Abstract Details

EnergyOpolis: A Serious Game For Promoting Energy Sustainability Awareness

This paper describes the current design and development of a serious game to promote energy sustainability awareness among high-school and college students. The game considers the context of the new Mexican energy market, where renewable energy is competing with a now-decreasing state-controlled energy monopoly. The problem statement describes the need to convey the energy sustainability concept to citizens, to foster the energy transition supported by a holistic national policy. The research questions section will be updated to contain research variables and testable hypotheses for the project. The approach describes the methodology used to design the serious game, including the instructional design for the desired attitudinal change. The future work section includes the next steps in this research project.


energy efficiency; serious games; sustainability

Problem Statement

Video games are potentially an effective pedagogical resource. They can reach large audiences in different countries, as shown by Mayo (2009) and combine a wide range of concepts in an appealing way.

Energy sustainability is a multi-dimensional concept, as per Beynaghi et. al. (2016), that includes strategies for energy conservation, generation with renewable sources, and links with other natural resources like water. Numerous games have been proposed, mainly by universities, to foster its assimilation. However, most of the games are in English, while Spanish-speaking countries, particularly in Latin America, are going through a phase of the energy transition. These countries require skilled human resources and population awareness to make informed decisions about energy policies.

Research Questions

  • How much a mobile serious game favorably impacts energy sustainability awareness and reduces energy consumption among Mexican citizens?
  • How much a mobile serious game empowers citizens to make better decisions about energy policy at the local and national level?
  • What are the positive and negative health and social effects of using a mobile serious game to create energy sustainability awareness among Mexican students?
  • What scenarios could jeopardize the use of a mobile serious game, among Mexican citizens, or imperil the creation of awareness? This information is central for future iterations of the game.


The main objective of this project is to create a videogame for mobiles to foster energy sustainability awareness and the appropriation of concepts related to energy grids. The target audience are Spanish-speaking students from 16 to 20 years, who are finishing high-schools or are at early stages of the bachelor in Energy or Environmental Engineering.

The serious game contains three game modes or missions, unlocked as the user progresses. The first game mode will help the user to take informed decisions at the household level to increase energy efficiency while staying on budget; the second game mode will help the user reconcile the different energy providers available in their community while keeping it powered, economical and sustainable; the third game mode will help the user perceive how national policies, as well as offer and demand, affect the prices and availability of energy.

A fourth game mode, still being internally discussed, would allow the players to devise their own scenarios to be solved on one of the other three game modes.

As mentioned above, there are few games in Spanish that tackle energy sustainability. “Island 100%” is one of them, by allowing the user to choose renewable sources to supply energy to a community. However, the game proposed in this paper considers as well energy efficiency measures, and tackles energy sustainability at a household and community level.

Instructional Design

According to the Virginia Tech School of Education (2003) the purpose of instructional design is to decide what content it is important for the user to learn and how to present the content in such a way that the user can better benefit from it.

For this work, the systematic approach model of instructional design proposed by Dick and Carey (2001) will be used, as its cyclic development fits better our understanding of the learning process.

Needs assessment

A needs assessment is performed to identify and measure the gap between the actual status and the desired goals for the project. This gap is called a need to be fulfilled.

We have identified a normative need, to better understand the Mexican new regulatory framework for energy sustainability; an expressed need, as more competition in the energy market makes it harder to make informed decisions.


Instruction analysis

Most of the skills can be considered intellectual. However, the most relevant need is an attitudinal goal: to promote awareness.

The user should already know of the advantages of a free market where competition drives quality and prices. This behaviour is common amongst all groups.


Learner and context analysis

For the purpose of their behavioral and data analysis, end users will play the roles of citizens, civil-servants and policy-makers. Each role is described as follows.

A “citizen” is a user who, while engaged primarily in game mode one, needs to learn about different options inside the household, from changing incandescent to LED lamps and replacing certain appliances, all the way to evaluating the cost/benefit of installing solar panels and other more drastic measures.

A “civil-servant” is a user who, while engaged primarily in game mode two, needs to learn about different competing options to power public services such as street lighting and semaphores, as well as understanding how the different providers interact with each other to keep the community powered at an affordable price and low emissions.

A “policy-maker” is a user who, while engaged primarily in game mode three, needs to learn how national policy regarding free market and energy regulations, alongside with offer, demand, and competition, will affect the availability, sustainability and cost of energy in the whole country, possibly expanding to impact international relations.


Data acquisition and analysis

The project involves a multidisciplinary team, including video game designers, psychologists, and energy experts in technological, economic, environmental, and social aspects. The video game uses an iterative design, that allows creating the videogame by phases and improving it while conducting the proof-of-concept tests. The proof-of-concept tests consider focus groups from three Mexican universities with Spanish-speaking students from 16 to 20 years.


Future work

Once the game is properly implemented, it will be applied alongside other instruments to measure how much exposure to this game improves energy sustainability awareness between experimental and control groups, then we will analyze the acquired data and report our findings.

Ideally, this will be a multi-year multi-region experiment, with a new version of the game launching each year, each containing a new game mode.

The implementation, analysis and reporting will be repeated each year with the new version, providing results of exposure across multiple years for the same experimental and control groups.

Although the Mexican and Latin-American regions are our initial target market, we realize there is a potential to translate the game into additional languages in the future.


This project is a collaboration of the three institutions: Instituto Superior Tecnico in Lisbon, Universidad Autonoma de Baja California, and Universidad de Guadalajara.



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