Friday, June 12, 2009

Free Thing of the Week: FreeRice

As theories go, Chaos Theory is pretty much the best. It states that while the behavior of certain system may appear to be random, in fact it may be simply a highly sensitive response to initial conditions. It's determinism WITH AN ATTITUDE. Jeff Goldblum used it to fight dinosaurs, making it the mathematical equivalent of a bazooka.

"Dynamic systems aren't the only thing that's 'highly sensitive' around here, LADIES."

This explains how a butterfly might beat its wings somewhere in the world, and cause a hurricane. Inevitably it is always butterflies, and it is always hurricanes.
You'd think a theory that ostensibly describes 'randomness' would try mixing it up once in a while. It is never a frog croaking somewhere in the world, causing some guy to watch an entire Sanford and Son marathon. I mean, yes, there was that one time I went back in time on a dinosaur safari and accidentally stepped on that butterfly, and when I came back to the present my roommate was a total jerk, but that's a small price to pay. I mean, Dinosaur Safaris, right?

Now maybe it's just me, but I am SICK and TIRED of all these butterflies bogarting our perfectly fine chaos. We need options! Luckily there is FreeRice, which does not dissapoint.

Do you know what 'doleful' means? 'Gimcrack?' 'Passerine?' Congratuations. Someone halfway around the world gets some rice, which I think is a much nicer gift than a hurricane. Operating under the same principle as The Hunger Site, which leverages a free cup of food through a daily click of a button and a few flashy ads, there is the distinct sensation of cornucopia. We are so accustomed to the internet being much ado about nothing that to suggest a direct change in the world, even a subtle one, requires a shifting of stance.

Of course, english vocabulary is only the default setting. Brush up on your famous paintings or chemical symbols. Practice your Italian or French, go over world capitals or multiplication tables.

I've spoken about this before, and remarked upon how simple it is to transform a neutral gaming experience into a vehicle for charity. Often there is the question of impact but these questions need not be rhetorical ones. In this case, the question "Does it make a difference?" has a simple and tangible answer: It makes 65 billion rice of difference.

Ultimately it frames gaming as a matter of choice. Yes, I could help Mario get past Bowser, though likely my princess will be in another castle. Or I could help some dude get his rice on.

- Rook


  1. Another great charity site is It donates money to children in need through World Vision.

    Check it out at

  2. Thanks for the link. I'll check it out now.

    When doing a bit of research about click-to-give models, my wife and I checked out a number of sites that used the same model. is interesting, as it formats its questions in the fashion of crossword puzzle.

  3. FreeRice is so fun, but also kind of frustrating when your vocab is as poor as mine is and you hit the rice-giving wall so soon. It's more fun/educational than the Hunger Site, but that site is still great. Actually, I don't know if i ever told you guys this, but i got your wedding gifts from the Hunger Site's store - and they donated a bunch of rice in return. It was a win-win, gift-rice solution! I haven't checked out the store in the years since, but it used to be full of awesome kitchenware and all kinds of neat fairtrade stuff by world artisans. The best is their "gifts that give more" section - you can buy goats for a family to start up a cottage industry, send little girls to school, immunize children against TB, etc. etc. etc.

  4. Yeah, I agree about the vocab thing. I'm a werd nerd, so I can pretty much roll all day... though I feel oddly bad about getting them wrong. But Colleen and I had a blast with some of the other play modes: Pooling our fine art knowledge, or our collective French.

    That said, I can't say anything bad against the Hunger Site - in fact, its the homepage of my family's computer in Midland. The sheer time-to-output ratio simply can't be beat, but it leverages something different.. instead of tapping into our endless capacity to waste time, it commodifies the actual act being bombarded with ads, something I frankly find ingenious.

    Also, I never knew that those beautiful glasses came from the site. I should check it out, as I have always just gone click/ignore/next. Serves me right.

  5. Wait, you can play it in French??? I totally missed that part!! That's an awesome way to practice!

    Sadly, not the champagne glasses - the glass serving bowl/plate and wood cheese board. Fair trade! Those champagne glasses are the same place i got my wine glasses, so either Homesense or Home Outfitters. Thus, probably didn't result in much rice for anyone. They probably took rice AWAY from someone to make them. Ok, that's actually a really horrible thought, i hope doesn't cancel out the karma of the others...? I'm going to go up my clicking count.

  6. As it turns out they took the rice away from me. I went to have some rice and it was gone. Thanks a lot Suzanne.