Online game competition ‘Save Ohno’ pushes Brandeis community to greener gains

saving ohno screenshotPhoto/Saving Ohno

The gameplay board in Saving Ohno

If the future great grandchildren of Brandeis students, faculty and staff live in a greener world, they may have a campus competition to thank.

From the start of the fall semester until Oct. 21, nearly 200 Brandeisians participated in Save Ohno, an online campaign aimed at curbing personal energy usage and encouraging sustainability.  

Another pilot competition starts Nov. 1 and pits North quad against Massell.

Save Ohno was conducted through a game on the web. In the game, Ohno, who is supposed to be a user’s great-grandchild, lives in less than hospitable surroundings decades in the future; for example, he’s surrounded by dead vegetation, a polluted lake and fossil-fuel emitting homes, businesses and vehicles.

“It’s actually a bit brown and depressing when you start,” said Brandeis sustainability manager Mary Fischer, who administered Saving Ohno. “But the more action you take in real life to promote sustainability, the more Ohno’s surroundings improve in the game.”

Fischer, along with a team of student volunteers and the Save Ohno staff, devised a list of actions game players could take to earn points in the game and improve Ohno’s world. Among the challenges were: eating a vegan meal, registering to vote, attending a campus sustainability roundtable and signing a Change.org petition with an environmental goal.

Points varied depending on the action – something as basic as recycling netted a user 35 points while registering to vote garnered 3,000.

At Brandeis, 22 teams participated in Save Ohno. The victor – the 11-person team “ExCable+Friends” – collected 234,085 points, narrowly beating out “Green Beans,” which finished with 222,195 points.

As the first place team, members of “ExCable+Friends” all won embroidered Patagonia fleece jackets.

“I’ll be honest, at first I think our group, especially me, was doing this for the sake of competition and to win the jackets,” said Michael Jiang ’18, who’s from Guangzhou, China and double-majors in computer science and economics.

“But eventually we banded together and it started to be about the environment,” added Jiang. A lot of little things added up. Everything from using less plastic products to saving water and turning out the lights.”

Fischer, for her part, was delighted with the level of activity. She was also surprised by the diversity of Saving Ohno competitors. The 22 groups included students of all class years, faculty, staff and student-athletes, plus an even distribution of students who study the arts, sciences, humanities and social sciences.

“The level of engagement was remarkable,” said Fischer. “This is the most diverse group of people we’ve ever had in a campus sustainability competition, all rallying around a fun challenge that had serious underlying purpose.”

While the competition was brief, Jiang said he thinks his behavioral changes will be permanent.

“There’s more you can do to conserve than you even realize,” said Jiang. “Even though Save Ohno is over, I don’t think my behavior in the way I try to lower my carbon footprint will change.”

Students can have the chance to bring Save Ohno to campus on a more permanent basis if they choose to apply for a BSF grant.

Categories: General, Science and Technology, Student Life

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