SpaceBlasters is the brainchild of Open Mind Gaming, and was developed for the 2013 Imagine Tomorrow Competition at WSU.
The idea behind SpaceBlasters is that games alter behavior, so why not harness that ability?
SpaceBlasters is a simple space shooter game, similar in appearance to Galaga. The pilot of Earth's last defense must shoot enemy aliens before they careen into Earth. It's a very simple game, with only one goal: protect Earth.
The twist with SpaceBlasters is that after you destroy an alien, debris falls toward the Earth. The debris must be collected, else a small amount of damage is dealt to the planet. This debris can be recycled into upgrades for the player's ship, consisting of speed boosts and more powerful guns.
Our experiment used two versions of SpaceBlasters: one where the debris was a crucial mechanic, and one where it was merely aesthetic and did not impact the outcome of the game.
After players tested our game, we placed a plastic bottle outside of the testing room, right next to a recycling bin. We wanted to see if implanting the idea of recycling debris into the heads of our players had any impact.
The results were astounding. When subjects played the non-recycling version of the game, they recycled the bottle 20% of the time. When they played the recycling version, however, 75% of players recycled!
This experiment was entered into the 2013 Imagine Tomorrow competition, where it took 1st Prize in the Behavior category, and won the Most Innovative award. More info about Imagine Tomorrow and the SpaceBlasters team can be found here.