Passively Multiplayer Online Game launches -- using game-scoring to keep track of and expand how you browse

Justin Hall and Merci Hammon's networked browser-game PMOG (Passively Multiplayer Online Game) just launched after a solid beta period. The idea is to encourage people to be more adventurous and smarter when they browse the web, by awarding points for different kinds of Internet activity (for example, awarding bonuses for looking at Wikipedia history pages, comparing search results across different engines, or installing Firefox). The networked play also allows players to create their own missions and quests, and to lay traps for other players. All in all, it's great fun, and a genuinely novel way at looking at Internet literacy.

Justin sez,

PMOG is a steamy Victorian metagame about being online. The game gives its players tools to leave treasure or traps on any website, and to make guided web missions for other players. PMOG stands for Passively Multiplayer Online Game, which means you earn resources and unlock rewards just by surfing. Players in PMOG can hide the game, pause the game, or erase their histories at any time; we encourage people to experiment with and take control of their data trails. PMOG is the first MMO in Firefox , a 220k extension to enhance your browsing pleasure. PMOG players who regularly read BoingBoing get a "Bounce Bounce" badge
Link (Thanks, Justin!)

(Disclosure: I am proud to serve on PMOG's advisory board)


  1. Looks like fun, and I love the steampunk look to it, but HOLY CRAP is the site slow.

  2. hey, now we can pin-point users habits more efficiently and disguise it as a fun game! oh how devilishy clever.

  3. The site is very slow at the moment, for sure! I signed up, finally, but I do hope they realize the amount of interest this’ll have and up their bandwidth or hardware accordingly!

  4. I can vouch that it’s quite fun if not extremely active yet. It’s a great concept.

    Now that it’s launched from closed beta, hopefully even more sites will have lamp-posts, portals, and mines on them.

  5. I just signed up too. Even if it does get used for marketing it seems like a fun concept.
    I’m pretty sure things will be less wonky after they hype dies down.

  6. #3 says what I’m thinking…personally I’m not too concerned but usually there’s a panic around tracking people’s activity, online and offline. Why is this game different? Should we not be worried about giving up all of this information? Are the people who made it trustworthy? Why?

    Honest questions.

  7. The plugin has screwed up one of my other plugins and isn’t showing the PMOG toolbar. The existing plugin trumps the PMOG plugin, for sure.

  8. I told my wife about this game and the first thing she asked was “Do you have to roll a d6 for a temporary debuff to your intelligence stat when you visit a porn site?”

  9. Oi, this game is confusing, especially since the Help section won’t load, and the Tutorial only talks about mines and never moves forward. I just tried setting a mine somewhere, was informed that the page had not loaded, and now I’m down by five. :D Whoopee.

    Here’s hoping they work out the server kinks soon because this looks like fun. U

  10. Congratulations, Justin and Merci. Can’t wait to see what kinds of hidden treasures and traps await!

  11. I’ve been following PMOG since its conception. It’s a cool idea, but the actual implementation is rather confusing, undocumented, and NOT passive. Everything leading up to PMOG’s launch described a “Progress Quest”-like passive web game, but the reality was something much more involved.

  12. Just out of curiosity, Cory, how many boards are you on? (And is there a badge for that?)

  13. My concern about any browser plug-in is the privacy issue. To make this work, some server has to manage the annotation and has to be aware of who has visited what. That’s potentially valuable information… and even if the folks currently running the service are trustworthy and have a reasonable privacy policy, I’d be somewhat nervous about what happens if/when they’re bought out and someone else takes over that database.

    I can be persuaded to use frequent-buyer cards and other logging when someone makes it worth my while financially. I’m not sure a game is sufficient motivation.

  14. Kudos to the team! The real winner here is actually…

    Mozilla Firefox!

    Just imagine people switching just to play the game!

  15. I’m impressed. Unfortunately it doesn’t look like they’ve launched with the resources needed to support their new userbase.

    Which is a shame because when it works it’s really quite nifty.

  16. The site seems to be completely overloaded, every link goes to an Error 500 page.

    On the plus side, they kindly provided an email address for people who would like to sign up, saying they’ll let you know when they’re back up.

    For those who can’t get to the site, (or get bored of waiting for it to finally load the error page) the email address for new signups is I believe they should contact you and let you know when the site is back up.

  17. @11: but it boosts your Mana Points, and if your CHA is high enough the GP cost isn’t too high. If you have the Diplomacy skill slot at Intermediate or higher, you can cut that in half.

    And, of course, you can always just run over her with your car afterwards.

  18. Wow, someone found a clever way to get supposedly intelligent peoples browser histories… They’re going to make a fortune in internet money.

  19. I would not even be thinking of installing this, if it weren’t for that disclosure at the end that Doctorow is on the advisory board. Either this site is on the up-and-up, or someone hacked him.

    But, far be it for me to accept argument from authority, so I’ll have to look at the TOS myself in detail, or at least the source code.

    Or not. TOS’s are long. Source code is longer. I should just trust Cory.

  20. I gained a level. Yay me.

    This reminds me of a card game that came out a few years ago where each pack was a clue to where in the real world a treasure was stashed, like money or something. The cards were quite difficult puzzles as well, so fun… I bought one pack and then forgot about it.

  21. “I should just trust Cory.”

    Or his well-known paranoia. :P

    (tongue-in-cheek in case it ain’t obvious)

  22. It would seem that they’re not sharing your browsing history with anyone (currently), and they say in their privacy policy that they plan to notify all users before any possible sharing of information (e.g., company is bought outright). You can also supposedly delete your browsing history with them. In addition, you can pause the “game” at any time and it’ll stop logging. It also doesn’t log https.

    Regardless, not my cup of tea.

  23. @LUKSTR

    If you can delete your browser history without any ill effects to the game then theres no reason to bother storing the information at all.

    And notifying a user that they are going to be purchased for three million dollars by phorm and that they won’t be letting anyone delete their browser history anymore isn’t the same as ‘we’ll delete all information before anything ever transfers hands, and we’ll also notify you so you can decide if you trust your new URL overlords’ which would be a bit better…

  24. This is a fun game. You can play as actively or passively as you want. I’ve been in since Beta & I’ll keep on for as long as I have FireFox.

  25. Loved the concept, signed up for the beta, stopped playing the week I got in because it had Firefox constantly grinding along at 90% CPU use.

    I don’t care if it spits cupcakes out of my Firewire port, if a Firefox extension makes my music skip, it gets uninstalled.

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