What Is This Play The Planet Business?

Okay, so here’s where I actually let you inside my head, so don’t step on anything. It’s one thing to talk about the business side of things. This post, and others like it in this blog will be all about the why. WHY am I doing this? What am I working toward? Believe it or not, there’s a method to my madness.

If you’ve read the “About Me” page, then you already know the backstory, so I won’t repeat it here. If you haven’t yet read that page, give it a quick look, then come back this way. It’ll provide the needed background for what follows to make sense.

“Is it possible to make a (computer) game, such that the simple act of playing it can ‘change stuff’ in the real, physical world?”

That was the question Daniel asked me. That was the question I almost drove myself mad trying to answer, and ultimately, that was the question I answered in the affirmative.

I know what you’re thinking, and believe me, I’ve been down the road you’re staring at right now. Of course it’s not possible, right? Because the digital world is digital, and the physical world is physical, and the two just don’t intersect, so there’s no way….

Except that isn’t exactly true, is it?

Think about MMORPG’s…say World of Warcraft, since most everybody is familiar with that. It definitely has a point of intersection between the two worlds. It’s you. You the player. You exist as an avatar in the game, and of course, you exist in the physical world, sitting there at your computer PLAYING the game, and once you understand that the player IS the point of intersection…the bridge between the two worlds, everything else gets easier.

At the root then, Play the Planet is a role playing game that’s set in both the real and digital worlds. The two worlds interact with each other, and can modify each other, through the player.

As with every role playing game, PtP revolves around quests. In World Of Warcraft, you may be tasked with invading the Temple of Pure Evil Badassery to rescue Princess Kumonawannalaya or something, but of course, games have tempo and pacing. There’s a story, so it’s not like you can just walk up to the temple’s front door and knock. No! You’ve got sub-quests to complete first. You have to recruit allies. Then you may have to go on a quest to find the Dagger of Badass Killingry, which is the only artifact known that can hurt the boss villain who’s guarding the Princess. Then maybe you have to climb to the top of Mount Flatulence to receive a smelly blessing from the Grand High Farter, and on and on.

Eventually, at some point, you get to approach the Temple of Ultimate Badassery and fight your way to the Princess, where, if you’ve been careful in your planning, and maybe get a bit lucky here and there, you will emerge victorious and gain your rewards (gold, magic items, etc).

Same thing here, with PtP, except that we’ve made our “Quests” a bit more relevant and timely, is all.

In Play the Planet, the game, and the quests that drive it, are divided into seven functional areas. These areas are:

  • Archival
  • Agronomy
  • Commerce
  • Energy
  • Production
  • Social
  • Transport

Each functional area has an assortment of quests associated with it. The quest structure is open ended. You can start where you wish. You don’t have to, for example, start with Archival and slowly work your way through to other areas. If you could give a shit about archival, fine. Just ignore those quests and start somewhere else.

Let’s say you’re interested in food, so you start with the Agronomy area.

In that area, you’ll find a single quest to start the show. It’s called ‘Green Thumb.’ To complete the quest, you read the summary and instructions. You are to:

  • Build or buy a window planter box
  • Fill said box with dirt
  • Put seeds in the dirt. Doesn’t matter what. Up to you. Basil. Tomatoes. Peppers. Just something you can eat or cook with that you’ll enjoy
  • Water the seeds and nurture them to seedlings, then to full grown plants
  • Harvest your crop
  • Take selfies of your progress along the way
  • Upload the selfies to the quest admin and await confirmation

That’s it. It’s a simple quest that gives you hands on experience with planting seeds in the dirt and getting food back from it.

Completing that quest though, unlocks other, more advanced quests. One of the quests it unlocks is called “Home Grown.” The “Home Grown” quest builds on the things you learned and demonstrated in “Green Thumb,” and takes them to the next level. Here, you’ll either build or buy a green house, or, if you don’t have the space for that, you’ll build grow towers out of recycled materials. Blueprints and parts manifests are available, for free, for a wide variety of greenhouses (13 as of the time this piece was written, but more being added all the time).

Your objective: Grow some percentage of your own food. Note that you don’t have to grow all your own food, but you WILL gain at least a measure of food independence. I’ve invented my own high yield, micro-farming hybrid technique by studying the methods of others. It’s called by the rather unfortunate acronym HYNA (‘Hyena’), which stands for High Yield, Natural Agronomy.

