Content from USA Today
A new social-networking site lets members track video game conquests among friends and strike a blow for democracy in the Middle East.
GameGround lets players discover new games and compete on leader boards and head-to-head with friends, as well as share and brag about game accomplishments. For its public unveiling, GameGround is kicking off a “Run for Democracy” event Friday online and at the South by Southwest Interactive Festival in Austin to support democracy-promoting organizations in countries such as Egypt, Libya and Tunisia.
For anyone who downloads the GameGround app and plays the Web running game Canabalt, GameGround will donate $1 to the non-profit National Democratic Institute, up to $10,000. The run continues until players have run the equivalent of 100 million meters in the game — a distance equal to 2½ times around the globe — or donated $100,000.
"We wanted to raise awareness for what is happening there, keep momentum going and actually help the cause," says Doug Vance, vice president of marketing at GameGround.
The Run for Democracy event not only serves as GameGround’s launch pad as a social-networking site but also as a sort of metagame similar to Foursquare, which allows people to check into destinations via an app for points. The app gives players points beyond those in games and tracks their performances and awards badges.
"We think of it as the game of games," Vance says. "You are playing games on the Web, on your PC, Xbox and on Facebook, and we are aggregating all of that activity into one metagame to help you build a complete gamer identity."
GameGround is not the first attempt to bring so-called gamification to games. Napster creator Shawn Fanning’s Rupture social-gaming service was purchased by Electronic Arts in 2008, but it has not gained mass momentum. GameStop-owned Kongregate tracks players’ performances over free-to-play games on its network. “We are doing it across all platforms with mobile to come later this year,” Vance says. GameGround hopes to support console makers Sony and Nintendo, as well.
GameGround was founded two years ago by former Blizzard executive Itzik Ben-Bassat, former 888.com executive Guy Margolin and former MTV Networks executive Shaul Olmert. GameGround’s site went live last year and has 100,000 users.
Already, GameGround has begun adding missions for players to earn new achievements. Eventually, GameGround could host for-fee competitions and skill-based tournaments.
Vance says, “Our thesis is that gamers are playing on many different devices and many different platforms, and rather than have one place to go for mobile games and one place to go for Facebook games and another place to go for Web games, we want to bring all of that together and use all of the information about gamers to give them a great experience.”