SAN FRANCISCO--Housework is a lot more fun with a battle axe and a couple of dwarves.
Chore Wars, a game shown off by noted game developer Jane McGonigal at the Web 2.0 Summit recently, gives users "experience" points for various household chores. Collecting those points then lets you advance your profile in the online game.
Swiffer the floor twice a week and get 20 points for charm, that sort of thing. You can also play for virtual gold doubloons. These can be exchanged for rewards, inside your own circle of friends. Earn 200 doubloons and you can receive a get-out of-cleaning-the garage card. Or if you are the low scorer for a month, you can be dubbed a scapegoat and put up for adoption.
Naturally, most players concentrate on people you know. Who cares if some guy in Texas slew 200 yards of PVC pipe in putting together his new sprinkler system and got 1,000 doubloons. The bean bags in your guest room still need to be stacked. Still, you can get a sense of the value that other people put on certain tasks to get a sense of the value of your own.
There are different roles you can play--apprentice, dungeon master (DMs have full administrative power and get to wield the unstoppable cleansing power of Comet) and adventurer.
The idea behind all of this is to make real life more appealing. Virtual worlds are actually more appealing than reality to a growing segment of the population. The rules are easier to understand and the rewards are clean-cut. "Some people care more about their avatars than their real lives," McGonigal said. "We're seeing it a bit in the U.S. In Asia it is a really strong phenomenon."
There does seem to be an inherent danger of turning people into household pets. You're getting people to clean up for the equivalent of a milk bone. But, in the right context, you could see this making housework more fun.