US20110086712A1 - Online games integrated with an online green mall - Google Patents

Online games integrated with an online green mall Download PDF

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US20110086712A1
US20110086712A1 US12967960 US96796010A US2011086712A1 US 20110086712 A1 US20110086712 A1 US 20110086712A1 US 12967960 US12967960 US 12967960 US 96796010 A US96796010 A US 96796010A US 2011086712 A1 US2011086712 A1 US 2011086712A1
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game
player
online
data
offline
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Katherine Cargill
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Katherine Cargill
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    • AHUMAN NECESSITIES
    • A63SPORTS; GAMES; AMUSEMENTS
    • A63FCARD, BOARD, OR ROULETTE GAMES; INDOOR GAMES USING SMALL MOVING PLAYING BODIES; VIDEO GAMES; GAMES NOT OTHERWISE PROVIDED FOR
    • A63F13/00Video games, i.e. games using an electronically generated display having two or more dimensions
    • A63F13/60Generating or modifying game content before or while executing the game program, e.g. authoring tools specially adapted for game development or game-integrated level editor
    • AHUMAN NECESSITIES
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    • A63B71/06Indicating or scoring devices for games or players, or for other sports activities
    • A63B71/0619Displays, user interfaces and indicating devices, specially adapted for sport equipment, e.g. display mounted on treadmills
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    • AHUMAN NECESSITIES
    • A63SPORTS; GAMES; AMUSEMENTS
    • A63FCARD, BOARD, OR ROULETTE GAMES; INDOOR GAMES USING SMALL MOVING PLAYING BODIES; VIDEO GAMES; GAMES NOT OTHERWISE PROVIDED FOR
    • A63F13/00Video games, i.e. games using an electronically generated display having two or more dimensions
    • A63F13/70Game security or game management aspects
    • A63F13/71Game security or game management aspects using secure communication between game devices and game servers, e.g. by encrypting game data or authenticating players
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    • A63FCARD, BOARD, OR ROULETTE GAMES; INDOOR GAMES USING SMALL MOVING PLAYING BODIES; VIDEO GAMES; GAMES NOT OTHERWISE PROVIDED FOR
    • A63F13/00Video games, i.e. games using an electronically generated display having two or more dimensions
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    • A63F13/79Game security or game management aspects involving player-related data, e.g. identities, accounts, preferences or play histories
    • AHUMAN NECESSITIES
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    • A63FCARD, BOARD, OR ROULETTE GAMES; INDOOR GAMES USING SMALL MOVING PLAYING BODIES; VIDEO GAMES; GAMES NOT OTHERWISE PROVIDED FOR
    • A63F13/00Video games, i.e. games using an electronically generated display having two or more dimensions
    • A63F13/85Providing additional services to players
    • GPHYSICS
    • G07CHECKING-DEVICES
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    • G07F17/00Coin-freed apparatus for hiring articles; Coin-freed facilities or services
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    • GPHYSICS
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    • AHUMAN NECESSITIES
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    • A63BAPPARATUS FOR PHYSICAL TRAINING, GYMNASTICS, SWIMMING, CLIMBING, OR FENCING; BALL GAMES; TRAINING EQUIPMENT
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    • AHUMAN NECESSITIES
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    • A63B2230/00Measuring physiological parameters of the user
    • A63B2230/04Measuring physiological parameters of the user heartbeat characteristics, e.g. E.G.C., blood pressure modulations
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    • A63FCARD, BOARD, OR ROULETTE GAMES; INDOOR GAMES USING SMALL MOVING PLAYING BODIES; VIDEO GAMES; GAMES NOT OTHERWISE PROVIDED FOR
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    • A63F2300/53Features of games using an electronically generated display having two or more dimensions, e.g. on a television screen, showing representations related to the game characterized by details of game servers details of basic data processing
    • A63F2300/535Features of games using an electronically generated display having two or more dimensions, e.g. on a television screen, showing representations related to the game characterized by details of game servers details of basic data processing for monitoring, e.g. of user parameters, terminal parameters, application parameters, network parameters
    • AHUMAN NECESSITIES
    • A63SPORTS; GAMES; AMUSEMENTS
    • A63FCARD, BOARD, OR ROULETTE GAMES; INDOOR GAMES USING SMALL MOVING PLAYING BODIES; VIDEO GAMES; GAMES NOT OTHERWISE PROVIDED FOR
    • A63F2300/00Features of games using an electronically generated display having two or more dimensions, e.g. on a television screen, showing representations related to the game
    • A63F2300/50Features of games using an electronically generated display having two or more dimensions, e.g. on a television screen, showing representations related to the game characterized by details of game servers
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    • A63SPORTS; GAMES; AMUSEMENTS
    • A63FCARD, BOARD, OR ROULETTE GAMES; INDOOR GAMES USING SMALL MOVING PLAYING BODIES; VIDEO GAMES; GAMES NOT OTHERWISE PROVIDED FOR
    • A63F2300/00Features of games using an electronically generated display having two or more dimensions, e.g. on a television screen, showing representations related to the game
