Helping games: Free Rice

You hear a lot about the horrors that our beloved interactive virtual experiences visit upon society – school shootings, curbside beatings, subway assaults, theft, breaking-and-entering, drug use, child abuse, domestic violence, teenage promiscuity, truancy… homosexuality (“god” says that’s a no-no)… suicide…

Yup, video games cause all of those, just in case you haven’t noticed.

If you really haven’t noticed, then you haven’t been paying attention, because that’s just about all the mainstream, american dream press the video game industry gets nowadays. Games are described as “violent shooters” instead of “sci-fi action” or “violent gore-fests” rather than “survival horror.” The negativity seems nearly insuperable, but there are ways for the industry to remove some of that taint.

I recently discovered a little website called Free Rice (, and posted a news story about it. Basically, it is a multiple-choice vocabulary quiz that has no end, and for every correct answer, 10 grains of rice are donated to hungry people across the world. Over the past month, the project has been successful enough to deliver the equivalent of about 155 THOUSAND bowls of rice with just a few clicks per person.

This is the type of press that the industry needs. More importantly, this is the type of undertaking that the world needs. Forget the games industry; think of the many causes such initiatives could assist. It’s so simple, no?

Some might argue that Free Rice is not really a videogame, because is actually more akin to a practice SAT exam (yeah…maybe that’s true). Considering the breadth of content that is appearing under the umbrella qualification of “videogames,” though, why is it not? It has a goal, an input action, consequences, rewards, etc. It’s even entertaining…to nerds (and gaming columnists).

Okay, so if Free Rice isn’t technically a “videogame”…big deal. The point is that “real” videogames can reach just as far as Free Rice. Headshots in competitive first-person shooters can be worth fractions of pennies donated to the efforts to bring peace to war-torn areas of the world. Collecting certain items in MMORPGs can do the same for medical research…or anything. The possibilities are endless – the effort simply need to be made.

Videogames are a powerful medium. Game-makers stand in a powerful forum. Gamers are a powerful force. We just need the right ideas to move us in the right direction, and the actions to back those ideas up.


P.S. Everyone, play the Free Rice game, will ya? It takes no time, and with many of us giving none of our time, we can do a lot. I currently have the site set as my homepage and I donate 100 – 200 grains of rice each time I open Firefox. Do it with me.


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Author: Eddie Inzauto View all posts by
Eddie has been writing about games on the interwebz for over ten years. You can find him Editor-in-Chiefing around these parts, or talking nonsense on Twitter @eddieinzauto.

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