Increasing energy consumption and growing pollutant emissions speak volumes about the environmental challenges in various countries and regions. As one of the fastest-developing countries, China has been facing a serious environmental crisis, with many parts of the country constantly shrouded in a heavy haze. In order to improve the public’s pro-environmental awareness and encourage people to take action to contribute to energy conservation and emissions reduction, Ant Forest, a gamified participatory communication program, was launched on the top mobile payment service Alipay. This innovative approach links people’s low-carbon lifestyles with afforestation and haze control in the real world through virtual gaming experiences. This case study explains the working mechanism of Ant Forest in pro-environmental communication and investigates its effectiveness in motivating the public to engage in pro-environmental activities. Focus groups and interviews were adopted in this study to collect qualitative data. The results indicate that Ant Forest plays an encouraging role in Chinese users’ pro-environmental awareness and behaviors, but improvements in user experiences are still needed in some aspects. By introducing the haze problem in China and the practice of gamified participatory pro-environmental communication, this paper is expected to provide inspiration and reference for future efforts to promote public participation in environmental protection.
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