    • A63F2300/50Features of games using an electronically generated display having two or more dimensions, e.g. on a television screen, showing representations related to the game characterized by details of game servers
    • A63F2300/55Details of game data or player data management
    • A63F2300/5546Details of game data or player data management using player registration data, e.g. identification, account, preferences, game history
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    • AHUMAN NECESSITIES
    • A63SPORTS; GAMES; AMUSEMENTS
    • A63FCARD, BOARD, OR ROULETTE GAMES; INDOOR GAMES USING SMALL MOVING PLAYING BODIES; VIDEO GAMES; GAMES NOT OTHERWISE PROVIDED FOR
    • A63F2300/00Features of games using an electronically generated display having two or more dimensions, e.g. on a television screen, showing representations related to the game
    • A63F2300/50Features of games using an electronically generated display having two or more dimensions, e.g. on a television screen, showing representations related to the game characterized by details of game servers
    • A63F2300/57Features of games using an electronically generated display having two or more dimensions, e.g. on a television screen, showing representations related to the game characterized by details of game servers details of game services offered to the player
    • A63F2300/575Features of games using an electronically generated display having two or more dimensions, e.g. on a television screen, showing representations related to the game characterized by details of game servers details of game services offered to the player for trading virtual items
    • AHUMAN NECESSITIES
    • A63SPORTS; GAMES; AMUSEMENTS
    • A63FCARD, BOARD, OR ROULETTE GAMES; INDOOR GAMES USING SMALL MOVING PLAYING BODIES; VIDEO GAMES; GAMES NOT OTHERWISE PROVIDED FOR
    • A63F2300/00Features of games using an electronically generated display having two or more dimensions, e.g. on a television screen, showing representations related to the game
    • A63F2300/60Methods for processing data by generating or executing the game program
    • A63F2300/609Methods for processing data by generating or executing the game program for unlocking hidden game elements, e.g. features, items, levels

Abstract

An online gaming method for integrating offline and online activities. The method may include using a game server to receive a player identification code from one of the client devices that is operated by a game player, and the code may he provided to the player when they purchase a toy or product (e.g., a plush animal representing an endangered species). The method includes providing the client device access to an online game when the player identification code is verified and also includes storing in memory/data storage a player record for the game player. Then, the method includes receiving data indicating performance of an offline activity by the game player such as completion of a quantity of exercise. The game server then acts to modify the online game based on this received offline activity data such that performance of the offline activity is integrated into play of the online game.

Description

    CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS
  • This application claims the benefit of U.S. Provisional Application No. 61/286,614, filed Dec. 15, 2009, and the application is a continuation-in-part of application Ser. No. 12/560,123, filed Sep. 15, 2009. Both of these applications are incorporated herein by reference in their entirety.
  • BACKGROUND
  • 1. Field of the Description
  • The present description relates, in general, to social-interaction sites and games hosted via a communications network such as Web or Internet-hosted video games, and, more particularly, to systems, devices and methods for providing a social interaction and game over a digital communications network that integrates offline activities with online game play and other activities such as earning and using wards.
  • 2. Relevant Background
  • There is a growing fascination and participation worldwide with online games that are played over some form of a computer or communications network such as the Internet. In general, the expansion of online gaming has reflected the overall expansion of computer networks from small local networks to ubiquitous access to information from networks including game-based applications with desktop computers, laptop, netbook, and other portable computers, and wireless communication devices including personal digital assistants and wireless/cellular phones. Online games may range from simple text-based games to games incorporating complex graphics and virtual worlds populated by many players simultaneously. Many online games have associated online communities that make online games a form of social activity or interaction for the players or participants.
  • Many websites now provide free games to attract first time and repeat visitors. In this regard, as the World Wide Web or “Web” developed and browsers became more sophisticated and were provided on nearly every network-ready client device, people started creating browser video games that used a web browser as a client application. Simple single player games were made and served (web-hosted/based) that could be played using a web browser via Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) and HTML-scripting technologies, and, more recently, the development of web-based graphics technologies such as Flash and Java have allowed browser games to become more complex (e.g., resulting in proliferation of Flash games and Java games). One example of such browser-based games are pet and animal-based games in which a player cares for a pet in an ongoing manner, and these pet-based games are very popular amongst younger players or online garners.
