Philanthropic Gaming?

April 28, 2008

From TechCrunch (thanks Bernie):

Akoha, a startup working on a “new type of multiplayer online/offline social game”, has raised $1.9 Million in funding from angel investors. The company won’t release details about the exact nature of their game until this Fall, but they have stated that it was inspired by “elements of social entrepreneurship, massively multiplayer and reality-based games.” As far as we can tell, it will mix user-generated content with casual gaming elements, both online and in the real world (think geo-tagged photos taken on a cell phone). People will play for both fun and charity.

The Akoha site promises “meaningful play” “kuz karma’s contagious.” I’m looking forward to seeing how this shapes up. I just signed up for the beta, in fact.

A librarian friend recently told me that people in her field are talking about how Alternate Reality Gaming can benefit libraries. She was musing on how a local ARG could drive involvement for summer children’s programs.

With ARGs being designed for charity, making an impact at librarian conferences, and McDonald’s sponsoring an ARG which is not even branded McDonald’s (and this being reported in a NY Times article), it’s clear that ARGs have a mainstream appeal which has captured people’s imaginations.

What’s unclear is if they are financially viable as standalone ventures, and not as part of a marketing campaign for another product.


Distributed Gaming

April 20, 2006

"The Thirteenth Labor" Puzzle Card

Some ARG Gamers over at have created a distributed computing client to help crack the code on the currently-unsolved Perplex City puzzle card #251. “We have now got 911 active clients and have processed 155,725 work units – truely passing the 1% barrier – and more importantly processing nearly 16,000 work units since posting last night,” claimed a 13thLabor blog post this morning. The original estimate called for 250 computers working together for 9 months to crack the code.

Perplex City is an Alternate Reality Game whose business model involves selling randomized packs of collectable brain-teaser puzzle cards (in a further evolution of collectable card games like Magic: The Gathering and Pokemon). The cards each carry a unique ID and players’ solutions can be verified and tallyed on an online leaderboard (my impressive profile). I recently attened a live Perplex City “game night” in NYC, hosted by Micheal and Andrea of Mind Candy (the game’s developer).

Distributed computing allows enormously complex mathematical problems to be solved more quickly by enlisting volunteers to run a program on their computers which uses spare CPU cycles to work on different parts of the problem and share their results with the program’s developers. Popular distributed computing clients include SETI@home and Folding@home, which allow you to participate in the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence and protein folding, respectively.