Free Game: Chore Wars

By Shamus
on Oct 19, 2007
Filed under:
Game Reviews

Chore Wars is a computer game which is played in the real world. It’s an RPG which contains no roleplaying or story. It’s a game with no gameplay, and a game that everyone around here is playing. Leveling up is a chore by design, and yet the game is more rewarding than many conventional RPG’s. It’s multiplayer, although the players don’t usually interact until they’re done playing. Even though the dice rolls are automated, the encounters are randomly generated, and there is no story or NPCs to talk to, the game is run by a human DM. Sound silly? Listen…

Chore Wars
There are some who call me… "Daddy"?
Chore wars is, at its heart, a way to take the little rewards and thrills of RPG encounters and apply them to the mundane world of real, everyday tasks. It can be played by people in the same house, although I suppose an office environment can work too if you have neglected chores (make coffee, fill watercooler) and coworkers with the right mindset.

The “game” – such as it is – is played entirely through a web interface. The DM sets up a number of “adventures”, which in this context is just an insidious euphemism for “crappy thankless job”, and assigns XP, gold, and potential treasure rewards. A player then does one one of these jobs, and then claims the reward. The game does a good job of creating a little positive feedback for menial chores, which is the whole point. It also lets you see who the slackers in your particular group are.

The treasure rewards can be anything the DM likes. You can get a “+10 headband of Awesome”, or “a cookie”. The item appears on your character sheet and you can work out what they really mean, if anything, within your own group. I realize this whole idea sounds dangerously close to LARPing, an activity against which I have taken a firm stand in the past. I’m willing to allow it here, because frankly I just dig having the kids come in and beg to clean my office.

Our kids have been playing for three days now. Our house, which is usually ruled by the cruel hand of entropy, has stayed remarkably clean. The kids have actually gone to their mother and demand she provide additional tasks for them to do. The rewards she gives them – stuff like “go to the park” or “lollipop” are things she normally gives them anyway, except now they feel like these rewards are something they have earned. More work is getting done with less complaining, and there are less fights about who is or isn’t pulling their weight. I’m not sure how long the spell will last – I assume they will tire of it eventually – but for now it’s been a fun way to get things done around here.

The game is easy to set up and eats minimal time. It’s also free, of course. Note that everyone involved needs to be on board with the idea, or grief players will take advantage of the unwary.

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From the Archives:

  1. Shamus says:

    Yeah. And I guess it helps if I post a link to the thing.

    Fixed.

  2. maehara says:

    I like it. :). It’s just a shame that, at 17 months, my wee’un is just a little too young to sucker with it…

  3. Cineris says:

    This gives me hope that maybe, just maybe, the crack-like addictive properties of endless RPG grind can be used for good rather than for evil

  4. Rob says:

    Neat site! I can’t help but notice you’ve got a high CHR score for an introvert! :)

  5. MOM says:

    OOOO what fun! And can they earn xp for helping their aging but lovable Grandmother? Can she be a character in the game? Just wondering.

  6. Mrs T says:

    Brilliant! My mother and I have both signed up for it. (Watch out for those adventures in the Garderobe… there’s a 20% chance of encountering Noxious Fumes!)

  7. Carl the Bold says:

    Dude, that totally looks like you.

  8. TooMad says:

    But then you get to the point where you have quest/kill stealing which leads to PvP and then all hell breaks lose. Nevermind all of the Chinese gold farmers.

  9. Romana says:

    Whoa. I… I really thought that the Tycho character had gone all Tom Sawyer there and invented the thing. I have no words.

  10. Phlux says:

    I’ve some friends who are still in college and use this game for keeping the house they all share clean. I think they’re still playing it after 2 or 3 months. Their rewrads mostly focus on beer and TV time, though.

  11. Marty says:

    Ha. That comic has a completely different take for me now. Like Romana, I thought Tyco had “tricked” the Gabe character into doing the housework by making up a game about it. I had no idea it was an actual internet thing.

    Of course, he’s still tricking Gabe, but in a different manner than I had read.

  12. Romana says:

    I do, however, now have 40 XP. Still scratching my head about the monsters angle.

  13. Namfoodle says:

    Yeah, I remember looking at this site when the Penny Arcade comic came out.

    Folks, if you read the news on Penny Arcade each day, they sometimes explain the joke. Which is helpful if you can’t spend 80 hours a week gaming, like they probably do.

    Besides, sometimes Tycho writes some pretty funny stuff in the news posts.

    Anyway, I’m wondering if this would work with my kids, who are 8 & 9. “Entropy” doesn’t even begin to cover the state of our house. Perhaps if Nintendo and TV time came with a price, I would be able to actually enter my kids rooms without shredding my feet on legos littlest petshop. There is a rumor that there is carpet in there, but it hasn’t been seen or vacuumed in years.

  14. Tara says:

    What a thing of beauty. I hope if I ever have children I can remember that this exists.

  15. lost chauncy says:

    Thanks to the Wii, and now this, households throughout the developed world are slowly growing geekier…

  16. Rason says:

    I must say, this site rocks. I am now using it with my youngins and they can’t wait to finally encounter the “Dreaded Dragon of the Closet Depths” while cleaning their rooms. My littlest one today encountered a Salacious Sock and lost, made her so mad she folded all her socks neatly and put them into her drawer nicely so no more would get “Salvacious”

  17. Davesnot says:

    How cool is that!! I’m a stay at home Dad.. and have an almost-five kid and an almost-two kid.. and my wife and I bicker ’bout who is or isn’t pulling their weight.. this is just the ticket.. we’re looking for the Goblet of Desserts (choose the dessert).. and the Cloak of Many Movies (choose the family DVD).. etc.. the clothes are hung in the Eastern Hinterlands.. but beware the Tugging Toddlebeast!!

    Thanks!

  18. Aaron says:

    Wow. I don’t know what else to say … just … Wow. My geekdom is astounded. How fun!

    A

  19. Leslee says:

    My husband and I have had a running joke about giving each other “quests”. I would offer him bonus XP and magic items to coerce him into calling the insurance company, or taking care of the laundry.

    I never in a million years would have imagined that someone would actually make a real GAME out of it!

    Go figure…

  20. LancewithaBee says:

    My wife and I set up an party and showed it to the kids Monday. They have been awesome at doing chores (but they want to borrow the Mac after each one). Thanks Shamus!!!!

  21. Les GS says:

    We just ran across Chore Wars, and I’m having a lot of fun translating chores into appropriate sounding “adventures.” We have two older teens, and while they may deign to be mildly amused by the game itself, I think they might sit up and take notice when they find that their weekly XP can be exchanged for Real World cashy bucks, and that that’s going to be how they’re going to earn their spending money.

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