Again, you’ll be photo documenting the greenhouse build, the raised bed build and/or placement, your garden plan, and selfies at every step.

There’s a story arc here. The early quests see you learning and gaining mastery over a skill, then ultimately, later quests see you applying this knowledge in the service of others. The “Helping Hands” quest, for example, is just like the “Home Grown” quest, except that you’re assisting another player complete THEIR “Home Grown” quest, and getting credit for doing so.

Any quest that involves helping another human being has rewards beyond achievement badges and experience points (which cause you to level up and gain powers on the site). You also earn the in-game currency, Ghost Net Credits.

Ghost Net Credits can be spent on real world goods and services – whatever other players are selling. Ebooks, craft items, services, etc. You can even pay your monthly membership fee in Gc if you wish.

What you’ve read so far has probably left you with as many questions as answers, but I’m stopping here on purpose. My next post on this topic will detail the game’s economic model and some of the underlying theories that drive it.

Explanation continues here.



    1. Thank you, Shannon, and thanks for reading! I’ll have another post up in a day or two that explains some of the other parts of the system more fully, hopefully in a way that makes it all hang together and make sense to everybody’s brain. That’s actually been one of the biggest challenges so far. I can SEE the model with perfect clarity – describing it in a way that it actually makes sense turns out to be somewhat tricky though. 😉


  1. Okay, I am down with the basic concept of using a MMORPG to make a real-world impact….

    Teaching people the basics of sustainable living is an obvious benefit, but I do these things in real life, so that doesn’t interest me. Sharing information, building community, all of these things are laudable, with real benefits.

    But I am more interested in finding some more tangible and direct real-world impact. For example: crowd-sourced computing, information gathering, human-centric processing/analysis, etc. that are currently in use in a few scientific endeavors. These strategies use the entire “crowd” concept to great effect, yielding publishable results and tangible cost savings for worthwhile research.

    These are the kinds of direct benefits that an innovative game could produce. I look forward to your progress….



    1. We’re on the same page! Teaching the sustainability concepts is a big part of the picture, but just one part. The series of “Archival” quests, for example, are all geared toward exactly what you have in mind. Computing and information gathering, human processing and analysis (in addition to the not-inconsiderable job of maintaining a healthy virtual ecosystem, even as we move closer to maintaining a healthy real world ecosystem).

      The game system is built so that as players “level up” in the game, the “powers” they gain in the context of the game also translate to additional power and abilities in the real, physical world. High level “players” will command great respect and authority (and have an increased ability to marshal resources toward specific ends) on the basis of their proven track record, acts of service, and active stance, both in-game and in-community.

      One of the biggest dilemmas facing non profits today is that the problems they face are simply overwhelming. Take hunger, for example. When you think about the hunger problem in global terms, the numbers are just too vast to even imagine. But, if I say, for example, that there are 22,024 food insecure people living in Horry County, SC (actual 2012 numbers from the USDA) – well, that’s a number we can do something about, so that’s one of the numbers that becomes a “scoring mechanism” in the game.

      One of the first prototypes I’ll be building here in Virginia will be an agronomy lab that can supposedly feed 8 people, forever, once it’s up and running. If I can prove that such a system can be built cheaply, and that the food grown in the structure can be grown sustainably, then I can start chipping away at that number. 🙂


  2. Absolutely. I’ve always like the idea of building up a mesh network across the Internet/Internet-of-things/cell networks/etc as a platform for distributed computing. And using it as a tool to solve real-world problems by way of a game? Great idea!


    1. Hey Mike, and thanks for reading! Glad your into the idea…I can hardly wait to start putting facts on the ground (my latest post on this topic is about that very thing) and demonstrating the concept in the real world. I’ve got some fun, simple ideas to make it accessible for everyone, and the hope is that once people see where this is actually going, they’ll start piling on in large numbers. If it’s something you’re interested in, stick around and let’s kick it around further! 🙂


    1. Just shoot me a note using the “Wanna Be A Part Of It” page – there will be an app (eventually) – still a work in progress. First order of business is to get the small hobby farm up and running, but there’s lots of infrastructure work to be done in advance of that!

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