  • Most online games have been provided merely to attract and entertain garners. There remains a need for online games and systems that are useful for providing players incentives to participate in socially desirable activities. For example, it may be useful to provide online games that encourage the online garners to exercise. In other cases, it may be desirable to provide a fun and compelling set of educational data such as by providing information pertaining to the global or local environment and actions that can be taken to care for the environment such as to save a species of animals, insects, or nearly any living creature (“wild species”) or their habitats.
  • SUMMARY
  • The inventor wanted to ensure that subscribers of an online service, such as a Wild Webbies or similar site, are able to take their on-line experience in “going Green” that may be learned from its game applications and other activities (described in the following Background, Summary, and/or Detailed Description and corresponding figure) and relate them to the “real world” as much as possible. This interest is to help reduce global warming and individual carbon footprints. The inventor also wanted to encourage online subscribers to “buy Green” from green manufacturers and retailers to support those industries that want to protect the health of our planet.
  • To this end, the inventor established “Green Bucks” that can be earned on a website by playing Green games and completing other activities (e.g., as described below and with reference to the figures). The Green Bucks can be traded-in by subscribers or online game players/participants for discounted dollars that can be applied in a virtual Green Mall. In other words, in the described method, the method does not involve allocating “real dollars” to subscribers. However, in the sense that subscribers can buy products and services at a discount, only (or mainly) offered on our website, they are saving money. The method (and systems implementing such a method) may store in memory or define/set a predetermined amount of Green Bucks that a subscriber must earn to enter the Green Mall and/or be invited to visit the Green Mall. When that amount has been reached, the subscriber is invited into a virtual Green Mall located on (or provided via) a website to go shopping at an unlimited number of Green retailers offering Green-only products and services. To some extent, this procedure follows the popular system followed by Collective Buying companies, except instead of only showcasing one retailer, located in a specific geographic location per day, as they do, Wild Webbies' described method and system offers over a hundred “Green-only” retailers on a single website or partnering websites, and these Green retailers may be located across the country or around the world.
  • In some embodiments, the Green retailer has a preset, discounted price at which they are willing to offer their products or services. The subscribers (e.g., players of the described games and activities) shop the Mall and pick those Green retailers of their choosing at the discounted price set by the Green retailer. The subscriber can spend all, or only a portion, of their Green Bucks. If they spend all of their Green Bucks, they must (in some embodiments) go back to the website and play more Green Games and complete other activities until they can again be invited into our Green Mall. When the subscriber has made their purchase(s), they are emailed a discounted coupon that they can use at anytime in the future.
  • This process in which subscribers (e.g., online game players or participants) may use their Green Bucks (or game points) that are earned by playing online (Green) games and the like on a web site or in a Green Mall will be further understood based upon the following description of the online game method and system. In some cases, the earned points/bucks may be used in an online mall that is used to pool and/or present products (e.g., Green or environmental-friendly products and services) that may be discounted as initially presented in the Mall and/or discounted based on the number of Green Bucks (e.g., more points may be used to obtain a bigger discount (such as an online coupon, a downloadable discount receipt/coupon, or the like) from one of the service/product providers in the Green Mall).
  • The present invention addresses the above and other problems by providing an online gaming method that includes providing a game server serving an online game (such as a game with environmental and health related themes) to client devices over a communications network (such as the Internet). The method may include using the game server to receive a player identification code from one of the client devices that is operated by a game player or gamer, and the code may be provided to the player when they purchase a toy or product (e.g., a plush animal representing an endangered species (e.g., a wild species that may be nearly any living creature such as, but not limited to, an animal or an insect). The method includes providing the client device access to an online game when the player identification code is verified (e.g., is the code found in a database of codes associated with sold/adopted toys). The method may also include storing in memory/data storage a player record for the game player and then receiving data indicating performance of an offline activity by the game player. The game server may then act to modify the online game based on this received offline activity data such that performance of the offline activity is integrated into play of the online game.
  • In the online game method, the offline activity may be performed at a sponsor's facility and the player identification code may be processed by the sponsor's computer system (e.g., a bar code reader or the like that provides the code to a look up mechanism) to verify the game player is actually present at the sponsor's facility and that they have completed the particular offline activity. The sponsor's system may also be operated to conununicate the offline activity data for the game player to the game server, which provides further verification that the activity was completed. The offline activity may include a health-related activity (such as exercise, visiting a doctor, weighing oneself, and so on), and the modifying of the online game data may include increasing/decreasing a health status of an avatar/character in the online game associated with the game player (e.g., make an avatar more muscular and/or thinner in response to exercise). The modifying of the online game may also include awarding virtual currency (or green bucks) to the game player (e.g., updating their player record or their bank records to show an increase in available virtual bucks/dollars/currency/points), and then the method may include receiving a request from the game player to use the virtual currency to affect a change in the online game or to use the virtual currency for an offline reward (e.g., a coupon for a discounted product or service from a sponsor or a donation to a preferred charity, a player's saving account having more than a set amount of Green Bucks may be detected or tracked and result in the player being sent a digital invitation to visit an online mall or Green Mall, and so on).
