Mobile society

Ian Bogost's iPhone game mirrors real life. But is it any fun?

EMAIL  |   PRINT  |   SHARE  |   RSS
 
google my aol my msn my yahoo! netvibes
Paste this link into your favorite RSS desktop reader
See all CNNMoney.com RSS FEEDS (close)
By Alyssa Abkowitz, reporter

game.03.jpg
Bogost's Jetset lets you play TSA agent.

(Fortune Magazine) -- Apple's iPhone app store sells tools for counting calories, cooking perfect eggs, and performing voodoo on digital dolls. Game designer Ian Bogost thought he'd add to that eclectic mix by making a "newsgame" about airport security. (Fun!)

A newsgame is like an interactive editorial cartoon, and Bogost, a 32-year-old associate professor at Georgia Tech, has emerged as one of the leading creators of such digital fare. Persuasive Games, a company he co-founded six years ago in Atlanta, has produced desktop pastimes such as Points of Entry, in which players compete to win green cards, and Fatworld, an exploration of the politics of nutrition.

The popularity of Apple's (AAPL, Fortune 500) iPhone offers Bogost a chance to reach a broader audience for his unique brand of reality-based games: This year he launched Jetset, a $3.99 iPhone app that lets travelers pretend to be TSA agents. Players can strip-search travelers or confiscate dangerous items like pressurized cheese.

Bogost's goal is to help players look at society and current events in a new way. "I want to make meaningful, interesting things about the world as I see it, not just gimmicks for idle hands," he says, adding, "The world has enough zombies and aliens."

Jetset will test whether consumers will pay for Bogost's newsgames. Grant money from sources such as the Public Broadcasting Service funded most of his previous games, which are available free. Bogost says he has sold "a couple thousand" units of Jetset so far. (In contrast, Ocarina, the application that turns an iPhone into a musical instrument, has sold more than 700,000 units.) Bogost says he'll be in the red until more than 4,000 units are sold.

His products may not be as accessible or amusing as, say, Penguin Attack, but the designer is keenly interested in making money from his games. "I don't think social critique and profit are mutually exclusive," he says.

That said, some of his other projects have a distinctly more commercial ring. He's built a game that helps hotels train employees in customer service; he's also building an app for stressed-out road warriors. And in the spring he'll unveil an iPhone game that explains to players the perils of piling up debt. For some consumers that would be money well spent.  To top of page

Company Price Change % Change
Bank of America Corp... 17.12 0.08 0.50%
Yahoo! Inc 38.85 0.20 0.52%
Apple Inc 102.33 1.27 1.25%
Facebook Inc 77.90 1.09 1.43%
Oracle Corp 38.96 -0.61 -1.55%
Data as of 2:32pm ET
Index Last Change % Change
Dow 17,066.46 -106.22 -0.62%
Nasdaq 4,511.21 -16.48 -0.36%
S&P 500 1,984.32 -9.97 -0.50%
Treasuries 2.54 -0.03 -1.13%
Data as of 2:47pm ET
More Galleries
World's Top Employers for New Grads For an exclusive CNNMoney list, research firm Universum Global surveyed college students around the world to see where they most want to work. More
A cheapskate's guide to tech From ebooks to phone service, here are some tips for living your digital life on the cheap. More
2015 Mustang's asphalt-peeling power goes modern The new Ford Mustang has been upgraded and updated to compete globally - but never fear, it's still a monster. More
Worry about the hackers you don't know 
Crime syndicates and government organizations pose a much greater cyber threat than renegade hacker groups like Anonymous. Play
GE CEO: Bringing jobs back to the U.S. 
Jeff Immelt says the U.S. is a cost competitive market for advanced manufacturing and that GE is bringing jobs back from Mexico. Play
Hamster wheel and wedgie-powered transit 
Red Bull Creation challenges hackers and engineers to invent new modes of transportation. Play

Market indexes are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer Morningstar: © 2014 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Disclaimer The Dow Jones IndexesSM are proprietary to and distributed by Dow Jones & Company, Inc. and have been licensed for use. All content of the Dow Jones IndexesSM © 2014 is proprietary to Dow Jones & Company, Inc. Chicago Mercantile Association. The market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved. FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2014. All rights reserved. Most stock quote data provided by BATS.