Possible Tools

Game and Event Site
Created using: Google site
Phone Application Needed: Web browser

Storyboarding/Project Management
For game makers to use in developing clues
Trello – Workboard/Storyboard/Project Management
Phone Application Needed: N/A

Use-case Scenario diagram, flow-chart, mapping and modeling tools
Lucidchart – Free Google document type. (cloud-based, advance features cost $ but the most common stuff is free)
Visual Paradigm (UML) – (download/install) community license is free for students
Violet – (download/install)  free for students

Create using: Adobe Premiere or Captivate
Phone Application Needed: YouTube

Create using: Adobe Premiere or SoundCloud
FreePlayMusic – Royalty Free Music
Phone Application Needed: Speakers

QR Codes
Create using: Adobe Photoshop
Phone Application Needed: ScanLife

Augmented Reality
Create using: Adobe Photoshop, 3D model (Maya, 3D Studio, Blender, Rhino ?), Illustrator
ARToolKit – Augmented Reality Toolkit. Software library for building AR applications.
Phone Application Needed: Augmented Reality App (Layar-Both, Andar-Android, Viewar-iOS)

Andar – Can be used by teams to view Android Augmented Reality (beta, GNU)
String – iOS Augmented Reality (1 free marker)
Viewar – iOS Augmented Reality (you get an entire channel)
Layar – Both Android and iOS Augmented Reality (free use but includes ads)
Tagwhat – Mobile tour guide of the world
Stiktu – Augmented reality (Both Android and iOS) – Could use this to scan an image in a magazine or book and put some augmented reality stickers over it.
Google Field Trip – Calls up historical facts about the location you are near.

Create using: Adobe Photoshop
Inkscape – Open source vector graphics software
GimpShop – Open-source picture editing software
Phone Application Needed: SCVNGR

Wayfaring – Can be used by game makers as map making tool
Phone Application Needed: Wayfaring

Media Sharing
MuveeCloud – Can be used by teams to consolidate photos taken throughout the event. Only requires email.
Phone Application Needed: MuveeCloud OR Email

Pixton or Comics Sketch – Can be used by game makers as clue medium
Phone Application Needed: N/A

For game makers to use as part of a clue or introduction to a task
Toonloop – Live, stop motion animation
iStop Motion – Stop motion (iOS only)
Phone Application Needed: N/A

Narrative  & Interactive Storytelling Tools
Storybird – Create short stories and print them
Inklewriter – Write and publish interactive stories
Story Plot Generator – Guide to creating an initial story outline

Phone Application Needed: N/A


Game Information

Project: Midnight Madness 2012 (Carpe le what?)
Event Locations: Gainesville and Tampa Bay, Florida
Event Dates: TBD
Event Facilitators: TBD

Game Description: Point-system race and digital scavenger hunt. Single day worth of challenge with 10 locations and  50 tasks. Solve challenges, scavenge items, augment reality, get social and cause mayhem. Many of the tasks will require players to take photos, videos or sounds. Some may require players to submit text based answers. Team at the end of the day with the most points wins.

General Rule: If the teams for my project have to use it, it will need a mobile application

Required Items

  1. Team themed shirt – Colors have been assigned but feel free to embellish
  2. Good attitude – Don’t waste our time. If you don’t want to play fair, don’t play at all.
  3. A Flashlight – With batteries or just download the flashlight app
  4. A Brain – Eye no it will bee tuff four sum of u, butt due you’re best.
  5. A smartphone with an internet connection – At least one person on your team should have an unlimited data plan. This person/phone should be in charge of taking all media as the team will be uploading pictures, videos and sounds throughout the game. Note: At least 1GB free space should be available for videos. It is advised to backup videos to another device or upload to the cloud.
  6. Applications – Install the applications listed below. Is there an app for installing apps?
  7. A Car (with gas!) – Don’t be cheap, help throw some bones at the car owner if you can.
  8. A Fearless Mind and Soul – All participants must be ready and willing to perform a scene from the musical HAIR at any point throughout the game.
  9. An understanding – Midnight Madness has absolutely no connection with any person, place or thing (living or dead) and that everything done during this fun-filled night will be perfectly legal and at the same time perfectly insane.
  10. Team Unity – Your team members are your best friends for the night.

Get Prepared!

Applications to find, download and install  & Accounts to create BEFORE arriving:

  • Email – Ability to send email messages
  • Camera – For both still photos and videos
  • YouTube – Download application, create account, follow Midnight Madness. Used to upload and view videos.
  • SCVNGR – Download application, create account and search for Midnight Madness 2012. Used as main hunt map, to answer questions and to upload photos.
  • SoundCloud – Download application, create account and follow Midnight Madness. Used to record and share sounds.
  • Facebook or Google+ – Used as part of a clue
  • TBD – QR Code reader
  • TBD – Augmented reality reader

Sample Task List

Taken from Freelancer Scavenger Hunt:

  • Create and upload a logo for your team to SCVNGR [10 pts]
  • Create a theme song for your team. Make sure it encompasses your team theme. Upload an on-the-spot music video of it to YouTube.
  • Record your team’s efforts throughout the scavenger hunt on video. Cut it down to 2 minutes with music and upload to YouTube before the hunt ends.
  • YGNNF QPGAQ WXGUQ NXGFV JKUEJ CNNGP IGKVY CUPVV JCVFK HHKEW NVVJQ WIJYJ AFQPV AQWVT ACJCT FGTET ARVQS WGUVK QPVQU GGJQY GNGGV AQWTG CNNAC TGVJG OCIKE YQTFU CTGHN WHHAD WPPA YGNNF QPGAQ WXGUQ (welld oneyo uveso lvedt hisch allen geitw asntt hatdi fficu lttho ughwh ydont youtr yahar dercr yptoq uesti ontos eehow eleet youre allya rethe magic words arefl uffyj unny)
  • Make up a record for the Guinness Book of Records and break it. Submit video for proof.
  • Record a reenactment of the moon landing and upload it to YouTube.
  • Create your own dictatorship with loyal minions. Get them to do calisthenics. [1 pt per person working out in the video — max 100 points]
  • Wikipedia needs money, and frankly they deserve it, because they’ve been writing your essays since 2008. However, Jimmy Wales’ personal appeal freaked us out a little bit. Help him out. Create an ad that’s a little less, how should we say… awkward… and a little more about how Wikipedia has touched every one of us. [20 points]
  • I don’t always ________, but when I do, I ___________ [10 points]
  • Over-engineering can be bad at work, but it can also be really funny. Build the most extravagant Rube Goldberg machine you can. It must include your team logo. [50 points if it works and we’re impressed!]
  • I was using my phone in bed and dropped it on my face #firstworldproblems. Record a video of your funniest #firstworldproblems and upload it to Youtube. [20 points, +10 if you make us laugh and +20 points if you can get over 1,000 views]
  • Origami paper cranes are beautiful. Take a photo of them in their natural habitat. [1 point per crane — max 20 points]
  • QR Code – a QR is “broken” into pieces. The entire QR code leads to a clue.
  • Look, up in the Sky! It’s a bird! It’s a plane! No, it’s [insert team name here]. Dress up as super heroes and do a super deed. [40 points — pics/video or it didn’t happen]
  • Create a sand sculpture of your favorite muppet. [30 points]
  • Re-enact a video game in real life. Must include power ups and a skill tree. Video please. [20 points, +50 points if played in an inappropriate place]
  • Write a fine ballad
    Like days of yore
    That tells of your exploits
    As you seek to score
    In this fine scav hunt,
    as you race against time
    I hope you’re better
    than I am at rhyme

Popular Example Scavenger Hunts


“Everything that the human race has done and thought is concerned with the satisfaction of deeply felt needs …”
-Einstein (Theory of Cosmic Religion)


The WeTopia game ( on Facebook provides a novel environment for the examination of the uses and gratifications (U&G) theory in an emerging new media context. The purpose of this study is to investigate the motivations at the intersection of social games and “social good networks” (Branston & Bush, 2010). The following literature review presents a list of gratifications which may be satisfied through the emerging medium of a social game unusually situated within a social good network. The paper concludes with a proposed set of questions developed for a future survey of the WeTopia game players and community members.

The theoretical background for this research is associated with the humanistic U&G theory which presupposes that individuals are motivated to actively choose media to gratify certain needs. The survey data will be used to determine the individual needs and expected versus actual gratifications received from playing this social game for social good. In offering members with a combination of informative, social and/or entertaining methods of engagement, the WeTopia game may satisfy multiple needs at once through a unique combination of passive awareness and active participation provided through both game play and game community.

About WeTopia

WeTopia is a social game playable through an internet browser and currently only available on the Facebook platform. The WeTopia game was launched in May 2010 and released for beta on November 30, 2011. In the game, players build a virtual city and use their Facebook connections to hire city staff members and construct special items. Players also harvest crops and collect goodwill through houses and shops located in their game community. This goodwill is the currency of WeTopia and allows players to purchase additional in-game market items (e.g. houses, shops, playgrounds or “joygrounds”, decorations, etc…). Through building and harvesting their virtual city, players accumulate “joy points” which can be spent on donations to real-world charities in order to make a real world difference. These real world differences are actual donations of food and clothing (Hernandez, 2012) to various needful areas in the United States, Haiti and Africa.

The aesthetic style of the game is ‘chibi’ sweet using characters with oversized heads and vibrant colors to create an adorable Utopian village. The upper portion of the game screen has various gauges and heads-up displays which indicate the player’s current levels and meters. Above the gauges and meters are seven tabs which provide the player with links to engage, communicate or find additional information about the game and the community. The “real impact” tab takes players to a Google map which not only highlights the areas of the world that have been positively affected by WeTopia but also provides an on-going tally of the donations which have been given to these areas on behalf of all the WeTopia players. Four of the remaining tabs are social in nature and allow the player to send gifts, invite friends, access the community message boards and review requests for assistance from other friends. The lower portion of the game screen displays all of the player’s neighbors (or friends in their social network) as well as links to perform additional actions such as visiting a neighbor’s WeTopia community. Easy access buttons are located on the bottom right of the screen. These buttons give players access to edit their community layout, donate joy, buy things at the market or recall items from storage. The left side of the screen lists all of the available quests which can be completed for more joy, items and/or experience points. Finally, the right side of the screen is used to highlight specific campaigns and limited time offers currently available to all game players.

Both experience and joy have attainable levels associated with them. Experience levels are based on the tasks performed in the game (harvesting and collecting) while joy levels are associated with the amount of joy given to charitable projects. Each level of joy is associated with a positive nickname (e.g. caregiver, joy, champion, etc…) and a reward for attaining that level. Currently, the highest level of joy attainable is level 50  but players may continue to give joy to charitable projects after reaching this level.

To encourage frequent and continued giving, WeTopia also offers special project buildings for each milestone a player meets (1k, 5k, 10k, 25k and 50k) in donating joy points to a single organization. The player can track his/her joy points through their joy meter which not only displays the amount of joy currently accumulated but also the amount of joy the player has donated over time. Joy points are donated virtually through the game interface by each player after they have selected which charity(s) to support. Energy is also tracked through a meter at the top of the screen and one energy point (used to perform the action of harvesting and collecting goodwill from buildings and crops) is freely given to the player every five minutes. Players may add more goodwill (increasing game currency) or energy points (extending game play) by purchasing these items in the market using Facebook credits. Facebook credits can be purchased with real money through Facebook or, less frequently, earned by watching video advertisements.