  • The method may also include only performing the modifying step after authenticating a sender of the offline activity data by comparing authentication input made up of a voice portion and a wild species sound portion (e.g., an animal noise, an insect sound, and so on) with a previously received/stored biometric voice print (which also is of a person making a particular wild species sound or noise so not just voice authentication is being performed but also requiring a match or similarity to a wild species sound or noise). The authentication input may be received from the game player operating their client device (e.g., making an animal or insect sound into their computer device using Skype or similar technologies, making an animal sound into their iPhone or other wireless/wired communication device, and the like) and/or from a guardian or other third party verifier (e.g., to make the input more trusted so as to make activities performed to earn the green bucks more valuable/useful).
  • BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
  • FIG. 1 illustrates a computer system or network according to one embodiment of the present invention that is configured with microprocessors/CPUs that run or execute software or code devices to perform online game functions described herein;
  • FIG. 2 illustrates a flow diagram for a process for integrating an offline activity with online gaming activities that may be performed by operation of the system of FIG. 1;
  • FIGS. 3A-3C show screen shots of an online game or game site GUI that may be presented during operation of the system of FIG. 1 showing offline activity (such as exercise) on a portion of an online game such as on the fitness/health of a player's avatar or game character; and
  • FIG. 4 illustrates a screen shot of an online game environment or game site GUI that may be served to a client device during operation of the system of FIG. 1 showing locations or portions of a game environment that may he visited or accessed to participate in an online gaming experience.
  • DETAILED DESCRIPTION
  • The present invention is directed toward a method and computer system for providing an integrated online and offline game experience. Briefly, a game player or participant may purchase a toy or other item at a brick and mortar store or an online store and be provided access (such as via a toy ID, an online game site address/link and password, and the like) to a web site and/or online game. The game player may be incentivized to perform activities to earn rewards. The activities may be online such as by playing an online game, visiting game sponsor/partner websites, and so on and/or may be offline such as exercising, visiting a game sponsor/partner physical store or facility (such as a zoo, museum, theater, or the like), performing an outdoor activity (such as cleaning up trash along a river, counting animals in a park, and the like), and other, typically, outdoor activities. The activities may be tracked and/or entered or logged into the online game where rewards are determined for the player, and the rewards may be awarded based on earned points or “green bucks” that are stored in an online or virtual bank account for the player. The player may then cash in their points or green bucks for the rewards such as products of a sponsor, coupons for use toward purchases (e.g., discounts useful toward otherwise conventional purchases of products/services or offers to buy not provided to all of the public, and so on), donations for a charity or group (or for use in causing another entity to make a donation), and so on. The following discussion begins with a description of one useful system for implementing aspects of the invention and then continues with processes or methods that may be provided with such a system such as to integrate offline fitness or environmental activities into an online game.
  • FIG. 1 illustrates a system 100 that may be used to provide an online game that is integrated with offline player activities. The system 100 may include numerous client devices 110 that garners, players, or participants (not shown) may use to communicate in a wired or wireless manner via digital communications network 130 with a game server 160. The client device 110 may take the form of nearly any electronics or communication device that is useful for communicating digitally over a network (such as the Internet/a local or wide area network, a cellular/wireless communication network, a satellite communication-based system, and the like), and the client device 110 may be a computer, a cell/wireless phone or communication device, or the like. For example, the client device 110 may be a personal computer or other electronic device using a browser or other mechanism to access the website provided by game server 160, which may present a game in Java or other format/language such as in Flash animation format.
  • The client device 110 may include a microprocessor 112 for controlling input/output (I/O) device 114 such as keypads, touch screens/pads, a mouse, a video game controller, voice command systems/software, microphones, speakers, and the like that may be used by a game player to enter data/information, to play a game, or to otherwise interact with a website provided by server 160 (e.g., to enter pass codes, to enter input to play an online game, to provide audio commands or information, and so on). The client device 110 may also include a monitor screen 118 that is used by the microprocessor 112 to present a game interface or graphical user interface (GUI) 118 (which may be served by game server 160 during an online game). An exercise monitor 120 may be used in some embodiments of the system 100 that can be used to communicate exercise data 124 to the client device 110, which may then transfer this exercise data 124 to the game server 160 for use in determining player points/green bucks (e.g., a pedometer 120 may be inserted into a USB port of the device 110 to communicate a number of steps 124 taken by a player and the number of steps (or length of activity/exercise) may be converted into a number of earned points or green bucks).
  • The system 100 may include a point-of-purchase/sale system 140 such as a physical store or facility at which a player may purchase a toy or other item/product 150. The toy 150 for example may be a stuffed or plush toy such as a wild animal, an endangered species, or the like. The toy 150 may include a data area 152 that provides a toy identification (ID) and/or game data 154, such as an address or link (e.g., a URL) to a website served by game server 160 over network 130 and/or a password/code that may be used by the player to access a particular website or online game (e.g., to allow the user to play an online game after purchasing a toy/item 150). A player ID badge (or card such as a smart card) 156 may be issued to the player with the toy 150 and may include readable data in a data element storage 158 such as in a barcode, a RFID tag, a chip, a magstripe, or other that may be used to identify the player and/or link them to the toy 150. For example, the player may carry the badge/smart card to sites/facilities of sponsors, participants, or the like as shown at system 141 where a reader 151 may be used to identify the player such as to confirm that a player attended an environmental or health presentation or visited a zoo or the like.
  • The point-of-purchase system 140 may include a CPU/microprocessor 142 that may be used to manage I/O devices 144, hardware such as reader 149 (which may be used to read data from element 158 of the badge 158) and to run/execute one or more software modules. For example, the system 140 may include a game interface module 146 that allows the point-of-purchase system 140 to interact with game server 160 such as to register a purchase with the game server 160. Such interaction may include activating a toy 150 or its ID 152 for use in accessing a game. The interaction may also include reading data 158 with reader 149 and linking this information regarding a player's ID with the toy 150 and creating a player record 190 in the game server 160. The interaction may also allow a purchaser to enter particular data or make selections at the point-of-purchase 140 such as to link their toy/item 150 with a particular sponsor/participant system 141 (such as to link their earned green bucks with a particular reward provider) or with a particular charity/group/cause such as to designate where a portion of the sales prices will go, where all or a portion of their earned rewards will go, and the like, as is describe in detail below. The system 140 may further include a website operation/ordering module 148 that may be used to allow players to purchase (e.g., with a discount received in exchange for Green Bucks earned in online games of skill, by performing offline tasks, and so on) the toys/items 150 online or using their client devices 110 via the network 130 (e.g., the toy 150 may be shipped or delivered to the player if ordered remotely rather than purchased at a physical store or location).
  • The system 100 includes a game server(s) 160 that functions to provide an online game and social interaction website that is accessible via the network 130 by game players using the client devices 110. The game server 160 includes a CPU 162 that runs 110 devices 164 for system/website administration, runs/executes software to provide the game/website including the game control module 166, and manages storage/retrieval of game-related data in a data storage 174 (which may be local and/or remote). The game control module 166 includes code and algorithms to provide the game functionality described herein.
  • In some cases, the module 166 may include a fitness determination mechanism 168 that may be used to track player data related to exercise, fitness, and health activities and to translate this information into reward points/bucks and/or fitness levels of an avatar or game character associated with the player. The module 166 may also include an earnings monitoring/determination mechanism 170 that may cause the CPU 162 to monitor or determine reward points or virtual currency (“bucks”) a player (or their avatar) have earned via online activities and/or offline activities. For example, the mechanism 170 may operate to store and update bank records 180 in data storage 174 that may include a record for each player that includes a player ID 181, the earned reward points/bucks 182, any interest 183 that may have accumulated for saving or delaying spending or using the earned bucks/rewards 182, and a total amount 184 of the rewards/bucks available for use by the player (such as to receive discount offers or coupons for use at an online or brick-and-mortar store). The module 166 may also include a screen/game image generator(s) 172 for providing the website pages, game GUI, and game animation/play sequences that are served over network 130 to client devices 110 (as shown as game GUI 118 in monitor screen 116 representing a player that has used their toy ID and/or player ID to access the website of the game server 160).
  • The data storage 174 may be used to store records 176 for various rewards available to players of an online game provided by server 160/module 166. For each reward, a green buck value or number of points 177 may be provided or defined to indicate how many bucks a player must have to obtain or “purchase” the reward 176. The rewards may vary to practice the system 100 and may be products from a sponsor/partner (e.g., actual products such as other toys, clothes, music, and the like). In other cases, the rewards 176 may be donations to charity or organization (e.g., a number of green bucks may be associated with a donation value (such as a particular number of U.S. dollars) to a charity selected by the game provider or player from a list of charities/groups associated with an online game), with the donation being paid by the game provider (e,g., as a portion of the earnings from advertising or the like), by a sponsor, or by other sources of funds.
  • Data storage 174 may also store records 178 for game sponsors/partners that may include information such as a link to their website that may be presented by the game server 160 as part of a game in game GUI 118. Players may be encouraged to visit a sponsor's website where they may purchase the sponsors products/services (such as by receiving a digital invite (e.g. a popup window, an e-mail message, and so on after their bank records 180 indicate they have reached a preset amount of total bucks 184 to be invited to a Green Mall or to a particular web site/location of a sponsor of the web site or its game(s)). The players may be able to earn green bucks/game rewards simply for visiting the web site and/or for making purchases. In other cases, purchases resulting from this type of linking to a website of a sponsor 178 may also be tracked and may result in an automatic donation to charity/organization associated with the online game or one that has been selected by the player. For example, data storage 174 may also be used to store records 179 for a set of charities or organizations (such as environmental non-profit groups), and a player may associate themselves (or their avatar/game characters) with such charities/organizations 179. Then, when the player earns a donation through sponsor visits/purchases, through game play, and/or through offline activities, the donation may automatically by credited or transferred to the charity/organization. In other cases, links to the charity/organization's website may be provided in a game GUI 118 using data in record 179, and a player may be able to learn about the charity/organization during game play/activities and/or be able to earn points/green bucks for visiting the website (or performing some activities while at the website such as providing contact information or the like).
  • Also, as shown, the data storage 174 may be used by processor 162 to store player records 190 that are linked to the player via an ID field 191 (e.g., the player's ID of the card 156 and/or the toy ID 152, which may be the same or different). The player record 190 may also be used to store avatar information or game character information 192 for the game, and this may include selected characteristics (e.g., a player may be able to design the avatar or at least change aspects such as color, textures, clothing, and so on), fitness level (e.g., some embodiments vary the fitness of the avatar based on the amount of exercise or fitness activities participated in by the player as may be stored in record 190 at 196), and an avatar name. The record 190 may also be used to store game data 194 such as parameters/values 195 including present level/state of one or more online games, earned rewards, chosen or associated sponsors, and chosen or associated charities.
  • The system 100 may also include a number of sponsor/participant systems 141 that may be physical locations that a player may visit to perform a desired activity. For example, a system 141 may be provided at a park or zoo to encourage a player to get outdoors and to visit endangered animals. In other cases, the participant system 141 may be provided at a physical store. The system 141 may be adapted for communicating with game server 160 via network 130 such as to update a player's game data, fitness/exercise/activity data 196, to update/access a player's bank records 180, or the like. The system 141 includes a CPU 143 that runs I/O devices 145, executes a game interface module 147 to interact/communicate with the game server 160, and operates a reader 151 to read data 158 from player ID badge or card 156 (e.g., to identify the player based on their carried and/or presented card 156).
  • With the above description of system/network 100 understood, it may now be useful to provide in more detail specific online game methods and operations that may be provided by embodiments of the invention (e.g., by operation of the system 100 or the like) so as to provide integration of offline activities with online activities such as playing an online game. It may be noted that a goal of a provider or operator of a game server such as server 160 may be to encourage environmentally friendly (or green), socially responsible lifestyles that are healthy and sustainable. This may be provided via integration of online and offline environments, with some emphasis on certain age groups such as children, tweens (e.g., people from 6 to 14), and older populations (such as those that may wish to remain active and fight memory loss or memory-related issues). The online game may be provided as a method of educating a population in a fun and compelling manner on ways to reduce global climate change, to protect wild species and their habitats, and to go green at home and in the world at large. Some online games may be directed toward older generations and provide a focus on memory retention to help retard the onset of Alzheimer's disease and memory loss in general. The online games may be adapted to encourage players to participate in certain activities such to go outdoors (to experience nature), to visit a particular location (such as a national park, a zoo, a store, or the like), to attend an educational or other event, and/or to exercise to help combat the obesity epidemic and remain healthy.
  • The online gaming website may be designed for tweens, aged between 6 and 14 for example, but the online games may have wider appeal such as for older players. In some embodiments, online memory retention games are provided that are effective in fighting memory loss. The incentives/rewards may also be chosen to motivate players of all ages to go outside more often and to exercise indoors or outdoors such as by providing the players with downloadable activity forms/sheets that encourage particular activities (e.g., particular interactions with nature or particular exercises to perform). The offline activities may be electronically tracked (such as with an exercise monitor 120) or be entered/logged by the player, and these activities may be linked to the online game to provide a fun and unique gaming experience for players (or website members).
  • For example, certain amounts of exercise each week may result in an avatar's fitness level (level 193 shown in FIG. 1 in the player's record 190) being increased, which may be visually reflected in the way the avatar is animated to provide visual feedback. For example, the avatar may get thinner and/or more muscularly toned with increased exercise and heavier and/or less muscularly toned when exercise falls below some preset level. In another case, tracked activities such as exercise or visiting a particular location may result in green bucks being rewarded that may be used in a variety of ways to obtain rewards (such as sponsor's products, an invitation to visit an online Green Mall, coupons to make purchases of products/services, changes/improvements in an avatar, trigger other's donations to a charity/organization, and so on).
  • Access to the online gaming website or a particular portion or a game may be controlled by the game server by requiring a player to enter a pass code or ID, and this pass code or ID may be obtained, for example, by purchasing a particular toy or product (or paying a membership fee in some cases). For example, a player may purchase a stuffed toy such as a plush animal, e.g., a plush endangered species (e.g., a mammal, a reptile, a fish, an insect, or the like). In some implementations, a percentage of the purchase price for the product (“plushie”) or membership may be donated automatically to a charity. The charity may be linked to the particular product (e.g., if you purchase a whale, the donation may be related toward ending whale hunting or saving oceans; if you purchase a desert lizard, the donation may be toward saving desert habitat; if you purchase a panda, the donation may be toward saving areas of their natural range; and so on) while in other cases the purchaser/player may be able to select the recipient of the donation (e.g., associate their purchase and/or later game play and earning of green bucks with a particular charity or recipient). In other words, the habitat that may be protected with a donation may be linked to where the animal represented by the plushie lives, while in other cases purchasers may choose a particular cause to donate to at the point of purchase (or later by visiting the game server website such as via a pulldown list/menu of endangered species, endangered habitat, energy conservation, reduction/control of global climate change, or other causes/charities/organizations).
  • FIG. 2 illustrates a method 200 for integrating an offline activity that may be performed by a gamer/player with their online gaming activities. The method 200 starts at 204 such as by providing the system 100 of FIG. 1 and hosting an online game with game server 160 and providing one or more systems/locations 140 for purchasing toys or plushies 150. At 210, a player or gamer may access the game website via a client device 110, such as by using a link and pass code provided with the toy/plushie 150 as shown at 154 or with their badge 156.
  • At 220, the game server 160 may provide a game or game GUI 118 on the gamer's client device 110 over the network 130, and the GUI or game may include incentives or instructions for the gamer to perform a particular offline activity to cause an effect within the game and/or to earn points/green bucks. For example, a game may include a stage or level in which a gamer is instructed to turn off their computer and go outside to exercise for 30 minutes. In another example, the gamer may be instructed to log off from the website and go to a zoo or a museum to hear a lecture on endangered species. In yet another example, a player may be encouraged via the GUT/game to visit a partner/sponsor store to perform an activity such as listen to a talk on the environment, view a screening of a wildlife movie, or exercise (e.g., climb an indoor or outdoor rock climbing wall or the like). With these examples in mind, it will be clear that the number and variety of offline activities that can be prompted or incented at 220 are nearly limitless, with a main point being that the gamer/player is encouraged to perform some task or function that is outside the web-hosted online game/website and that action is then tracked/monitored to cause an effect within the online game/website/environment.
  • At 230, the method 200 waits (e.g., the online game may be paused or held at a particular state/level) until the gamer performs the offline activity. Once the player performs the activity, at 236, the method 200 involves determination of whether the online activity performed was a sponsored activity (such as visiting a zoo or the like) or self-monitored activity (such as exercise, visiting a local park, building a snowman, swimming in a lake, and so on). If sponsored/partnered, at 240, the method 200 includes operating a sponsor/partner system 141 to identify the gamer/player as being at a sponsor facility such as by reading data 158 from a badge/card 156 carried/presented by the gamer at the sponsor's reader 151. For example, a gamer may present the badge 156 at a store and/or take other actions to authenticate that they are the gamer and are there to take part in an offline activity that will be integrated with the online game/website game data.
  • At 250, the sponsor/participant system 141 may be operated to monitor gamer's performance of a particular sponsor-related activity. For example, the sponsor may have a climbing wall in their store, and the gamer may participate in a climbing session for a particular length of time. At 260, the sponsor system 141 may be operated to communicate with the game server 160 to update the player's record 190 such as by updating fitness/exercise/offline activity data 196 or a portion of the game data 194 such as to enter a reward 195. In other cases, step 260 may involve increasing the player's bank records 181 to increase their earned bucks 182 in response to their participation/performance of a sponsored offline activity. At 290, the integration process 200 may be ended.
