I am a homeless man.

After reading Reality is Broken I began formulating a game called HoboKin, an ARG based on the experience of homelessness and poverty. So far I have designed 9 Achievements and about 35 quests, all designed to raise awareness of homeless and to create empathy with the impoverished. I believe the game has even more potential than that however.

What I do not know how to do is to create a website whereby people could communicate, post links to essays, pictures and videos, register completed quests, gain XP and a kind of currency I’m calling “Street Cred” or SC’s, perhaps even have avatars. I am hoping to find someone who can help me do that, something along the lines of Chore Wars which I understand is made in a commonly known language called PHP. Despite decades of online activity I am afraid I never learned to code.

Forgive me if this message is terse. I only get an hour a day of computer access at the library, and I have to spend some of that time continuing my job hunt. Still, I invite anyone who is interested to email me at macmcgill7@gmail.com , as you might imagine my access is limited but every once in awhile I can sneak a quick peek through other people’s computers. I would very much like to do this and hope that I can get in contact with someone who will help me.

Thank you very much for your time and consideration.

Mac McGill

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I have 2 game design classes and an after school club and would love to challenge them to make some Hobokin themed mini-games if you'd like :)

I would be deeply honored.

In fact, as you'll see in a post I'm about to make, I am ready (or at least willing) to start keeping track of points accrued in HoboKin. Your students could get an epic headstart.

Mac, I live in a very similar situation, but my social support network is a little more developed. I hate to be a jerk about this, but much of my small but increasing success comes from an abundance of self-promotion, and not a little publicity, both good and bad. Is there a level of public attention in meatspace that you would be comfortable with? Do you think that this would be an asset to you personally or professionally? I'd love to prove that social value comes in whatever package you find it, as it took a great deal of blood, sweat, and tears to make my own shine forth a bit more. Good luck!

So I was asked (by Jane McGonigal no less, by which I am deeply tickled, who knew that the people who wrote books were real people? Huh) to list out the quests and achievements I have designed for HoboKin. Unfortunately, my peripatetic existence has led to an apparent loss of those of those notes. Despite my best efforts I haven’t been able to recreate them. Some moments of creativity are not repeatable. Still, I did try, though from the beginning I figured this game would only be fleshed out and made really exciting by a community working on the ideas. Luckily, I am getting those kind of offers and I can’t wait to see what people come up with. Regardless, in the hour or so I get on the computer today I wanted to put a few things up about my idea because I think it gives a better idea of what I’m talking about.

Below you will find a list a few named Achievements and the Quests that go with them. In particular I would take the recommended levels of XP and Street Cred as negotiable. Math isn’t my best subject, so everything is scored extremely intuitively. My idea for character levels is that it is theoretically open ended, but becomes increasingly difficult to level the higher you go. Much like World of Warcraft.

Please note, some of these quests, which are things that the homeless and impoverished deal with every day, can be notably dangerous. ALL PLAYERS SHOULD BE ADVISED THAT THEY PARTICIPATE IN THESE ACTIVITIES AT THEIR OWN RISK. I have avoided truly stupidly dangerous quests like “jump on a moving freight train” or “pick a fight with a drugged up gang member” and would never allow them to be part of any quest chain. However, if you were to say, pick up and smoke a discarded cigarette you found on the street for 2500 XP & 150 SC, you could get anything from tuberculosis to lung cancer. But hey, Mario Kart can give you carpal tunnel syndrome. People need to exercise  common sense, and many of these activities are likely best done in a group.

Also, obviously, this has to operate on an honor system, or it simply will not work, which is another reason I would recommend people join and form guilds, both local and otherwise.

So here we go:

ACHIEVEMENT: “Mine Eyes Have Seen The Glory”

Watch these movies for 1500 XP and 150

  • Ironweed
  • Grapes of Wrath
  • Matewan
  • Sucker Free City
  • Emperor of the North

Recommend a movie on the theme of poverty and homelessness 500 XP & 50 SC

Have 2 people second your recommendation (making it official) 500 XP & 50 SC

Have 5 or more people follow your recommendation 2500 XP & 250 SC

For the 6-10 movie official movie watched in this achievement, get Level II for achievement plus 2500 XP & 300 SC