Throughout the game, players are encouraged to recruit others to join and learn more about the causes and charities which WeTopia supports. A highlight video for each active charity is also available at the in-game theater. Each video includes the option to share this information with others in one’s Facebook network which enables players to become active stewards of the social causes. Additional posts from the WeTopia Facebook page regarding social good achievements, news and game information may also show up in a community member’s Facebook news feed.

All of this works together to tell a compelling story of the good that has been or will be achieved through playing the game and donating joy or purchasing items in WeTopia. Interestingly, the developers of WeTopia have disclosed their preference for projects which are especially good at storytelling.

“We seek charitable partners that excel at telling their story through photos, videos, and social media.” –Sojo Studios

WeTopia is developed by Sojo Studios which is a for-profit, privately-held company that generates revenue from advertisers and the sale of virtual goods within the game. However, all of the causes and campaigns in the game are ostensibly linked to not-for-profit organizations helping children. The altruistic lure of helping children by playing a game is apparently appealing to humanitarian celebrities (and their publicists) as well. Both Ellen DeGeneres (Heinz, 2011) and Justin Bieber (JustinBeiber, 2011) publicly support WeTopia. Ellen DeGeneres has even offered to become virtual friends with other WeTopia players. In connection with the support provided by Ellen, limited-time, in-game items have been created with special “Ellen” branding and/or meaning.

Social games and Facebook

The Facebook platform could arguably be considered the largest social network on the internet. With a reported 901 million users (De La Merced, 2012), the Facebook network is larger than the population of North America (World Bank, 2010). Considering this membership statistic and Facebook’s inherent news and information posting system, the possibility of Facebook to influence social change could be compared to the power and influence the populace and media of a large country might have. If that is not enough to warrant investigation, Facebook is also an important network in the daily lives of these members as indicated by the 52 percent of its users who engage with their Facebook network every day (Hampton, Goulet, Rainie, & Purcell, 2011).  A survey commissioned for PopCap games also uncovered a large percentage of social game players who form long term attachments with their games. This survey by the Information Solutions Group (2010) found that 56 percent of the respondents in both the United States and the United Kingdom have played a social game on a social network for at least one year. Almost all (95 percent) of those same social gamers play these games multiple times a week with 34 percent stating that they are passionate enough to play several times a day (Information Solutions Group, 2010).

Unlike traditional video games, the expected gratifications for social games are considered less competitive and much more social or cooperative (Hou, 2011). The social nature of the games makes them inherently different from more traditional video games where competition is the predominant driving motivation. Posting requests for assistance and recruiting other players serves to develop cooperative relationships and foster community. Importantly and exciting for the game community which has frequently longed for ways to target women, females represent 55 percent of the social game players in the United States (Information Solutions Group, 2010) and account for 58 percent (Hampton et al., 2011) of social networking site users as well. It would not be surprising then to find that females may make up the majority of social game players for social good.

WeTopia is not the first or the only game for social good. Other social games with real-world philanthropic impacts include Food Force ( and Raise the Village ( A larger “Games For Change” movement encompasses these games for social good all of which support the hope that games, gamers and game communities can make positive differences in society. Researchers like Jane McGonigal believe that games can save the world (McGonigal, 2011) and others such as Ian Bogost believe in the persuasive nature of games to change the rhetoric of the players’ experience both inside and outside of the game environment (Bogost, 2007). The “Games For Change” movement strives to breakdown the ideological frame in the popular media of games as only entertainment machines by highlighting games for good including games which have been used to understand infectious disease control (Plenda, 2011) and ones used to restructure civic participation (Kahne, Middaugh, & Evans, 2006).

Social good networks

An appeal of playing a social game through Facebook can arguably be the availability of one’s pre-existing social network to help in progressing through the game. Branston and Bush (2010) coined the term “social good networks” to describe those social networks created to share information and ideas in the hopes of calling to action in the name of social good. Given the previous data in this literature review, it may come as no surprise that females also comprise the majority of social good network users. According to Branston and Bush (2010) the average social good network user is “female, white, well-educated and global.” Additionally, social good network users are engaged with their network, as evidenced by the 68 percent of the social good network users who stay regularly involved on at least a weekly basis (Branston & Bush, 2010).

However, not everyone is enthusiastic about ePhilanthropy and online activism. To some, e-activists perform these digital acts in order to make themselves feel important but, in reality, have little to zero social impact. Morozov (2009) is one such person who claims that the problem with contemporary digital activism (or “slacktivism” as Morozov coins it) is that the granularity of the act makes it too easy to gratify simple altruistic needs. That is, “you can donate a penny where you may otherwise donate a dollar” (Morozov, 2009). Eller (2008) looked at the early cousin of social good networks by examining solidarity websites which allow a user to click a button in order to donate online. An example of a solidarity website would be The Hunger Site ( which is similar in principle to WeTopia but lacks the interaction and reward system which the game so uniquely provides.

Exploring the intersection of social games and social good networks online

With little research on the impact of social games and related social good networks, little is known regarding their potential as immersive, online stewards of relationship building for offline cause marketing. Although the non-profit organizations aligning themselves with social game networks are not under analysis, information and data hypothesized in this research can be used to justify the use of social games as a non-traditional (but possibly lucrative and engaging) marketing channel. Additionally, the following data can be used to identify ways in which players may be influenced to actively participate by volunteering time, social resources and monetary donations. Hart (2001) began to drive home this point in an article on the early stirrings of the ePhilanthropy revolution by stating “non-profits can not only use the internet as a tool to raise money but also as a channel to create and improve relationships.”

However, Branston and Bush (2010) found that the least popular action on a social good network is in using it to find a volunteer opportunities or donate money. As WeTopia seemingly allows players to donate time through playing which, in turn, is used to fund real-world goods, it may be the case that WeTopia players and community members believe their playing is equivalent to volunteering and donating. Further investigation into specific uses and gratifications at the intersection of social games and social good networks are explored below.

