Housework Raiders in the Lost Maze of Time

Originally uploaded by Liz Henry

Once upon a time in a castle far away, a party of adventurers did the housework. OH YES. Someone has made a fabulous online game, Chorewars, which functions as a sort of to-do list or chore wheel.

I created a character in about a minute, giving myself a goofy name, Zil-rah. I named our party of adventurers “Raiders of the Lost Maze of Time”. Then, as Dungeonmaster, I created “adventures”, also with silly high-fantasy-ishnames, defining the chores. Other people in my party can claim adventures (or one-time Quests), and earn experience points, gold pieces, treasure — and fight wandering monsters.

Draining the moat
Task: Drain the water out of the hot tub. Scrub it out and refill it.
Gold: between 30 and 60 gold pieces
Treasure: 50% chance of treasure (a potion of waterbreathing,a vial of starlight,+1 boots of water walking)
Monsters: 50% chance of a wandering monster (a kraken,bloodthirsty sharks)

After I set up a couple of adventures I IM-ed Rook excitedly. We got into a discussion of how many xp one should get for doing the dishes, vs., say, doing laundry. So the idea of weighting household tasks became a question of game design! That in itself felt productive, and made it more interesting to consider the housework at all. What stats does laundry exercise, vs. dishes or tidying or paying the bills? What about cooking? It’s important, you see… because when you accumulate 200 xp, you go up a level, and based on what adventures you’ve completed, and the stats they use, you might completely change character class (which is based on your stats.)

GEEK OUT! It was fantastic.

I realized in designing the adventures that it’s important to outline the depth of its tasks. So, there’s doing the dishes, and then there’s cleaning up the whole rest of the kitchen. There’s cooking at the campfire, which is just making a nice snack, dinner, or lunch for at least one other person; then there’s preparing a feast, which means doing anything more complex than putting the microwave dinner on a plate and adding some carrots as a side dish. You get way more xp for preparing a feast, of course.

Soooo the funny thing is that after I sat there doing this for a bit, I started to feel like I wanted to do the laundry so that I could check off a task and get some xp… just to see how the system worked… As I was folding the laundry, I had several impulses (as always) to flake out and not to turn things right side out, to throw them on top of the bed or the dresser, and leave things half-finished. But then I thought “No! That would be *cheating* and I couldn’t rightly claim the adventure as complete!”

When Moomin made his character he got even more excited than I thought he would. The whole house was clean, but he went on the Quest for the Holy Grail anyway — looking through the whole house to bring cups and dishes and soda cans back to the kitchen. I also counted his quick cleanup of his room this morning. He battled a giant turtle, lost, but still got the 30 gold pieces and the xp. Since he helped me fold laundry, he got a sparkling jewel, more xp, and more gold.

I think this is going to ROCK…

It would make sense for the ChoreWars developers to add more social features. I’d like to be able to browse other people’s public adventures, clone and change them, as you can in Ning applications or with Yahoo Pipes. If I make a huge, funny treasure list with a cleaning-the-kitchen theme, I’d like to share it. It would be handy to take other people’s chore adventures too, if they’re well-defined. Whole systems of chore-balancing might also be very interesting to look at.

I was reminded strongly of the scene in a Mrs. PIggle-Wiggle story where she makes a game out of making the beds, and the cruel queen comes in to test how well it’s made. Chore Wars adds not just the dimension of let’s pretend & imagination — it tracks stats and points and introduces concepts of game design! The record-keeping is important; it’s the satisfaction of entering your initials in the high score slot… the pointless advancement of levelling, like in MUDs… and the accumulation of nifty-sounding treasure in your inventory.

The “stackable” treasure is a nice touch. I designed laundry to have a 100% probability of getting a sparkling jewel or some other treasure, and made that treasure stackable, which means I can collect as many as I can. And you can “use” treasure/equipment, and spend gold pieces. This makes it possible to create many different voucher systems. In other words, I could in the real world declare that 100 sparkling jewels (in other words 100 loads of laundry done) mean that the intrepid conquerer of Garments gets some real-world treat.

Games are very motivating on their own, but the voucher system introduces tons of great possibilities!

It’s great that characters and parties can be viewed by the public, or kept private. There’s an RSS feed available for parties as well. You can click on a character’s chores completed to see details. I’d love to be able to share the complete list of adventures.

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9 Responses to Housework Raiders in the Lost Maze of Time

  1. hazelbroom says:

    Okay, that sounds totally cool. How old was Moomin when he got into games? I'm wondering if Ro is there yet; I bet he is.

  2. Liz says:

    We started him on the usual stuff, Chutes and Ladders, Candyland, and then finally the slightly more interesting Parcheesi; checkers and chinese checkers and chess; newer games too, before he was 5, mostly games you can play without knowing how to read:- Gulo Gulo (great!)- King of the Beasts (extra great!)- Hiss (a little dull for adults)- SaboteurThere was another excellent game with cards, something like "Cameleotto" or Chameleon Lotto, but I can't remember the name or find it online.I ran a lot of board games at his school, and with the kindergarteners, chinese checkers was especially popular, easy and quick to play, with the appeal of a cool board and pieces. A wooden board with pegs is best; the cardboard ones with marbles will just drive you insane.

  3. Daisy says:

    fun! Anything that motivates laundry chores sounds good to me.

  4. dawn224 says:

    Man, I wish you'd come to my house … not that the baby can clean yet… but I might get more done!

  5. elswhere says:

    This is like our chore checklist, only much more fun!

  6. Christine says:

    Ohhhhhhhh we are SO doing this!

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