For all movies past 11 watched, get 5000 XP & 750 SC


ACHIEVMENT:  “Road Scholar”

Read these books for 5000 XP and 350 SC

(note: I know I originally had more books on this list, but couldn’t recall them today)

  • Grapes of Wrath
  • Cannery Row
  • Angela’s Ashes

Recommend a book on the theme of poverty and homelessness 500 XP & 50 SC

Have 2 people second your recommendation (making it official) 500 XP & 50 SC

Have 5 or more people follow your recommendation 2500 XP & 250 SC


ACHIEVEMENT: “I love it because it’s trash”

Each repeatable 3x a month

  • Smoke a cigarette or cigar butt found on the street or trash 2500 XP & 150 SC
  • Eat something from the trash for 3500 XP & 250 SC
  • Eat someone else’s leftover food from the trash 7500 XP & 500 SC
  • Wear an article of clothing found in the trash for a whole day 5000XP & 250 SC
  • Use a piece of furniture found in the trash for one week 5000 XP & 250 SC
  • Complete in one month to get to next level and an additional 1000 XP and 100 SC


ACHIEVEMENT: “Street Angel”

Each repeatable 3X a month

  • Give a panhandler $5 or more 2500 XP & 250 SC
  • Talk to a homeless/impoverished person for 5 minutes or more 2500 XP & 250 SC
  • Help a homeless/impoverished person do their laundry 5000 XP & 500 SC
  • Help a homeless/impoverished person get a shower/bath 10,000 XP & 1000 SC
  • Get a homeless impoverished person medical/dental attention 10,000 XP & 1000 SC
  • Complete achievement in 1 month 10,000 XP & 1000 SC


ACHIEVEMENT: “Road Warrior”

Repeatable 5X a month

  • Find $10 worth of recyclables in one day 5000 XP & 500 SC
  • Sleep in public overnight 5000 XP & 500 SC
  • Do not clean yourself for 48 hours, then try to get clean in a public restroom 7500 XP & 750 SC
  • Panhandle $10 in one day 2500 XP & 250 SC
  • Spend 48 hours without shelter 10,000 XP & 1000 SC
  • Eat at a soup kitchen 2500 XP & 100 SC
  • Complete achievement in 1 week 7500 XP & 750 SC
  • Repeat achievement for higher levels 5000 XP & 500 SC



  • Volunteer with any poverty abatement program 1000 XP & 100 SC per hour
  • Form or join a Hobokin Guild 25,000 XP & 1000 sc
  • Give another Kin 100 street cred or more  1000 XP (repeatable  25x a month)
  • Participate in a real life HoboKin activity 5000 XP & 500 SC
  • Donate $5 or more to HoboKin (repeatable 2x a month) 7500 XP & 1000 SC
  • Donate $25 or more to a poverty abatement program (repeatable 10x a month) 5000 XP & 500 SC
  • Recruit someone to HoboKin (infinitely repeatable) 1000 XP & 100 SC
  • Post vlog/blog to Hobokin site (infinitely repeatable) 2500 XP & 250 SC
  • Create a HoboKin quest/mini-game (infinitely repeatable

So those are my ideas so, far, I would really enjoy seeing them expanded upon. I am perfectly willing to start keeping track of points as best I am able.

If you would be interested in donating any funds to make HoboKin more a viable reality, I do have a paypal account at macmcgill7@gmail.com. Frankly, I could use the cash. My new landlord is badly behind on all his utilities, and I’m barely keeping up with my rent.



I wanted to throw a few more quests/ideas into the mix, though today my time is even more limited than usual. I have to walk a couple miles through blazing heat to get to the community center where my mail is sent. I'm hoping a paycheck will arrive. It will only be about $50, $10 I'll have to give to my new room mate/landlord, but it's something.

I know there's a movement out there called "Freegans" which are people who collect and consume discarded food stuffs that are still good and untouched. I've come across a few caches like this myself. Imagine opening a trash can lid and there are all the 7-11 sandwiches that expired that week but are essentially still good, still wrapped and in this case even still cool from the fridge. It's a major find. If you consider that each sandwich is sells for about $4, and I got a dozen of them, that is a major value. It could be a quest line to find such caches and map them. Even then to gather that food and distribute it to the needy.