Uses and Gratifications

U&G theory posits that individuals seek out particular media channels for certain uses in order to gratify certain needs. It has been used to explore the intent and consequences of media selection. It is a theory that expects the media consumer to actively engage in their media selection and, after thoughtfully considering alternatives, choose a particular media channel to gratify some purposeful need. In other words, it is a theory which supports the general free will of the audience. The historical trail of this theory has identified concepts and needs such as learning, surveillance, habit, companionship, escape from boredom, identification, arousal & relaxation (Hou, 2011; Joinson, 2008; Katz, 1959; Katz, Blumler, & Gurevitch, 1974).

U&G theory provides operational definitions for the reasons why individuals use a particular media or medium. Specifically, this study is interested in the following motivations which WeTopia players may attribute to their game play:

The first motivation is information seeking.  Facebook has been considered a busy and opaque social-information system (Baresch, Knight, Harp, & Yaschur, 2011). According to a Pew Internet and American Life Project poll (Purcell, Rainie, Mitchell, Rosenstiel, & Olmstead, 2010), “75 percent [of the respondents surveyed] get news forwarded through email or posts on social networking sites and 52% share links to news with others via those means.”  These emergent news consumption strategies allow users to read and share information they feel is relevant, valuable, entertaining and insightful. In the new media landscape, a Facebook user has access to an anytime, anywhere, personalized news alert system. Thus the WeTopia game and its Facebook community can serve as a de facto news service for their community members. In the case of the WeTopia game, players may choose to play the game in order to stay abreast of news and information regarding causes for social good thus satisfying the gratification of information seeking.

A second motivation is entertainment. According to Hou (2011) “respondents played social games more frequently and became more engaged in different kinds of game activities for the purpose of diversion.” Diversion also predicted frequency of game play in the Hou (2011) study but was not a good indicator of duration of game play. This indicates that an individual may play the WeTopia game as a form of entertainment, relaxation or escape from boredom. Entertainment as motivation for media use is as old as the U&G theory itself (Katz, 1959) and seems an especially appropriate gratification to attribute to game play. Taking the results from Hou (2011) into consideration this research will hypothesize that the frequency of game play will be positively correlated to a psychological need to play games for entertainment. If the game were not fun then players would likely not return to the game even if returning meant an increase in social good.

A third motivation is for social purposes. This motivation involves social interaction, community building and the development of support systems. An individual may play the WeTopia game in order to increase their social network. This need and gratification was investigated in the Hou (2011) study which found that “social interaction predicted both frequency and duration of game playing.” Putnam (2000) points out that both bridging and bonding social capital has been found as a use and benefit of increasing the size of one’s interpersonal social network. Branston and Bush (2010) also found evidence that users are motivated to entice others to join their community. Eighty-six percent of the respondents in the Branston and Bush (2010) survey indicated agreement or strong agreement that social good networks makes them “feel that they are part of a larger effort to influence positive social change.” This exchange relationship is part of a larger communal relationship which is kept active and engaging through the development of social capital. In playing the WeTopia game, players may be using an unconventional media channel to increase their social network, social capital and social support system.

A fourth motivation is altruism. This motivation focuses on those players who play WeTopia in order to satisfy a humanitarian need to help those less fortunate. One could also argue that the enjoyment gained from playing the WeTopia game may be attributed to a motivation to entertain oneself but this research considers any act of altruism on its face. Ram (2002) interviewed users of a solidarity website (The Hunger Site) and found that they were motivated to click on these solidarity sites for altruistic purposes. “Clickers essentially donate for free, participating in a unique form of reciprocal altruism” (Ram, 2002). The altruistic nature the WeTopia game makes  findings for this measure of motivation especially interesting.

Based on this literature the following research questions and hypothesis will be investigated:

  • RQ1: Do WeTopia players receive a high level of gratification for each of the expected motivations?
  • RQ2: Do WeTopia players feel as if they have (a) volunteered or (b) donated to these social good causes through playing the game?
  • H1: Duration of game play is positively correlated to an ideological need to help the world (i.e. altruism).
  • H2: Frequency of game play is positively correlated to a psychological need to play games (i.e. entertainment).
  • H3: The majority of social game players for social good will be female.


The results of this study may be generalizable to a population of social games and their networks for social good on Facebook. The selective sample of WeTopia players and community members was chosen due both its popularity and its representativeness of a social game for social good. The WeTopia membership population (i.e. number of page likes) as of April 22, 2012 is 128,913.

The proposed research is part of a larger project on the WeTopia community. Together, these projects will use a mixed methods research design comprised of both a survey of WeTopia community members as well as a content analysis of data collected through an application developed using Facebook’s application programming interface (API). The survey will be conducted using the Qualtrics online survey design tool. The content analysis will collect general information from the participants profile data (e.g. game play frequency, game play duration, sex, age, education, relationship status, work status, state of health, frequency of Facebook use, religion, etc…) to build upon the survey responses and provide a depth of actual versus reported data. A link posted on the WeTopia Facebook page will solicit responses from the WeTopia community. Logic will be built into the survey in order to accommodate a variety of player and non-player types and to reduce the time needed to complete the survey. A free virtual good useable in the WeTopia game will also be offered to all participants and respondents.

Each research question and hypothesis will be investigated using the following survey questions and corroborated with the content analysis data. Please note that some wording has been adapted from Blumler (1979).

