Johnny Appl – Not Saving The World, But It’s Trying
Quiz video games go back a long ways. You Don’t Know Jack, Scene It!, electronic versions of game shows (I recall nearly falling asleep to the Genesis/Mega Drive version of Jeopardy! in 1995 or so), tons for the Super Famicom that never got released in English, and who knows how many Flash games. It’s a simple and easy method of creating a game: Find some questions, find the answers. Hardly anything else is necessary. So when Anton Doos wanted me to review his quiz game, I wasn’t expecting much, especially since it was still in alpha.
What surprised me was not the game itself but the intent behind it. Offering to plant trees in the real world based on the players’ performance is admirable, but has nothing to do with the gameplay itself unless you count it as a more honorable incentive to addict players than the banality of gaining levels. Yet it’s what elevates this game above the ad-whoring microtransaction-begging quiz games you’d see on other sites. I owe my life to trees, and here was one with a good reputation (at least according to Google) that would plant some if I happened to know the capital of Namibia. What’s not to like? Quiz games are outside of this site’s usual fare of hard/complex/old nerd games, but this one’s for a good cause.
Struggling to think of any content besides “this is a competently made quiz game attached to a good charity”, I had a short Q&A session with the creator to round out this article.
Lee: What made you come up with the idea of a charity-based web game?
Anton: I believe that most people see news on climate change, deforestation, or poverty and their brain reacts emotionally but also logically. A person will look at themselves and think ‘What can I do?’, but if there is no reasonable way to help they will forget and move on very quickly.
By making the process of helping save the world completely free, easy, and addictive we can harness the potential of people who want to help but don’t know how. I feel this is the basic element which made Freerice.com a success. So we thought, let’s take this awesome idea, make it better, and see how many trees we can plant. (Our private alpha has planted around 1,700 trees so far.)
Lee: Did the Eden reforestation Project contact you or vice-versa?
Anton: We contacted Eden along with many other reforestation projects around 1 year ago. After a lot of research we fell in love with the Eden ideology and embraced their mission of hiring locals to plant the trees.
Lee: Who writes the quizzes and what’s the process behind it? Is it just looking up facts online and proving the real answer with three false ones, or is there a different reasoning to it?
Anton: So far me and my partner Mike have been writing all the content. It’s a lot of fun but takes a ton of time. Basically I read Wikipedia for 3 or 4 days and then produce a quiz. I am quite obsessed with having factual and interesting content, so one example is for the fruits quiz I must have read about 800 articles on all the culinary fruits.
For generating wrong answers, this is just a lot of fun. Usually the first wrong answer is whatever pops in my mind first, because I assume most people will also come up with this answer. For example think of an orange vegetable. I am almost sure you thought of carrot before you thought of pumpkin.
Lee: Will users be able to submit quizzes in the future? (My knowledge of Africa is sorely lacking)
Anton: We are looking at ways to do user-submissions so we can have so much content everyone finds exactly what they want. If you are familiar with Reddit I had an idea recently where we create a bot that will automatically add questions you submit on our subreddit. We think it’s pretty nifty and maybe will implement it in the next month or 2.
[I later replied “I don’t recommend using a bot to automatically add questions, as it could easily be abused by vandals to add obscene/ridiculous questions. Though some of them might be hilarious, it’s not worth the risk. At least screen that stuff first. – Lee]
Lee: After the official release, will you use any other media to spread the word?
Anton: We are trying out absolutely everything in the way of marketing. From social media, to blog posting, to pay per click. We’ll try everything and collect data for everything so we can maximize what works, and drop what doesn’t. I want to really get a lot of blog posts first because this is where I think we will find some really high-quality early adopters to give us feedback on how to improve.
Thanks so much for the interview! Totally appreciated.