Could World of Warcraft be Used to Promote Conservation?

With over 11 million players across the globe, a Stanford professor thinks World of Warcraft creators Blizzard Entertainment could harness the power for good by rewarding home energy and water conservation within the game.


Professor Byron Reeves had previously suggested that someone create a MMOG (Massively Multiplayer Online Game) that incorporates smart meter technology, but in a recent interview he discussed the power of applying the concept to World of Warcraft.


Reeves introduced the idea at a Stanford-sponsored climate change conference last year complete with a Sims-like demo video. While a game like this would appeal to casual or non-gamers, an integration into World of Warcraft would target an entire other group.

Including smart meter monitoring in the game would target the competitive spirit in World of Warcraft, but also the aspect of teamwork. In the game, you can’t win unless your whole team wins. So it would be to everyone’s benefit if everyone on the team decided to minimize their energy usage. Reeves notes that these are the goals of the general environmental movement — to get the world to think and act in everyone’s best interests.

Reeves said he believes that for many people the virtual-world motivation to reduce consumption will trump all other motivating factors, like preventing climate change or saving money on utilities.

Of course, you could change your energy usage because you had read all the science about climate change and you knew something about energy usage in the house and you were interested in saving six cents here, a dollar there, two dollars there on your energy bill. But we don’t think that that will be enough motivation at scale for lots of people to get into this. So if you can align that goal with “let’s have some fun, let’s go on a quest, let’s have a team activity, let’s see who can do this better than others, let’s help each other” – all the different features of games that are important. And if we can get that going at the same time as the community value, we might have something special.

What do you think? Could Blizzard listen and make this an option in the game, or will the concept be doomed to productuction by a B-rate developer?

Photo Credit: adactio on Flickr under Creative Commons license.

11 thoughts on “Could World of Warcraft be Used to Promote Conservation?”

  1. World of Warcraft is so massive that can be used for anything you imagine. It's a game that never ends. Even when it about to end Blizzard release another sequence. I love it!

  2. I think wow should be used to encourage people not to believe in make-believe things, such as global warming. Maybe they could create a module with the goal of killing manbearpig and his clueless horde of disciples in order to truly save mankind and the planet.

  3. Eh…. No. This would not work. It’s not very WoW-oriented at all.

    A better idea would be to create some sort of eco-themed wold event for WoW. Rather than it being about energy conservation, it should be about environmental conservation. Planting trees, gardening, or something? Perhaps you could plant corn and make it into goblin fuel!

    In WoW, there is DHETA, an animal activist group. Killing animals in the Borean Tundra results in you being hated by them for a certain amount of time afterwards.

    A vegan vendor would be funny, too.

    I think, though, that there are a lot of environmental themes in WoW. You do a lot of quests to save the environment from pollution and deforestation, etc.

    Perhaps this would work better for sims or second life?

  4. Thats a wierd idea.WoW is already a great game why ruin it with some paln to keep energy alive?Its tecnicley in a midevil time world with magic-where does energy come from anyhow?So again very stupid idea but it sounds pretty neat.

    Yet again it some kinda of plan to stop playing for hours and level by the dinkins 1-4 levels per day or so and few transportation.

  5. This is the most laughable thing I have read in eons. So, while people are spending countless hours playing the game and using REAL energy and utilities to do so, the game is supposedly going to inspire them in the Real World? How well would it fair for the makers if people stopped buying their games in order to cut down on energy costs by not running their computers 12 hours a day with their WoW buddies?

    Seriously… what a JOKE!!!!!!!!!!!

  6. I have to agree with Bud Perry and I appreciate his references in game.

    While it is a nice idea, I honestly do not see it as viable in WoW. Note I am an ex-WoW player (I used to be one of those crazy hardcore gamers), guess what my energy consumption is way down, but that is because I stopped playing. I will not say how many days, hours, minutes, I had playing the game, as honestly I look back and see all that time as somewhat wasted. The only thing I did get out of the game was a handful of friends whom I still talk to.
    Games like WoW are built so that it never really ends, even once you finish all the quests there is more gear for your toon introduced (whether it be earned through instances or PvP), expansions are added (ie Burning Crusade and Wrath of the Lich King), new PvP battlegrounds are added (which getting higher ranks in PvP just requires a ton of time), etc.

    Please note, back when I raided and did high level game content it took a lot of time and consumed a lot of electricity. But that is because of how the game is designed. WoW is designed so that it is difficult, otherwise who would bother playing? Therefore, large amounts of time trying to beat bosses in instances and building strategy correlates with gamers consuming large amounts of electricity running their high end gaming PCs. I therefore do not see by virtue of how WoW is designed that it would be viable for something like an energy consumption meter and reward to work.

    The only energy gamers in WoW think about saving is conserving mana if you are a healer or caster.

  7. I don’t think WoW is the right “environment” for this (pun intended). Wow is quest based and set in a medieval world. Unless the energy savings is of a magical variety, I don’t understand how a player’s character can reduce, reuse or recycle. As for electricity, there are windmills everywhere in Wow, and only the gadget-minded denizens of Ratchet and Gadgetzan seem to know how it is used. Even crystals from the Un’Goro Crater emanate free power. Some quests may be added that could be based on energy savings, but since there are no refrigerators, microwave ovens or televisions in WoW, I really don’t see how relevant the quests would be. I suppose players could cut down on using the blimps of Tirisfal Glade or perhaps the underground subway of Ironforge; that should save some…umm…virtual energy?

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