Passively Multiplayer Online Gaming

I’m always looking for new and innovative ways to completely waste my time online, so when I met Justin Hall at SxSW this year and heard about some of the cool things he was doing with games and user-surfing patterns, I knew his PMOG would probably be for me as someone who has been addicted to various MMORPGs and is a bit of a statistics collector.

He and his team’s specific PMOG can be found over at, and you can find me as Phae.

The general premise is that it’s a world and game that you’re interacting with and in all of the time that you’re surfing about on the web. In it’s simplest terms, this is currently done by installing a plug-in onto Firefox and letting it collect the URLs you visit. The type of interaction you do with the web and the type of sites you visit determine your alignment and class.

That might seem a bit invasive to some, but that’s another kettle of fish – this is just for fun uses, not subterfuge and you can flick the plug-in off if you’d rather spend a bit of time without it logging you.

Now, surfing the web rewards you with XP – much like the traditional RPG – journeying means you’re experiencing. The only difference is you don’t actively have to do much – there’s no beasties to battle along the way (yet?) or keys to find or any other such fantasy. You’re just rewarded for being an active internet user.

That’s the passive part.

The really interesting bit about this to me is the not-so-passive layer they’re adding. You can start to interact and do more of the game part. This is done via the traditional Quest formula. Quests in a PMOG universe mean visiting a group of pre-determined links on a theme and getting some extra XP for doing so. Along the way you might find some fun new sites or, heaven forbid, learn something new. The Quests are created by other users, so there’s a variety of themes.

Then there’s other things like Portals – which allow a player to send another player to a new URL (like a hint, or trick, to get them to visit something new) by attaching a portal to a specific site. Another fun item is Mines – which can be planted on a URL, so that when a player visits the URL they step on the mine and forfeit some of their Datapoints (the currency of PMOG, gained passively over time). Other special items are in the works.

Now, the really fun part for me and the bit that’s really piqued my interest is the Items. Items in this universe will be embedded into websites via HTML using standardised class names and values.

What’s that?

Yep – microformatting to give richer mark-up and machine readable, extractable, data which in this case will be magic items that can be collected (and probably in the future sold, swapped, used or combined).

OK, I admit, it’s a bit of microformat’s principle no-no in that most likely these items will be hidden away and forgotten about in various websites that want to be richer parts of the PMOG universe, and also not human readable in the first instance, but what a fun use of microformats!

One thing that is missing from the PMOG universe at the moment is NPCs – but they could be set up just as easily as items using hCard, and then they can guide players off to new Quests and Items. Or something like that, anyway. Lots of potential.

I’m quite keen on following what they’re going to do with this on the grander scale. Sometimes it’s nice to feel like you’re part of a big game and have everything you’re doing have another level of use (all be it just a fun, and intensely nerdy, one) and with real-life and internet social network lines blurring more every day, why not start blurring that one between gaming aswell?

One thought on “Passively Multiplayer Online Gaming”

  1. sitting around in some corner of an mmud with a neural interface dangling off your head waiting for someone to notice how distracted you are while bits fly past your concious thoughts at about 4000baud,

    nice wall paper it reminds me of natty’s ruggedart.

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