and create deliverables.

We believe the University of Washington is an ideal place to develop this innovative concept. Regionally, we have access to immense expertise in computing and game design, as well as experts in relevant fields of psychology, education, and engineering. UW is also well recognized for sustainability efforts across many different programs. We believe that students, faculty, and staff would be eager to participate in designing, developing, and (ultimately) participating in an innovative sustainability challenge, which could easily serve as a model for other university campuses.

Contact Information
Primary Contact First & Last Name: 
Lauren Kuehne
Full Proposal
This will display after the CSF committee has reviewed and approved your LOI, and after you have received the link to edit your application.
Executive Summary: 

It is estimated that more than 1.2 billion people around the world play games worldwide; in the US 49% of people play games using consoles, websites, or portable devices (Duggan 2015). Games can be used for many purposes other than profit, however, and organizations like Games for Change (http://www.gamesforchange.org/) and UW’s own Earthgames (https://earthgames.org/) support development of games for purposes of education, awareness, and social change (Mitchel and Savill-Smith 2004, Baranowski et al. 2008, Thompson 2012). If well designed, games can translate to real-world knowledge and behavior change. For example, the Facebook game “Half the Sky” has attracted more than 1.3 million players who – by playing – have generated $500K in donations toward alleviating oppression for women and girls around the world (Dasgupta et al. 2012).

Our project assesses feasibility and design for games to encourage sustainable actions by students throughout their tenure at UW. The project will accomplish four objectives: 1) review of existing environmental games or challenges, 2) hold a "Game Jam" to engage students and staff across campus in creating multiple game prototypes, 3) conduct an online student survey to gain feedback on sustainability concerns and technology/gaming use, and 4) create a formal business plan to develop and implement a final game design in a future project.

The environmental problem we seek to address is how to engage with large numbers of individuals to take actions that reduce use of resources and improve their knowledge and actions related to sustainability and conservation. We believe that web or app-based games have a unique and enormous potential to help address this need across diverse demographics. Games offer an efficient package to present information; they are also interactive and fun, offering an alternative to a “doom-and-gloom” approach that can lead to apathy for conservation and sustainability.

The proposed total cost for the project is $6,868.00, and would entail working with multiple departments and campus services. We would work closely with UW Sustainability to incorporate existing sustainability and education efforts. We have consulted with First Year Programs about the project and made a plan to keep them apprised of progress, but determined that Housing and Food Services (ie, residence hall programs and leadership) may be a better avenue for a game to reach a large number of incoming students. We would seek to work closely with and gain considerable feedback from them as part of a feasibility study. The School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences (SAFS) has agreed to physically host the Game Jam and provide financial management.

Our project team is a Research Scientist (SAFS) and two graduate students (Quantitative Ecology and Resource Management Program, Communications Program) who have substantial experience in research, innovative science communication, art, project management and environmental game development. All three project leads are part of EarthGames at UW, which supports students in developing environmentally-based games.

Total amount requested from the CSF: 
$6 868
This funding request is a: 
ItemCost per ItemQuantityTotal Cost
Research staff project manager$30/hr + 32.4% benefits80 hours$3,177.60
Graduate student project manager(s)$20/hr + 17.9% benefits130 hours$3,065.40
Game Jam awards$50.008$400.00
Survey participant incentives$25.006$150.00
Printing costs of signs and final productsN/AN/A$75.00
Non-CSF Sources: 
VendorItemPurposeQuantityTotal Value
Aqua Verde Restaurantgift certificatesGame Jam awards2$50.00
Recycled Cyclesgift certificatesGame Jam awards2$50.00
CostcoGift certificateGame Jam foodNA$75.00
Starbucks coffeeCoffee/pastriesGame jam foodNA$60.00
Project Completion Total: 
$7 103
Sustainability Impact: 
Environmental Justice
Sustainability Challenge: 

More than ever, the onus is on individuals to identify and solve the sustainability challenges we face, even as solutions to environmental problems will continue to be interdisciplinary and complex. We therefore need ways to integrate technological, economic, and social expertise across all disciplines, and gather the attention and ingenuity of all people. We believe that web or app-based games have a unique and enormous potential to help address this need across diverse user groups and geographic areas.

By conducting a feasibility study for a large-scale sustainability gaming app for the UW campus, we will be synthesizing what is currently known about environmental gaming, engaging the UW community in developing potential game ideas and designs, and examining the limitations and potential of this kind of technology to improve sustainability awareness and actions. This project will not only summarize existing information and attitudes of students related to sustainability and technology, but create a formal business plan around the two best and most feasible game designs and establish a strong foundation to implement a campus-wide challenge.

Explain how the impacts will be measured: 

At the stage of the feasibility study we will not have any measures of environmental impacts, but measures of outreach and education include the number of Game Jam participants (18-20), game prototypes (4-5), student panelists (8), and the number of student respondents for the survey (400).

Education & Outreach: 

As part of the review stage of the project, we will engage with the departments and campus services where a sustainability app could be broadly distributed to incoming students. These include First Year Programs (U101, Student Orientations, and Dawg Daze), Campus Sustainability, and Housing and Food Services. We have already had preliminary meetings with First Year Programs and Campus Sustainability to discuss distribution options and existing sustainability education efforts that could be incorporated into a game; these initial contacts would be followed up in more depth, and also initiated with Housing and Food Services. Our goals in collaborating with these campus services is to understand the dominant sustainability challenges at UW (for emphasis in a gaming app) and decide on the most effective way to reach a broad and large audience of incoming students.