General Questions

  1. On a scale of 1-7 (very unsatisfied – very satisfied), how much does the WeTopia game satisfy your need for information about social good causes?
  2. On a scale of 1-7 (very boring – very entertaining), how much does the WeTopia game entertain you?
  3. On a scale of 1-7 (very alone – very supported), how much does the WeTopia game satisfy your need for social support and community?
  4. On a scale of 1-7 (very similar – very different), how similar or different do you feel to the average WeTopia player?
  5. Using the sliding scale, indicate how frequently you make point-of-purchase charitable donations while checking out at a store or restaurant.
  6. Using the sliding scale, indicate how satisfied you are with the participation from other WeTopia community members in the game.
  7. Using the sliding scale, indicate how many new social ties and friends have you gained from the WeTopia page.
  8. Using the sliding scale, indicate how likely you are to recruit others to join the WeTopia game? Have you already recruited others to play WeTopia?
  9. Using the sliding scale, indicate how often you “share” or post content to your wall for others to see regarding WeTopia or its affiliated causes?
  10. Do you believe that playing WeTopia is the same as volunteering? (Yes/No) Open-ended question, please explain.
  11. Do you believe that playing WeTopia is the same as donating money or goods to a charitable organization? (Yes/No) Open-ended question, please explain.
  12. Have you purchased virtual goods in order to support a cause for social good in WeTopia? (Yes/No)
  13. Would you donate to a WeTopia cause for social good if there were no in-game items given as a reward? (Yes/No/Maybe) Open-ended question, please explain.
  14. Do you play social games other than WeTopia on Facebook? (Yes/No) Do you play WeTopia more or less often than those other games? (More/Less)
  15. Are you more likely to purchase a virtual good from WeTopia than you are from another social game? (Yes/No/Maybe)

Motivation Specific Questions
(scale of 1-7 from strongly disagree to strongly agree and n/a)

Motivation 1- Information seeking

  1. I play the WeTopia game because it provides me with information I am looking for.
  2. I rely on the WeTopia game to send me information about social good campaigns and causes.
  3. I share posts and news through the WeTopia game with others in my social network.
  4. I can use the information from the WeTopia game to show me what society is like nowadays.
  5. Playing WeTopia makes me want to learn more about things.
  6. Playing WeTopia helps me to understand what is going on in the country and the world.

Motivation 2 – Entertainment

  1. I play WeTopia because it entertains me.
  2. I give more of my time and energy to non-profit organizations because of my involvement with the WeTopia game.
  3. Playing the WeTopia game gives me enjoyment.
  4. Playing the WeTopia game helps me to get away from everyday worries.
  5. Playing the WeTopia game helps me to relax.
  6. Playing the WeTopia game is a good way of passing the time when I don’t feel like doing anything else.

Motivation 3 – Social Interaction

  1. I play the WeTopia game because it increases my social ties and community.
  2. I feel supported by other WeTopia players.
  3. I play the WeTopia game because I identify with (or relate to) other WeTopia players.
  4. Playing the WeTopia game gives me support for my ideas.
  5. People who play WeTopia are like me.
  6. WeTopia community members are members of my group.

Motivation 4 – Altruism

  1. As a WeTopia player, I feel part of a larger effort to influence positive social change.
  2. I give more money to non-profit organizations because of my involvement with the WeTopia game.
  3. I volunteer more time to causes for social good due to my involvement with the WeTopia game.
  4. I am more active in my local community due to my involvement with the WeTopia game.
  5. Playing WeTopia allows me to volunteer my time to a worthy cause.
  6. Playing WeTopia reinforces my belief in helping the needy.


  • Baresch, B., Knight, L., Harp, D., & Yaschur, C. (2011). Friends who choose your news: An analysis of content links on facebook. ISOJ: The Official Research Journal of International Symposium on Online Journalism, Austin, TX, 1(2).
  • Blumler, J. G. (1979). The role of theory in uses and gratifications studies. Communication Research, 6(1), 9-36. doi:10.1177/009365027900600102
  • Bogost, I. (2007). Persuasive games: The expressive power of videogames. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.
  • Branston, K., & Bush, L. (2010). The nature of online social good networks and their impact on non-profit organisations and users. PRism, 7(2).
  • De La Merced, M. (24 April 2012). Facebook’s profit falls 12% ahead of expected offering. New York Times.
  • Eller, A. (2008). Is there a link between offline behavior and online donations? CyberPsychology & Behavior, 11(5), 611. doi:10.1089/cpb.2007.0218
  • Hampton, K., Goulet, L., Rainie, L., & Purcell, K. (2011). Social networking sites and our lives. Pew Internet & American Life Project.
  • Hart, T. (2001). The ePhilanthropy revolution.32(3), 22. Retrieved from
  • Heinz, E. (30 November 2011). Facebook game ‘WeTopia’ allows players to donate to charity by building virtual village. The Huffington Post.
  • Hernandez, B. (11April 2012). WeTopia brings social good to Facebook gaming. Mashable. Retrieved from
  • Hou, J. (2011). Uses and gratifications of social games: Blending social networking and game play. First Monday, 16(7).
  • Information Solutions Group. (2010). PopCap social gaming research. Information Solutions Group.
  • Joinson, A. N. (2008). Looking at, looking up or keeping up with people?: Motives and use of facebook. ACM). Proceedings of the Twenty-Sixth Annual SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI ’08). doi:10.1145/1357054.1357213
  • JustinBeiber. (20 December 2011). Proud to now be a part of #WeTopia let’s play this game and do some good 4 kids around the world #MAKEACHANGE [twitter post]. Message posted to
  • Kahne, J., Middaugh, E., & Evans, C. (2006). The civic potential of video games. (digital ed.). Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.
  • Katz, E. (1959). Mass communications research and the study of popular culture: An editorial note on a possible future for this journal. Studies in Public Communication, 2, 1.
  • Katz, E., Blumler, J. G., & Gurevitch, M. (1974). Utilization of mass communication by the individual. In J. G. Blumler, & E. Katz (Eds.), The uses of mass communications: Current perspectives on gratifications research. Beverly Hills CA: Sage.
  • McGonigal, J. (2011). Reality is broken : Why games make us better and how they can change the world. New York: Penguin Press.
  • Morozov, E. (2009, 5 September 2009). From slacktivism to activism. Foreign Policy.
  • Plenda, M. (2011, 8 April 2011). POX: Play the game, save the people. Union Leader.
  • Purcell, K., Rainie, L., Mitchell, A., Rosenstiel, T., & Olmstead, K. (2010). Understanding the participatory news consumer. Pew Internet & American Life Project.
  • Putnam, R. D. (2000). Bowling alone : The collapse and revival of American community.New York: Simon & Schuster.
  • Ram, J. (2002). Save the world with a click: Motivations for using click-to-donate websites. (Unpublished Master of Arts). Georgetown University,
  • World Bank. (2010). Data retrieved May 1, 2012 from world DataBank database.

