SF-Battle-Save-the-BayWords With Friends, Angry Birds, Foursquare – we love games. But games can do more than just help us pass time waiting for Muni.

While games are often viewed as a distraction from “real” tasks, games can be both entertaining and educational. Gamification is the process of using game thinking to solve problems and engage audiences. Games have already been used as teaching methods to engage people on all kinds of things, such as public safety and disaster preparedness.

Now, gamification is being used to teach people how to Save the Bay. Battle For The Bay, a new interactive trivia game by Save the Bay, takes players through six decades of San Francisco history to defeat historic threats to the bay.

Each decade gives players an intro on why the bay needs saving – as well as your mission. Players start out in the 1960’s battling the Santa Fe Railroad and end up in the present day, where Cargill Inc. wants to develop 1,436 acres of salt ponds in Redwood City that were once wetlands. According to Save the Bay, 90% of San Francisco Bay’s original wetlands have been compromised by development and pollution.

Some of the trivia questions are difficult – like how much did rent in San Francisco increase in the 1990’s (answer: 12.5%); others are easy – like what nickname do San Franciscans frown upon (answer: Frisco). Aside from the fun factor, the game also has a real-world application.

Gamification Can Crowdsource Solutions

We are digging you, Battle for the Bay, because you are actually out to do some good. People like to have fun. And when they are having fun, they share things that they find engaging and informative with their friends through word of mouth and social media.

Have you played Battle for the Bay? What do you think – can gamification get people to participate and interested in civic engagement?