Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Free Rice: Fighting World Hunger

Reason: While perusing the site, www.gamesforchange.org, I encountered the title of an online game that I had seen people playing on Facebook (or at least a very similar game). The name caught my attention, which is why I decided to review it for this assignment.

Game: FreeRice at

Premise/Cause: The premise and cause behind the game is simple: the average person can do something to assist in the fight against world hunger. This educational game purports to teach a variety of subjects, but the main topic highlighted on the front page of the game is English vocabulary. The site states that “For each answer you get right, we donate 20 grains of rice to the United Nations World Food Program.”

Background: Some fast facts about hunger (from World Hunger and the American Obesity Association

  • Poverty is the primary cause of world hunger
  • More than 982 million people live in abject poverty, earning the equivalent of less than $1/day
  • More than 798 million people suffer from chronic hunger
  • The world has enough capacity to produce food equivalent to approximately 2700 kcal/person/day
  • The average adult requires about 1200 kcal/day to sustain basic functions
  • In the wealthiest country in the world, the United States, 127 million Americans are overweight (~65% of the population), 60 million are obese (~30% of the population), and 9 million (~5% of the population) are morbidly obese

First Impressions: Though not as complex as some of the games shown to us in Bernie’s and Karl’s lectures, the simple user interface has an elegant appeal. The main color theme are two earth tone colors, green and brown, with a picture of what looks like grass or wheat as the dominant graphic. From the time the site loads, the game’s objective is obvious, even without reading the instructions and game objective that appear on the screen. The “ease of play” contributes to the feeling that players of this game can do something simple to fight against world hunger. I like that.

Objective: For the vocabulary game, the objective is to choose the correct definition of the word displayed on the page. For each correct answer, the sponsors who advertise on freerice.com donate 20 grains of rice to the United Nations World Food Program. It’s that simple.

Variations: The game has other topics, including “math, science, geography, art history, other languages and more.” Assuming a similar mode of play, in these subjects, players would just choose the correct answer to the question posed. Below is a screen shot of the simple Chemistry topic, in which players choose the element represent by the chemical symbol displayed.

Another variation is the ability to choose your difficulty level. At higher levels, the questions are more difficult. Changing levels is easy to do. There is a Change Level hyperlink at the bottom of the play window.

Game Play:

  1. Read the question.
  2. Click one of the answers.

Game play is so simple that it’s almost painful. No, I take that back. It actually makes it more enjoyable, especially because of the immediate feedback the player receives. Feedback is given at two levels:

  • Response to the question
  • Running total of rice donated

Another aspect of this simple game is that the simplicity and immediate feedback make it addicting. It’s difficult to break away from racking up the rice donated. The player score is given in terms of a benevolent donation of rice grains. This is truly gratifying.

Player Controls: Other than the basic browser commands and site men tabs, the player has four basic controls during game play:

  1. Answering the question by clicking one of the choices
  2. Choosing a different topic by clicking the hyperlink Change Subjects
  3. Choosing a different difficulty level by clicking the hyperlink Change Level
  4. Restarting by clicking the hyperlink Re-Start

  • Simple to play
  • Addictive
  • Supports a great and worthy cause

  • Not as complex
  • Players can become easily bored
  • Not much complex game technology
  • No player-to-player interactivity or competition


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