ROME – Does the word arundinaceous mean long and thin or someone who talks too much? Is an aleconner a beer-taster or a kind of bird? Does scunner mean deep dislike or something you’d find on a boat?
Questions like these have stumped millions of people across the globe since 2007, when Freerice.com – the world’s only vocabulary game that feeds the hungry – took the web by storm.
Since then, the viral brain teaser has raised enough rice to feed more than 4.2 million people for a day in countries like Uganda and Bangladesh. Pakistan will be the latest destination following the unprecedented flooding that has sparked one of the worst humanitarian disasters in the country’s history.
Driving the flow of rice are an average 40,000 players daily (1.2 million per month) who take the fight against hunger online by putting their word-smarts to the test.
But the FreeRice frenzy has only just begun as loyal players and word freaks everywhere start playing an all-new version launched today, which combines the addictive game-play of the original version with the community-building appeal of social media.
“The race will be on to see who can top the FreeRice rankings,” said Nancy Roman, Director of Communications and Private Sector Partnerships for the World Food Programme, adding that hardcore players have been clamouring for this function from the outset.
The original premise of FreeRice hasn’t changed: players face increasingly difficult vocabulary questions and for every correct answer, earn ten grains of rice donated through WFP and paid for by advertisers. FreeRice 2.0 now takes the game one step further, by bringing players together in an online community of people where virtual game play and interaction rises to a new level.
Bragging rights will become an even greater part of the game with social network integration, allowing players to post their scores on Facebook or tweet about how much rice they’ve donated on Twitter. The vehicle behind a whole genre of successful web games, mixing the game-play with social media will help drive its popularity and get new players onboard.
The ultimate time killer, a mobile phone app will also be available for iPhone/iPad users, who can get their FreeRice fix while they wait in line at the bank or ride the bus to work.
While the word challenge is still the game’s biggest attraction, players can also test their knowledge of Art, Geography, Chemistry or Math, or drill their vocabulary in French, Spanish, Italian or German.
“FreeRice is making Internet history, said Roman. “It’s a stellar example of how a fun and simple idea can harness the internet’s potential to contribute to the world’s most pressing global issue – hunger.”
The new level of interactivity will also make the game a better classroom tool for teachers, who are already using it to hone their students’ vocabularies while teaching them about poverty and hunger. With FreeRice 2.0, teachers can pit their kids in a classroom competition or even a school-wide tournament at the click of a mouse.
A viral phenomenon, FreeRice was launched in 2007 with no official marketing campaign and at no cost to WFP. Its designer, John Breen, says the programme started out as a simple word game to help his teenage sons prepare for their college entrance exams.
Breen, who was already working on a number of humanitarian causes, realized the game’s potential to help, putting it at the service of WFP. An instant success, in its first month, the game had raised enough rice to feed over 50,000 people for a day.
As it continued turning heads and winning converts, FreeRice won Yahoo!’s 2007 Charity Website of the Year Award. A year later, Breen was recognized by Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society, for the game’s outstanding contribution to the Internet’s impact on society.
Today, thousands of loyal players log on everyday to learn new words or improve their English language skills, while donating rice to the hungry. As this online community of hunger-fighting word fans continues to grow, so does their contribution to WFP’s operations around the world.
For Further Information:
Rene McGuffin, WFP/Washington, Tel. + 1 202 653 1149, Mob. + 1 202 390 2579
Ralf Suedhoff, WFP/ Berlin, Tel. + 49 30 206 14912, Mob. + 49 160 949 12547
Abeer Etefa, WFP/Cairo, Tel. +2 02 25281730 ext. 2600, Mob. +2 016 663 4352