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The Free Rice Game: Gaming and Fighting World Hunger Combined

A screenshot from the homepage of freerice.com. The main image is asking a qeustion: "Restrict means? seek, limit, neaten or twinkle"

One of the endlessly fascinating aspects of the internet, well at least for me anyhow, is how massive it is. There is such a wealth of information available online. This can often make it very difficult to find what you want because just about everything else keeps cropping up instead, but sometimes you find some interesting things, often that you never even knew would be useful but turn out to be. And sometimes you find things that are just plain bizarre, but intriguing, like the one I thought I’d share with you today.

freerice.com is a website where you can play a simple game in which you answer questions and for every correct answer, ten grains of rice are donated to the United Nations World Food Program, which will go towards feeding people who need it around the world.

The game is simple, you answer a multiple choice question by selecting the correct answer. If your answer is correct, 10 grains of rice are donated. For every question you answer correctly, the difficulty level increases, if you then answer a question incorrectly the difficulty level decreases.

The default subject of questions is a vocabulary test. The way this works is that it will give you a word, for example, I’ve just been on there and the word it offered was jump. Then it will give you four other words and you have to pick which one means the same thing as your original word. For jump, the options it then provided were escape, scream, leap and fix.

The idea of this is to test your vocabulary. That may seem an easy question, but the point is for it to start off simple and then advance.

There are also a range of other subjects including topics in the areas of maths, English, sciences and humanities.

One of my questions after thinking about it for a while was: how does answering these questions correctly generate rice? Surely if someone’s donating the rice for every question someone gets right, why not just have them donate rice? The answer to this is actually quite clever. Every time you answer a question correctly, an advert is displayed. The advert makes enough revenue from being displayed to earn enough money for 10 grains of rice.

Accessibility

In terms of accessibility, it’s fairly good. I accessed it using VoiceOver on the iPhone and navigating the website was generally fine. It’s a bit too cluttered for my liking, but not in a way that was overly problematic. Answering the questions was also fine. I did the vocabulary test and went in to the subjects and did times tables just to test another subject, which were both fine. However, what was a problem, is that some of the subjects are image based questions, for instance, there is a human anatomy subject which shows you an image and asks you to choose the body part that image was of and the images had no alt text rendering them inaccessible to a blind person. Another thing that was positive though, is that the adverts on this site didn’t get in the way at all, in fact I didn’t know they were there until I read about them and how they paid for the rice. So overall, it’s a fairly smooth user experience, but certain subjects aren’t accessible to users with a visual impairment.

I think this is a really innovative idea. I was initially a bit sceptical about the rice donation thing, before I understood where the rice was coming from. But since having read about how they make the money for the rice, I’m really impressed by the idea. The internet is full of adverts these days. While I understand that they’re what’s needed to pay the people who run websites, they can still become a bit irritating. So, it’s cool to see someone use the current advertising climate to benefit people. I’m also quite genuinely impressed and excited to have stumbled across something so creative. As a writer and as someone who is passionate about creativity and doing things in unconventional ways that can be a good way of overcoming barriers and solving problems, I was genuinely satisfied creatively.

Additionally, I think it’s a clever way to combine education with giving to charity. Despite being advertised as a game, I don’t really think this is the sort of thing that people would do on a regular basis for fun, purely because if you want to help people, there are usually other ways of doing it. From having played the game, it does become extremely repetitive and dull, if you’re just playing for the sake of playing. I kept playing to increase my rice total, but it’s not something I’d do on a regular basis just to earn rice, because I feel like there are more valuable ways I can use my time to do charity.

That said, what I think this website is really cool for is education. They do actually have a facility where people can make and track groups which they recommend be used for teachers. For example, in the Maths section there’s a times tables section, which could be really cool for kids learning them. That way, they can practise something they’d need to practise anyway, in an online environment with the incentive of doing something good. I think if they could expand the subjects, or allow people to build their own subject based quizzes, it could be really cool.

If you fancy having a go at the free rice game you can check it out at:

www.freerice.com

What unusual things have you found while browsing the internet recently? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

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