Games With a Purpose

May 28, 2008

Games With a Purpose (GWAP) is a web site at which you can play games. What’s the purpose? “When you play a game at Gwap… you’re training computers to solve problems for humans all over the world.”

There are currently five games at the site. They tend to be coordination games. For example, the ESP game show you and another player the same image, and asks each of you to tag it with words. When you’ve agreed on a tag, you get points and move on to the next image.

For more on GWAP, you can see posts by Sarah Perez and by Nicholas Carr, and a 3-page paper (pdf) by GWAPmeister Luis von Ahn of Carnegie Mellon University. Then there’s a wider-ranging piece about the relationship between games and work by games consultant Margaret Robertson, just posted on the BBC site.

Here are a couple of my favorite quotes about games and their purpose.

  • We do not stop playing because we grow old. We grow old because we stop playing. Variations on this are credited to many different people. I’m inclined to give the credit to Anon, one of my favorite writers.
  • When playing a game the goal is to win, but it is the goal that is important, not the winning. Reiner Knizia, my favorite game designer.

Looking at the second of these, it occurs to me that all five current GWAP are cooperative, rather than competitive. Hmm…