Hou, J. (2011). Uses and gratifications of social games: Blending social networking and game play. First Monday, 16(7).


The Hou (2011) article is data heavy and presents a brief introduction to Uses and Gratifications theory. This paper uses the uses and gratifications theory to make a connection to casual games and social games as filling specific user needs.

Uses and gratifications theory (Katz, 1959) is interested in why individuals seek out particular mass communication channels for certain uses in order to gratify certain needs. It is concerned with what people do with media as opposed to what media do to people. The great thing about this theory is that it is a lot like Minecraft ( or Terraria?) because you can dig out your own research niche.

One of the criticisms of this theory is that it is too individualistic and should not be used to make generalizations. Another criticism of this theory is that it does not explain the media use and should not be used to predict future patterns, however, the researchers get around this obstacle through the investigation of prospective gratifications or the “expectancy-value models of media uses and gratifications.”

Very interesting…There is a passing mention of “mind-reading” as a social gratification but no further explanation. Upon further investigation this reference was made to support the idea that “increased friendship and closeness (friends vs. strangers) generally lead to an expansion of cooperative acts (Majolo, et al., 2006), mutual support and toleration (Cords, 1997), and greater accuracy of social judgments.” The actual study that Hou is citing investigates the “mind-reading” capabilities (can you tell what the other person is thinking) of strangers, close friends and/or intimate partners.

Social games

  • Key components, which differentiate social games from other computer games, are: (1) social platform–based; (2) multiplayer; (3) real identity; and, (4) casual gaming.
  • Most social games are found on social networking sites and are browser based
  • The game world is persistent much like an MMO, however, the fact that social gamers play mostly with real-life friends may make it different than an MMO whose players may have never met in real life.
  • People represent themselves since most social networking sites require real name registration. However, this statement assumes that people are honest in signing up to begin with. Anecdotal evidence may indicate that some social gamers actually create dual identities on these social networking sites so that they can essentially play with themselves.
  • Do we agree with Hou’s definition of social games? What about asynchronisity? Freemium (i.e. free to play until you pay to pay)? Rewards? Customization? Virtual Goods? Quests/Goals?

Casual games

  • According to Hou, being casual means that a social game is easy to pick up as opposed to an intense and complex hardcore game.
  • According to Michelle, a casual game is one which I do not have a meaningful investment in nor a salient connection to. Games which can be played on a mobile device while standing in line at your local coffee shop.
  • Casual game design commonly features excessive positive feedback for every successful action the player performs
  • See also Juul

SNS Gratifications (Afterall, this is the typical platform…)

  • Urista et al. (2009) – 1) efficient communication, 2) convenient communication, 3) curiosity about others, 4) popularity to become a popular figure among friends, and 5) relationship formation and reinforcement
  • Joinson (2008) – 1) social connection to keep in touch with friends and maintain relationships, 2) shared identities to join friends’ groups to avoid being left out, 3) content, 4) social investigation to see what friends do and to make new friends, 5) social network surfing, and 6) status updating [or self-expression] to update one’s status or to let friends know your news.

Video Game Gratifications

  • Lucas and Sherry (2004) in the order of importance – 1) diversion to pass time or to stop boredom; 2) social interaction to interact with friends through the game; 3) challenge to attempt to beat the game; 4) competition to compete with other players in the game; 5) fantasy to do things that are impossible in real life; and 6) arousal to play the game because it is exciting. Diversion and social interaction were the most important predictors of the total number of hours they spent playing during a typical week
  • Sun, et al. (2006) in the order of importance – 1) diversion, 2) competition, 3) interaction, 4) meeting strangers, and 5) self–expression.


  • SNS based – Expected gratifications for social connection (a), social investigation (b), shared identity (c), popularity (d), and self–expression (e) from social games will be positively related to the (frequency, duration and engagement) of game play and/or game activities.
  • Video game based – Expected gratifications for competition (a), challenge (b), social interaction (c), diversion (d), fantasy (e), and arousal (f) from social games will be positively related to the (frequency, duration and engagement) of game play and/or game activities.


  • Self-administered online questionnaires of Happy Farm players recruited through snowball sample. 93 usable questionnaires investigated with 66.2% female and 33.8% male. Mean age was 25.65 (ranged from 20-37).
  • Facebook imported Happy Farm in April 2009. The game peaked with over two million monthly active players within that year and brought in 30 to 40 percent of Facebook’s monthly revenue.