I am well aware that some of the quests I posted are absolutely disgusting. Well, welcome to the street. As a nicotine addict who is usually broke and puts quite a bit of management effort into not going into full blown withdrawal, described by some as worse than heroin addiction, I am often shocked to find smokes that someone has obviously taken a puff or two off of and then thrown on the ground and stepped on. I found to like that just on my walk to the library. Groups could collect such discards from a geographic area and then estimate the economic value of such discards. If the same area was surveyed more than once some very interesting correlates could be made with other economic activity, and even cultural cues. A full blown nicotibne addict struggling with poverty would never EVER discard a butt until it had been smoked right down to the filter. Those things are often on the value of 25 cents each. So how much value is being discarded by people who are smoking but really not what one might think of as committed smokers. Why are they doing it? How much value could be accrued in the community if that money were otherwise dedicated?

I'd like to note one thing which is that I have put a clear emphasis on joining guilds and working in groups through several XP and SC incentives. What would be truly exciting would be to have areas and cities with Kin groups significantly large enough to engage in ARG activity. It would be a combination of gameplay and protest to have them do things together. It could even involve cosplay. Dress like the heroic hobo and go bottle picking together. Hidden among the bottles and cans in a designated area are bottles and cans that have been painted gold or silver or something. Have NPC's! As individuals or teams came across these items, certain "drops" would occur.

Of course one thing that motivates players to play a game is accruing of virtual items, whether they have meaning or not. Could you make an "Epic" Cardboard Box? A "Legendary" Grocery Cart.

As has already been noted, the use of the functionality in already existing platforms is ideal. To this end I might suggest the creation of a "Kin Only" area in Second Life. This could really allow for the use of items and avatars, and maybe someway of using the Linden$ functionality as a substitute for Street Creds, or essentially vice versa. Meaning you could buy things with Street Creds in the area of Second Life but SC's would not transfer to become part of the Linden economy. Of course, creating such an area involves the purchase of virtual real estate from SL and then building it is often best done by experts who require payments in Lindens equivalent to a certain dollar value. This idea could only take off if the game achieved a certain critical mass.

Okay, I really have to go, but thank you all for your time. I look forward to your questions, comments and suggestions.

How being homeless is like a game:

Click on empty pack of cigarettes in the street. 5x nothing. 6th time find $10 in marijuanna.

So what's the drop rate?

Now I need to go to the Auction House and see if I can trade this in for a pack of cigarette's and a hi-test beer.

Well, I'm a bit sad that the replies in here have slowed down a little, but I'm going to assume that folks arer still reading this occasionally, and I'm enjoying this thought process anyway. If you are reading, thank you very much.


Hell to the yeah we do!

Of all the gear a successful hobo needs, something with wheel is certainly the most valuable. Where I live in California it is a very common sight to see grocery carts far, far away from any store. Sometimes so far that the store they are from is not easily recognizable. Eileen, a homeless woman I have sometimes helped out with food & water, sometimes just with a hello (though her ability to remember me is spotty at best) for awhile was camped out with about half a dozen grocery carts containing all her worldly goods, many of them obviously hoarded for no apparent reason at all beyond the comfort of ownership. Eventually she got really bad, had barricaded herself against a wall behind a semi-circle of such carts and was descending into true gibberish. Once when I walked by she was holding forth and all I caught was "bleached transvestite dictators", which may or may not be a true matter of concern. I don't watch the news much. In any case this eventually became a problem for the authorities, apparently because suddenly she was reduced to one cart though she did seem a bit more together and her clothes were cleaner. Not sure what happened, but at a minimum some kind of intervention occured that no doubt was at least slightly dramatic in that she lost most of her grocery carts.

And that really is one of the biggest problems with poverty and homeless in terms of a game dynamic. You are constantly and forever a low level player at risk of getting ganked or wandering into an area that is beyond your level. If this game concept were truly successful it wouldn't involve fresh and sexy college students experimentally eating out of the trash, it would be accessible to the truly destitute who would, in the natural course of their day, acquire some level of honor and respect through the game dynamic.

