Akoha is a New Kind of Social Game – Interview with CEO Austin Hill

For those of that were watching what came out of TechCrunch50, you may have heard about a new game called Akoha. The game combines real world play with a social network to support it. Inside Social Games had a chance to check out Akoha and sit down and talk with the co-founder and CEO of the company, Austin Hill.

Thanks so much for taking the time to speak with us. For those that do not know, what is Akoha?

Akoha is a real world and virtual game in which players carry out missions that involve performing small acts of kindness for others. The activities of Akoha players are described on “mission cards” that involve real world and virtual challenges like “Donate an hour of your time,” “Give someone a book,” and “Send drinks to a couple in love.” As Akoha players perform more missions, they advance in the game, recruit new players, and spread good deeds across the planet.

Unlike virtual worlds and massively multiplayer games, Akoha takes place in the real world and turns everyday life into the ultimate playground. Playing Akoha is simple and will ultimately combine offline activity with social websites, cell phones, and barcodes so that every public place becomes part of Akoha’s game play. Akoha brings people together, creates novel experiences in players’ lives, and allows the community as a whole to help make the world a better place.

Obviously this game is going to have any number of features and nuances to it. If you had to pick a best feature of the game, what would it be and why?

Akoha is currently in beta-testing and we are still introducing and fine-tuning features with our play testing community that make it fun. Beyond specific features, we are excited about two distinct elements that we think make Akoha unique:

– Casual reality based gaming: Reality based games have been incredibly innovative in their ability to use the world as their playground, encouraging new modes of play with interesting social elements. Unfortunately even the most successful of these have appealed to very niche audiences and have had a high barrier to participation requiring lots of organizing, setup and administration. They also tend to be short-lived experiences; we have not seen an ongoing multiplayer reality based game that has continued for many years and appealed to the size of audiences that MMPGs like WoW and Club Penguin have developed.

– Meaningful games: There is an incredible body of work by researchers and academics showing the potential of using games to create change, and the power of play to make the world a better place. Despite this, we are only beginning to see the use of game mechanics for meaningful social projects start to become commercially viable. Health, learning and self-improvement games (for example WiiFit and BrainAge) were at the forefront of this, but some of the larger goals of using games to demonstrably improve our world are only beginning to emerge beyond research initiatives. We hope to help usher in this trend with Akoha.

The game is often described as virtual plus reality: The “game play” seems fairly self-explanatory when it comes to reality, but what are some of the virtual aspects of the game? Is there any insight you can provide us beyond the tracking of badges, cards, and so on?

Reality based games have an incredible potential to create new social interactions and a different type of game immersion experience based on real world experiences. Unfortunately they also have weaknesses in terms of game compulsion loops (long feedback cycles), individual play and other game mechanics that have proven very popular in the software gaming areas.