Casual games can be guilty pleasures, but Brandon Bozzi wants to strip away the guilt. He’s a local game designer and a veteran of shops like Wizards of the Coast (where he worked on Magic and D&D) and Big Fish (where he worked on casual games like Fairway and Faunasphere), and he's got a free iPad game coming out today in the App Store.
It's called Quingo and you should absolutely check out—because it's fun and smart and a little weird, and because it helps you raise money for charities just by playing. The higher you score, the more money goes to charities that you choose, and it's free to play—with the money coming from ads and optional in-game purchases.
We talked to Brandon over email about Quingo and "Game It Forward," the altruism-fueled organization behind it:
What's Quingo's origin story? Last year, I held a summit where we brought together people from nonprofits and some of the best game designers in the industry to come up with a world-changing game idea. Quingo was the result of that collaboration. It was a good scope, and it's a unique game that pulls together two mobile game genres that are already very popular: trivia and bingo. It's also a model that can have a significant and ongoing effect on the projects of our charity partners.
"Valar Morghulis," ha! (Also, Bella Abzug, clearly a spy but not fictional. Very tricky, Quingo.)
What's Game It Forward's origin story? I've been working in the game industry for 13 years, and in that time I've come to believe that games are more than entertainment—that they can have a real, positive impact in the world. But so many games that were attempting to have a social impact were going unnoticed (and therefore having no impact). So I started Game It Forward to make games that are fun first, and that also just happen to make the world a better place. Our mission is to use the compelling, interactive nature of games to support education, science, health care, and a variety of charitable causes. I brought on Morgan Belford as my co-founder and developer extraordinaire, and we set out to take Quingo from idea to reality.
How did you pick your charity partners? We want every player that comes to Quingo to find a cause they're passionate about, so we selected charities working on a breadth of issues. We also want to have a close partnership with each charity in the game, and to not have players overwhelmed by a large number of charities to choose from. Finally, we want players to see how their play is having a direct impact, so we selected charities that were able to break their work into easily understandable, bit-sized projects. With all that in mind, we settled on six: Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Kiva, PAWS, Seattle Children's, Splash, and The Martinez Foundation.
How did the charity aspect affect the game design? We designed Quingo to be compelling on its own—a completely entertaining experience separate from its social impact. But we've also found that people are more willing to stay with (and spend money in) a game when they feel it's helping a cause they care about. So we've tried to make it clear to people throughout the UI where their money is going and what impact it's having.
What's next? There's more we want to add to Quingo. In the shorter term, we're going to expand to other platforms outside of iPad, add more features (there's a lot more I think we can do with multiplayer), and continue to tweak and polish the game in reaction to the way people play it. In the longer term, we'll start thinking about and looking for partners for our next game for the greater good.
The Stranger Testing Department is Rob Lightner, Paul Hughes, and Mary Traverse.