But back to the gear question. Wheels. Whenever I go bottle picking I always, always, always grab a grocery cart somewhere. Once I even herded two of them to the turn-in spot (just like a quest, and the lady at the recycling place has less personality than many of the NPC's I've met). And overflowing grocery cart filled with cans and bottles will net you somewhere between $7-$12. The problem with these carts is that it really is illegal to be walking around with them, picking through the trash for bottles and cans is also technically illegal, but the police in this area enforce this rather selectively. It just isn't worth their time. The fines though, are huge, in the neighborhood of $500, and of course increase if you don't pay them on time. This society has done an excellent job of essentially making it illegal to be poor.

So the killer gear out there is a baby carriage. Incredibly expensive to buy new, they can still demand a pretty penny even at the thrift store. For most, the only hope is to find one. As you might imagine this is no easy task as they tend to be scooped up quickly and are usually only abandoned when the previous owner has either upgraded or died (in a game dynamic you can kind of count jail as a death too). The baby carriage is designed to travel distances, whereas many grocery carts, as even a casual user of them can well attest, often enough can barely get through the frozen food section without veering off to the side. Nor do they handle the cracks and irregularities in pavement terribly well. A baby carriage does all these things with ease, and a well designed one with a few mods can easily hold the same amount as a grocery. I have been coveting one for a long time.

AND THIS MORNING I NAILED ONE!!! I'm calling it the Hobo 3000.

I'm going to put flames on it...ya'know, so it looks like I'm going faster. Plus them naked lady mudflaps and spinners. I really want to find a sewing machine so I can reupholster the thing in real imitation leather.

I really wish I could post a picture, but with the loss of my jump drive I'm not sure how to transfer one over. The library computer won't let me load things on to the desktop.

Thanks for reading. Please stay in touch ya'll!

Hey Mac!

I've also been playing with an ARG idea involving the homeless, but mine looks at it from a different angle. Like you, I have limited internet time so I will do a full posting of my ideas (which aren't nearly as complete as yours =P) in the educational ARG group when I get a proper sitting.

Basically, I've done some volunteer work with the homeless and my main concern is not to raise awareness of their needs (which is also very important), but to create a game that will help them get back into a sustainable and healthy life. A game where the homeless are the players! Give them points when they arrive at work on time. Give them points when they stay sober or manage to save up some money and so on.

Your game has a lot of potential, but I feel when a game puts a player in harms way then it is no longer a game. The points you want to bring across, like eating from a bin, is valid and a reality, but I think it's a bit too dangerous. Have you ever thought about just having a digital game? Like farmville. The game can put the player in the shoes of a homeless person (with all the things you described). To bring across the urgency of certain things there can be bars that are constantly running out. Lets say a bar for nicotine addiction which you have to satisfy, but with every cigarette bud you pick from the trash you have the danger of becoming ill. 

Imagine a shop owner playing a game like that and develops an understanding which they can put to use the next time they employ a homeless person. Instead of dismissing that person for missing a days work, the employer might consider why that person was abscent and give them a second chance.

I'm very open for the idea of having our games work together. Lets say the homeless person wants to save 10$ to get an achievement, but he doesn't know how, then he can go to a person playing your version of the game to teach him! 

Well okay! That's it from me =D If you are interested in my idea then you can just let me know in this thread, I'll let you know where I'll put my post ^___^

I definitely appreciate your reply. However, I do have to take exception with one thing you've said which is that "when it becomes dangerous, it is no longer a game." How many football injuries are there every year? Even at the high school level young men have been injured, maimed, paralyzed and even killed playing football. There was a case in Florida of a T-ball game where one kid, barely past being a toddler, threw a ball infield with what must have been a pretty good arm, and it hit another child in the chest and stopped his heart, killing him. Think of all the sports, essentially a kind of game, that are INSANELY dangerous: skydiving, rock climbing, racing cars, skiing, kayaking, kite-surfing, bear slapping...okay I don't think people do much bear slapping anymore, but you take my point.

No, this would not be a game for the faint of heart, at least at certain levels, though I have included levels of play which aren't so dangerous. You might throw your back out bringing home that couch you found in the alley, but it probably isn't going to hurt you. Nor is a sweater you found in the trash, or reading a book or watching a movie.

My problem with a strictly digital game where you have things like a nicotine bar, is that it rather trivializes the problem and will not create the kind of sense of identity I'm going for.

Gearing up my students to create mini-games for your Hobokin...


Does anybody know of any other game design collaboration sites that are more active we could recommend to Mac?



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