Question Sheet: Games with a Purpose


Before reading:

  1. What makes a game educational? What makes a game fun? 
  2. Have you ever used Google’s image search? If not, take a minute to try it

    ( Who would use this search engine to find


During reading:

  1. Manuel Blum says that “these ‘games with a purpose’ make use of humans in a

    wonderful way.” What does he mean? 

  2. Why can’t computers easily identify a picture of puppies? 
  3. What are some of the key differences between the ESP Game and Peekaboom? 
  4. How might the online game Phetch eventually help blind people? 
  5. Is there any advantage to paying people to come up with image descriptions

    instead of having people play a game to do the same thing? 

  6. How does Luis von Ahn try to make his games fun?

After reading:

  1. With a friend, design your own game for labeling images. The game has to

    involve image descriptions in some way. What ways can you think of to make the

    game fun and to encourage people to play it? 

  2. How would being able to search images on the Internet more easily help

    people? Why would someone use such a search? 

  3. Take a few minutes to play the ESP Game (, Peekaboom (, and Phetch ( Which game do you find must fun?

    What makes that game more fun? 

  4. Do you think that the games invented by Luis von Ahn are more fun for adults

    or for kids? Why? 

  5. What makes the video games that you like to play fun? Could any of these

    reasons help make von Ahn’s games better? 

  6. Why do you think it’s harder for computers to search for images than for



How would you change the ESP Game so that you could get image labels in different languages? Which languages would you target first? Why?


  1. Write a brief review for a computer game magazine about “games with a

    purpose” such as the ESP Game, Phetch, and Peekaboom. 

  2. Does it help to have a good vocabulary when playing von Ahn’s “games with a

    purpose”? Why or why not?


Suppose that you played the ESP Game for 10 hours with stopping. Each round lasts 150 seconds, and you take a 30-second break between each round. How many rounds do you play? Given that each session displays up to 15 images, what is the maximum number of images that you could label?