FARGO – A citywide contest designed to encourage residents to improve their energy efficiency was officially kicked off Monday.

Malini Srivastava, one of the leaders of the eFargo effort to win a national prize as the most energy-efficient city, said residents and whole neighborhoods can win prizes but, even if they don't, they'll win by saving money.

For the city itself, the prize is $5 million from the Georgetown University Energy Prize contest. The city has already saved about $3.3 million on energy as of the last tally in November.

The eFargo game, available at eFargo.org, gives players points for doing things such as using cold water to wash clothing or replacing burned-out lightbulbs with LEDs, Srivastava said. There were two ways to score points on Monday, but more will be released each week.

While the game can be played by adults – usually it's adults who buy the lightbulbs – it's clearly oriented toward children. There's a villainous character named Waste-a-Watt, "who thrives on energy waste," that players are supposed to defeat in the game's later stages.

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The eFargo group is also reaching out to K-12 students and working with area schools.

Mayor Tim Mahoney said it was hard to convince adults to wear seat belts, but they started doing so more when their children reminded them. He said he thinks the eFargo game will work the same way with children reminding parents to be more energy efficient.

Fargo is now ranked fourth out of 50 cities competing for the Georgetown prize thanks to the savings it's already achieved.

Srivastava said this next stage of the contest will depend on how well residents do.

On the Web: To play, go to www.eFargo.org and click on the link to the game. And watch out for Waste-a-Watt.