Consider this: It takes anywhere from $100k to $300k to make the game. Approximately 3-5% of the players actually pay to play. Farmville has over 80 million players and a reported 31 million daily active players. If each of these daily active players paid a penny per day that would be $3.65/person/year. Now take that $3.65 and multiply that across the 31 million people and you get about $113 million/year that Farmville makes. Not bad from a $100-$300k investment…(More)

Results & Discussion

  • The findings indicated that respondents played social games more frequently and became more engaged in different kinds of game activities for the purpose of diversion.
  • Neither challenge nor competition were significant motives for playing social games. It is possible that social gamers do not necessarily enjoy the challenge of “beating the game,” or beating friends. Thus, social games do not enforce winning or competing, rather they accommodate more flexible playing styles.
    Is it still a game if no one can “win”?
  • Social interaction predicted both frequency and duration of game playing, while diversion predicted only frequency.
  • Negative relationship between the fantasy factor and game play intensity. That is, the more fantasy the less intense the play is. How could this affect graphics?
  • Should social games be described as social media rather than as just one category of online computer games?
  • Are social games a “unique venue for socialization in a playful manner”?
  • Do social games provide a new “third place” for social structures? (neutral ground, leveler, regulars, conversation, etc…)

Game Examples

Note: The above were discussion points regarding Hou (2011) for an in-class presentation on the casual game revolution. As a side note, the author is currently working on her PhD at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and is interested in social and cognitive psychology of mediated communication.

Readings – The casual game revolution

In their article “The Depiction of Illness and Related Matters in Two Top-Ranked Primetime Network Medical Drama in the United States”, Ye and Ward (2010) were interested in investigating the diseases, injuries and patient demographics portrayed in Grey’s Anatomy and ER. The authors were very descriptive in their sample selection starting with how and why the programs chosen were selected. Using the recently available DVD seasons for each show was a novel way to investigate the content. However, as a result of this self-imposed sample limitation to only DVDs which are available, one study limitation that the authors mention is the asynchronous nature of the shows studied. That is, the researchers did not study the shows during the initial air dates. The characters, content and plot line of the show do not change because you watch it on DVD and are not (to my knowledge) affected by the asynchronous or synchronous nature of the viewing so why mention it? Perhaps I am thinking about it with 2012 eyes and with knowledge that time shifting is on the rise. Would using Hulu (with a one day turnaround from air date) make any difference in this disclosure?

Ye and Ward provide great detail to the operational definitions of their variables. The categorization of the type of illnesses to be coded is not only helpful in replicating the study but is also helpful in establishing a general categorization of these illnesses for future research.

In the results section, Ye and Ward state that “461 injuries, illnesses and diseases were identified” (P. 562) but it is not known whether this number represents 461 unique illnesses or a running tabulation of all illnesses (where duplication can occur). If it is the former then that is a ton of illnesses but if it is the latter then that could mislead one to think that a ton of illnesses are represented in these educational entertainment shows.

In the discussion section, Ye and Ward suggest that “more attention to chronic diseases is needed” and support this claim by providing evidence from their current research indicating that “fewer than 10 diabetes cases were identified.” (P. 565)  Ye and Ward then go on to suggest ideas for further research to examine other medical shows such as House, Scrubs and Nip/Tuck. This brings up an interesting point. House frequently uses Multiple Sclerosis and/or Lupus as a first diagnosis but it never ends up “sticking” and the patient always comes out with something else in the end. Putting these two ideas together, it would be interesting to see what chronic diseases are frequently found in entertainment education media and specifically what context they are used (diagnosis vs. misdiagnosis). It is such a pervasive parody on House that there is even a (unofficial) T-shirt about it…

Here is a link to two (of many) lamentations regarding the way House treats MS and chronic diseases in general  – &

The House MD social game also pokes fun at the misdiagnosis of Lupis.

What does Multiple Sclerosis look like in the media? 

Who constantly misdiagnoses MS (& Lupus and other autoimmune diseases):

  • Season 1, Episode 2 (Paternity) – Sexual abuse is the first misdiagnosis then the team decides it is Multiple Sclerosis. It turns out to be measles.
  • Season 4, Episode 6 (Whatever It Takes) – Heat stroke is the first misdiagnosis then Miller Fisher Inflammation and finally MS or Lupus. In the end the patient is sick from eating too many Brazil nuts.
  • Season 4, Episode 10 (It’s a Wonderful Lie) – Breast cancer is the first diagnosis but the MRI of the chest comes up negative. House then orders an MRI for MS. It turns out to be Breast Cancer in the patient’s leg.

Law & Order: Special Victims Unit

  • Season 11, Episode 17 (Disabled) – Black female victim has multiple sclerosis and is quadriplegic. Disturbing scenes of caretaker violence against the woman by her caretaker sister.
  • Season 3, Episode 8 (Inheritance) – Benson and Stabler visit a person of interest with primary progressive MS. He is an older black male shown in a wheelchair and ostensibly housed in a group home.
  • Season 4, Episode 9 (Juvenile) – Benson and Stabler visit a person of interest who is a part of a medicinal marijuana club/co-op in the city. She is a young, professional white woman who states that “The only thing that controls my tremors from MS is smoking once in a while.”
  • Season 13, Episode 17 (Justice Denied) – Benson finds out that the officer who logged a scarf into evidence was color blind due to early onset Multiple Sclerosis. A false conviction of a serial rapist occurred due to the officer’s claim that the scarf was green (instead of red).


  • The Talk  (18 June 2012) announced Jack Osbourne’s recent multiple sclerosis diagnosis. Sharon Osbourne was visually upset through the announcement and was hesitant to speak.
  • Accused (6 December 2010); Season 1, Episode 4 (Liam’s Story) – The accused Taxi driver’s (Liam’s) wife suffers from “progressive” multiple sclerosis. Liam mentions this to the woman whom he is stalking and from whom he has burgled. The wife is shown in a wheelchair and in a consistently depressed state.
  • West Wing – The president has multiple sclerosis but does everything he can to hide it.
  • Cold Case (2006); Season 3, Episode 16 (One Night) – Terrible misrepresentation of MS including mention of it as a “terminal” illness. Most individuals with MS live regular life spans…just stuck inside a body that does not want to cooperate. In this episode, the serial killer has MS but this is not disclosed until the police visit his wife. His (estranged) wife tells the police that the husband called recently to tell her that the tremors came back. This, to the husband now serial killer, indicates that he is “dying.” In other words, a relapse triggers the man to kill young boys because “they don’t realize what life is worth” at that age.
  • Annette Funicello – Actress (Mickey Mouse Club) and singer
  • Richard Pryor – Actor (See No Evil, Hear No Evil), comedian and writer
  • Montel Williams – Talk show host and MS champion
  • David “Squiggy” Lander – Actor (Laverne and Shirley), comedian and musician
  • Jack Osbourne – Actor (The Osbournes) and media personality
  • Jonathan Katz – Writer (Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist), comedian, actor
  • Alan Osmond – Singer (Osmond Brothers)
  • Teri Garr – Actress (Young Frankenstein)
  • Betty Cuthbert – Athlete (Australia)
  • Lena Horne – Singer (Stormy Weather and other Jazz favorites) and actress
  • Clive Burr – Musician (Iron Maiden)
  • William Hartnell – Actor (Doctor Who)