For the Game Jam, our goal is to create student teams with diverse experience and interests including research, computing, design, sustainability, and communication, and we will promote the event broadly. We have identified the following student groups and campus associations to invite to participate in a Game Jam: Engage Science Speakers, ComSciCom Pacific Northwest, Earthgames, the Center for Game Science (student listserve), Human Centered Design and Engineering (student listserve), the College of the Environment (student listserve), UW Green Teams, UW Sustainability Facebook Group, and all of the environmental student groups currently operating at UW (http://green.uw.edu/content/environmental-student-groups). We will promote the event by emailing these groups and/or posting to listserves about the Game Jam, as well as creating posters for distribution across campus (e.g., HUB). Students who participate will have the opportunity to be recognized by the community at the end of the Game Jam for their work, but can also use this as a resume-building opportunity if needed since teams produce a game prototype. We will request feature story coverage of the Game Jam and winning teams by UW Today and UW Daily via a press release prior to the Game Jam. If this is not successful, we will write a blog post about the event for distribution on the Earthgames website, and promote the blog post on social media (Instagram, Twitter, Facebook).

The student survey will be a way to gather information, but also to inform students about the project and potential for use of gaming in sustainability and conservation efforts. The student questionnaire will be designed using the program Qualtrics, for which UW has a license (the questionnaire will be open to anyone but students will have to enter a uw.edu email address to be eligible for the gift card drawing). The questionnaire will survey students by asking what environmental issues are of most importance to them, how they prefer to engage with environmental issues, and their current preferences and use of gaming and apps. We will gain feedback on a draft of the survey from UW Sustainability, and approval from Human Subjects Division before implementing the final survey. Respondents will be thanked (and informed about the results of the drawing) one week after the survey has closed; in that thank you we will include additional information about the feasibility study and a link to the Vimeo channel with the Game Jam videos. Our team has experience using Qualtrics to conduct multiple surveys where results have been published in peer-reviewed publications (Mims et al. 2016, Kuehne et al. 2016); we expect that an open survey distributed to UW students with a gift card drawing incentive will generate at least 400 responses, and this is our goal. We will distribute the survey through the same channels used to recruit Game Jam participants as well as requesting approval to post flyers about the survey in all of the residence halls. On completing the survey, students will also be given a link that they can share with other students to further promote the project and survey.

Student Involvement: 

This project team includes two graduate students, who will help implement all of the major project components including the comprehensive literature and gaming review (Table 1), organizing and holding the Game Jam, creating a student survey, and creation of the final formal business plan.

The Game Jam will be an opportunity for substantial student involvement. Our target for participation in the Game Jam is 5 teams (18-20 students); we anticipate some faculty or staff will participate as well. We will also recruit 8 students (not Game Jam participants) as panelists to judge entries. The Game Jam will be held over a weekend. Students are matched to form teams that (ideally) have diverse skills and experiences; teams work together over the weekend to design a gaming app around the theme of engaging and encouraging students to adopt specific actions that reduce use of campus resources and/or introduce students to campus sustainability information. We will ask teams to include incentives that students can earn into their game design, and provide a list of possible incentives that have been used by campus programs in the past with success (e.g., custom buttons, patches, t-shirts, food or coffee). Although not required, we will encourage teams to consider using existing UW Sustainability information and resources in game designs; these include features on the UW Sustainability website such as “A Century of Sustainability”, the campus sustainability map, or the “Sqwatch” mascot as a character.

Teams will be asked to develop a game design and prototype over the weekend using the skills within their group (the three project leaders will also provide technical and design support to teams as much as possible). Teams will also create a 1-2 minute video about their game (e.g., see video for the game “AdaptNationhttps://vimeo.com/141361531) for judging by the selected student panelists, who will be asked to score games based on criteria including creativity, design, and feasibility in implementing the game at UW. An awards ceremony to distribute prizes to the first, second, and third place entries will be held the following weekend.

Lastly, we will involve a large number of students through an online survey (Qualtrics program, UW license) that we will create related to technology use, gaming, and sustainability. The goal of this portion of the project is to gather information from approximately 400 UW student respondents; in addition to being offered an incentive for completing the survey, in a thank you at the end of the survey respondents will be invited to view the videos created during the Game Jam and learn more about the feasibility study and project goals.

TaskTimeframeEstimated Completion Date
Literature and game review2 months9/30/2017
Recruit student participants and panelists for Game Jam1 month9/30/2017
Hold Game Jam and awards ceremony2 weeks10/31/2017
Develop student questionnaire/Human Subjects Division approval1 month10/31/2017
Questionnaire open to students, invitations and reminders3 weeks11/30/2017
Hold drawing for survey, thank respondents2 weeks12/15/2017
Synthesize all results into formal business plan for top 2 designs6 weeks1/31/2018
Amount Awarded: 
Potential Funding Reductions: 
With a 5% and 10% reductions, there would be no substantial change in the project structure; we would implement all parts but reduce the scope somewhat at each stage. For example, we would expend less time and resources toward promoting the Game Jam with the result that there might be 1-2 fewer teams, or spend less time on the comprehensive literature and game review. At a 20% cut, we would not do a Game Jam (project component #2). Although this component would be the most effective way to fully harness the creativity and knowledge of the UW community, some elements of that could be achieved instead through interviews and discussions with students in key student groups. These groups would include Earthgames, Green Husky Coalition, Students Expressing Environmental Dedication, UW Sustainability as well as relevant campus services (Housing and Food Services, First-Year Programs) about their ideas for possible game designs that would be well received in the student community.
Project Longevity: 

The feasibility study and all intended products (game prototypes and formal business plan) will be completed within the project timeline without a need for long term management and maintenance.

Project status: