Game With A Purpose

I began to learn about Game with A Purpose (GWAP) for my research project this semester. Before, I thought that games are designed for entertainment and relaxation only. However, there is a type of game, called GWAP, that are designed to achieve something useful to the community and technology development. I think that many of you have not heard about it so I want to share this topic with you.


Back in 2005, Luis von Ahn, first proposed a new theory in his Ph.D. thesis, that Game With A Purpose, or GWAPs, are games played by humans that produce useful computation as a side effect. Luis von Ahn is one of the pioneers of crowdsourcing and now he is a Consulting Professor in the Computer Science Department at Carnegie Mellon University. He believes that human intellect is an important resource that could contribute to enhancing computer processing and human-computer interaction. The tasks presented in these games are usually trivial for humans but difficult for computers. These tasks include labeling images, transcribing ancient texts, common sense or human experience based activities, and more.



One of his famous product is Duolingo. Duolingo is a freemium language-learning app that currently offers 81 languages courses in 37 languages. It uses game-like, levels system to make learning fun and addictive. But duolingo actually started wanted to teach its users a foreign language while having them translate simple phrases in documents! As users get better at a language, they’ll get longer sentences to translate, and thus translate articles and books. Duolingo did make some profit from this, this feature was eliminated based on Wikipedia, but a few articles state that it’s still going on.



















Another invention by Luis von Ahn is the ESP game. The ESP game is a two-player game. The partners do not know each other's identity and they cannot communicate. Once the game starts, two players will look at the same picture at the same time and type down the appropriate label for the picture in the limited time. They will be rewarded with points for a match. This match turns out to be an accurate description of the picture and can be successfully used in a database for more accurate image search technology. The ESP Game was licensed by Google in the form of the Google Image Labeler and is used to improve the accuracy of the Google Image Search



























After explaining two very typical GWAP games, I hope you could understand what does "Game with A Purpose" represent now.  The biggest obstacle GWAP games facing is the gamification in the game. Bad gamification could lead to a lack of motivation. Usually, in order to get the correct and precise data, developers are afraid of adding gamification elements in the game. However, it is crucial in the GWAP games to attract enough users for data analysis. According to Maire-Jo, there are six keys to keep people engaged:

1. Make people think.

2. Show, don't tell.

3. Pique people's curiosity: give them something to look for.

4. Get people together, get them to interact

5. Use rewards wisely! This is hard.

6. Story drives engagement.



When "big data" is getting more and more popular, big data crowdsourcing is more widely used as a collective intellectual gathering of information that comes from the public. Games are designed to annotate and label data for machine learning to accomplish the given tasks quickly and effectively at a lower cost. I hope in the future, games are designed not only for entertainment but also as a tool, to collect human's wisdom to help the community.





Ava Tan

Pittsburgh, PA