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Online game combines efforts of recent CS alumnus, RJI fellow

Computer science alumni Joe Griffin collaborated on the design and building of the website for the MU Tiger Challenge. The social media game allows users to interact with other fans during Mizzou’s football season by adding photos or videos or by taking part in discussion threads.

An online game that allows players to show their Tiger pride and earn a chance at a cash prize is the result of collaboration between a computer science alumnus and a Reynolds Journalism Institute (RJI) post-doctoral fellow.

Joe Griffin designed the website for the MU Tiger Challenge, an online game where users can upload fan content or discuss upcoming or previous MU football games in order to meet weekly challenges. The site, which launched in mid-September, originated as a post-doc project for RJI fellow Borchuluun Yadamsuren. Griffin, who serves as project manager, collaborated on the site with information technology alumnus Mike Haug and other colleagues from the alums’ software company, Double Maple.

Yadamsuren’s idea for the game came from the need to create a tangible product to engage young people with news, based on results from the post-doctoral research she conducted as a fellow in the Reynolds Journalism Institute. Her research looked at how people discovered news serendipitously over the Internet.

“News on the Internet is like vegetables in a stew; it all comes together, and sometimes you can’t taste the difference,” Yadamsuren said.

She researched the behavior of young adults in a digital environment and chose a game platform as a potential environment for serendipitous news discovery.

“Games are the most popular and fun activity for young people in a digital environment,” she said. “With this project I aimed to include news as part of fun setting, rather than a forced activity.”

That, paired with her own curiosity created by Mizzou’s shift into the Southeastern Conference, motivated her to focus her efforts on an interactive game involving Missouri’s football games. A referral brought Griffin to Yadamsuren’s attention as the computer scientist who had worked on Reboot, a similarly designed game focused on sustainability.

How the game works

Borchuluun Yadamsuren created the concept for the MU Tiger Challenge based on her research into serendipitous news discovery and created the game as a project for her post-doctoral fellowship with MU’s Reynolds Journalism Institute.

Players who register for the MU Tiger Challenge may play as individuals or as part of team. They may form their own team and invite other players, or they may be invited to or request to join an existing team.

Participants receive weekly challenges that start on Thursdays. Challenges may include posting a photo, video or message board discussion. Participating players earn a chance for the weekly $100 or points toward a “team” prize of $1,000.

Challenges may include capturing a photo of the most spirited fan, providing an interesting fact on the other team or a video introducing them.

The MU Tiger Challenge partners with the Columbia Missourian and local TV news station KOMU to promote and provide content for the site. For the weekly challenges, players’ postings are put to a fan vote accessible through the Missourian and KOMU websites.

The team challenge rewards the team whose players amass the most challenge points — earned through each post — throughout the entire process. The $1,000 prize is split among team members.

Yadamsuren’s research ties into the site with RSS news feeds from the Missourian and KOMU. Stories relating to Mizzou football or the SEC are linked to the game website. Griffin said he and his colleagues are looking at how many users who play the game are reading the news featured on the site.

“We’re trying to target a specific audience — the MU football fans — so we are linking to the narrowest threads for MU sports, Tiger Talk or the SEC,” he said.

Developer rewards

Though Griffin, who is a currently a graduate student in MU’s School of Information Science and Learning Technologies (SISLT), isn’t eligible for any of the cash prizes, he said everyone working on the game benefits.

“The game has a lot of split interests,” he said. “For me, it’s a fun project to be a part of. Borchuluun has this project for her research, and the RJI is able to explore more innovative news services.”

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