Ye, Y. and Ward, K.E. (2010). The Depiction of Illness and Related Matters in Two Top-Ranked Primetime Network Medical Drama in the United States. A Content Analysis, Journal of Health Communication, 15(1): 555-570.

At the heart of the following lists are the generalizability and applicability of any research findings based on data collected from these worlds. In order to make general statements any researcher must consider the situated environment of the research sample and population. Although it may be easier to access cowboys in Texas, one does not go to a rodeo in order to study the fine art hanging on the wall. That is to say, researchers who take the reality of these worlds out of context and attempt to place them in the grounded reality of “the real world” might find data which is easy to collect but which comes with so many stipulations that it becomes unusable in any other environment. That is where studying games for games sake or virtual worlds “sui generis” comes into effect without attempting to draw any parallels to grounded reality environments.

Pitfalls of using virtual worlds for research

  • Identity is ever changing and fragmented. Identity online may not necessarily correlate to identity off-line. “Some contemporary cognitive scientists are skeptical of scholarly conceptions of self, finding them to be ore like literary metaphors distilled form the surrounding folk culture than like rigorously measurable scientific concepts.” (Bainbridge, pg. 475)
  • Individuals may not be their “real selves” when online (But how do you know your “real self”? Is that even possible? Isn’t our sense of self defined by our perceived social reality in relation to others?)
  • The indigenous culture may be influenced by the rules of the world (“game laws”) and may influence the observations which can be made of the group
  • Game variables may have an impact on user behaviors
  • Williams (2008) “mapping principle” which questions whether the way an individual behaves and thinks in a virtual environment can truly be mapped and validated in grounded reality.
  •  Where does grounded reality stop and the virtual world start? How do you tease (or can you tease) out the effect of the virtual world from the general personality traits and behaviors an individual may have regardless of the environment.
  • Data may be skewed due to the demographics of the members in the virtual worlds.

Praise for using virtual worlds for research

  • Experiments can be “scaled up” from a few to hundreds of subjects and data points
  • Research in virtual worlds can cross sociocultural boundaries and provide data for underrepresented groups.
  • Virtual worlds can offer opportunities for longitudinal research investigating processes over weeks or months that may naturally take weeks or months to develop
  • The abundance of potential research subjects at a low cost
  • Experimental methods are best suited in virtual worlds which allow the researcher to create virtual laboratories.
  • Noninstrusive methods such as content analysis and analysis of information collected by the players, game developers and/or publishers offers a treasure trove of data
  • One might be able to compare the results from virtual worlds like you would compare different nations in grounded reality.

WeTopia is a browser game on a popular social networking site that allows players to use their ties with friends to build a virtual city and accumulate “Joy” points which can be spent on donations to charity in order to “make a real world difference.”

These real world differences include donations of food and clothing to various needful areas of the world like Haiti and soon in Africa. WeTopia is a social game developed by Sojo Studios which a  privately-held company that generates revenue from advertisers or from the sale of virtual goods. According to the About section of the developer’s Facebook page, the WeTopia game was launched in May 2010 and released for public beta in November 2011.

Content Analysis computer programs still have a ways to go…

Although our computer coding skills are progressing in leaps and bounds, these content analysis computer programs are still not suited to interpret content. Interpreting (connotative) content is subjective and requires the bias mind of a human who uses their experience (and sometimes “gut” feelings) to come to conclusions. Computers on the other hand are programmed to do x when y. These are literal black and white commands boiled down to core 1s and 0s. And this coding relies on logic. Designing a computer program which deciphers language (video, photo and sound are even more difficult) becomes infinitely more complicated when the language is illogical or, at the very least, muddled. The current programs are good at accounting for instances of keywords and semantic composition because these can be easily coded (i.e. because they are logical). Even if a codebook is developed and followed to the letter there are still judgement calls which a human makes on the fly – this spontaneous thinking process cannot be replicated by a computer (yet – see Alan Turing and his famous test and claim of an impending “singularity”).

I have issue with the assumption that one can compare a modern computer program with a human in the first place (even if the computer-assisted team had the luxury of seeing the other answers first). The investigation should not be between the human and the machine but within the machine itself. What is the validity of the code and/or algorithm within this context? Have you branched the logic to account for all possible scenarios? Was the program coded for that type of content analysis?  For example, if I were to claim that MS Word is terrible because it does not do sophisticated mathematical operations I would be perfectly correct. However, mathematical operations are not the purpose of Word like they are in Excel. My conclusion is correct but my expectation was a fallacy from the start.

In the end, a program is only as smart as the programmer(s) who creates it. The branching logic has to be, well, logical. The rules to branch have to be logical and, in a perfect world, should be mutually exclusive. If a researcher could account for EVERY possible way that he/she could interpret the data and the program is coded to decipher the content that way then the expectation that the computer would outperform the human could be warranted.

I’m not holding my breath for computers to outperform humans by becoming sentient but I do believe that programmers may be able to eventually code for all possiblities…and that will explode the method exponentially as well.