Punch House at the Boston Cleanweb Hackatho

by ‐ Tags: alternative energy, green living

Last weekend, WegoWise took home both the 1st place and Crowd Favorite prizes at the Boston Cleanweb Hackathon. The event was, by all accounts, awesome, with twenty 
creative teams working non-stop for 29 hours “to create new web applications that address current energy and resource challenges”. 

I was there with Matte and Jed, representing Team WegoWise. We dedicated our weekend to building an energy game from scratch: Michael Tyson’s Punch House.  The idea of making a game evolved during a company brainstorming session, when we decided that we wanted to present data in a way that was completely different than our typical charts and graphs. Plus, if we were going to use up our entire weekend doing this, we really wanted it to be fun.

About the Game
The premise of Michael Tyson’s Punch House is pretty simple. If your electric company is part of the Green Button Data initiative, you upload your home’s electricity usage to get started. You’re then paired off against a random opponent whose house falls into the same “weight class” as your own, as determined by your home’s square footage (we figure all of this out automatically). Whoever has the best energy usage during that day wins the match!

During the fight, the intensity of punches depends on the difference in energy use between you and your opponent. So if you’re using half as much energy as your opponent, you might get some uppercuts in, but if you’re about the same, or faring worse, you might only get to throw a few jabs. Your health declines with each punch your opponent lands, until you’re knocked out or the game ends.

You can see your actual energy usage graphed out at the bottom of the screen as the game play moves forward (we had to add some type of familiar visualization in there, or else nobody would believe it was really using energy data!). There’s also a Leaderboard to let you know where your house stand in the overall rankings.

Since we built the game for 15-minute interval data over a 24-hour period, players have a natural way to stay engaged. A player can make changes to decrease their energy consumption today - like remembering to turn off the lights - and they’ll be able to play the next day as a “better” boxer.

Next Steps
After the weekend, we considered abandoning our analytics and benchmarking platform so that we could focus solely on building out Punch House (to be honest, the uppercuts look an awful lot like normal punches at the moment), but in a fit of rationality we decided against it.

team wegowiseIn all seriousness, we’re still focused on building out our platform. But as we grow our platform beyond professionals and try to reach the average apartment-dweller or home-owner, we’re thinking of what those users will find compelling.  We won’t be replacing WegoWise with an arcade game, but our brief foray into game design did convince us that it’s worth being creative in thinking about how to get people engaged with their energy and water data. We have a lot of ideas along these lines, and are looking forward to integrating them into our platform in the future.

Participating in the hackathon was the most fun any of us have had coding in a long time, and the enthusiastic response to our simple prototype game really blew us away! Of course, the nostalgia of the crowd for old 8-bit NES systems and MIDI music probably helped. After the hackathon was over, we added in a feature to let anyone play a random matchup even if you don’t have any data to upload. Really, you should check it out.

-Barun Singh is Founder and CTO of WegoWise