  • At 236, when the activity is determined to be self-monitored, the method 200 continues at 270 with the gamer performing one or more offline activities. For example, at 220, the player may download and/or print out an activity form that instructs the player to perform a particular offline activity such as ride your bicycle down to the local library and check out a book on a South American rainforest (or nearly any other offline activity that may be directly or indirectly related to an online game environment presented by a game server 160). At 274, the gamer may return to their client device 110 and access the game server 160, and the gainer may then enter their activity data. In some cases, this may involve using an exercise monitor 120 to provide exercise data 124 via the client device.
  • At 278, the game server 160 operates to update the player's record 190 such as to update the player's offline activity data 196. At 278, the fitness determination mechanism 168 may operate to determine a fitness level 193 of a player's avatar 192, e.g., to increase the character's muscle tone or health level in response to the offline activity performed by the gamer. For example, FIGS. 3A to 3C show a screen shot of a garner's avatar 320 as it may appear during game play in game or website GUI (or a screen shot of an online game) 310. A fitness level may also be indicted with a screen icon as shown at 330, and a video/image portion 340 may be included to show (with or without accompanying audio streams/outputs) educational or entertainment content of the online game/website. FIG. 3A shows the avatar 320 in an initial health state or fitness level 330 at the beginning of an online game. FIG. 3B shows the avatar 320 after its health state or fitness level 330 has increased in response to one or more offline activities being performed by the gamer. In contrast, FIG. 3C shows the avatar 320 after its health state or fitness level 330 has decreased in response to the gamer's failure to perform a suggested or recommended offline activity (e.g., a gamer may not take the time to stop the online game and exercise). Integration at 278 of the offline activity may also include the earnings monitoring/determination mechanism 170 acting to update a player's bank records to increase (or decrease) their earned bucks based on their performance (or lack of performance) of an offline activity at 270. The gamer may then spend the bucks 182 as described herein (e.g., to visit a Green Mall to obtain coupons/discounts to online-available or brick-and-motor store-offered products/services and so on) to enjoy the reward/incentive of performing the offline activity.
  • As can be seen from FIGS. 2 to 3C online and offline activities may be functionally interconnected or integrated. For example, such integration may include modifying a look and/or fitness level (and/or ability level) of a gamer's character/avatar based on an offline activity such as exercise or proper eating. The player may also earn green bucks, awards, credits, and other perks by performing offline activities. By integrating offline activities with online activities, the online gaming system and method may accomplish particular goals such as educating the players on particular subjects in a fun and player-accepted online game format.
  • In some embodiments, the exercise monitor 120 may take the form of a step counter type device that may be provided or purchased by the garners. The step counter 120 may fit into a shoe or be worn in or on clothing or otherwise provided on the gamer's body. As they exercise, the counter records the number of steps or performance of an offline activity such as over a 30-minute or other time period as may be suggested on downloaded exercise sheets/forms. When the game player then allows the monitor 120 to communicate with their client device, the steps or exercise may be entered into their activity data 196 (e.g., into an exercise meter or Exermeter that may be found in a portion of the online game such as in a Check-In Clinic or the like). At this point, the game program may automatically check to see if the player has played other games or performed other activities such as memory retention games. If so, the two or more offline activities may be considered in conjunction by the earnings monitoring/determination mechanism 170 to formulate a game score or earnings level for the offline activity and give the player game points/credits and/or green bucks (e.g., by updating their bank record 180 to include more bucks 182).
  • As discussed above, to enter an online gaming environment or website, a player may adopt or purchase a toy or product such as a plush wild species either online at the game or another website or at a retail store or other facility or get pre-coded tickets for online use at zoos, parks, and other venues. In some cases, the game server may provide a list of sponsors or charities/non-profit groups that are associated with the online game (e.g., non-profit groups that may be endorsed for their efforts to save species and/or habitats and/or in other ways support green or other causes). The player or purchaser may select one of these groups (such as stored in records 178, 179 of storage 174 in or accessible by game server 160) for receiving a portion of the toy/product/ticket purchase price (and/or for later receiving a portion of the green bucks they earn by online and/or offline activities). In some cases, the sponsors/charities may have a connection to the online game play, e.g., an online game may be associated with a rainforest and a non-profit rainforest restoration group may receive donations based on green bucks earned by playing that sub-game or performing a particular online or offline activity associated with this portion of the online game.
  • The toy/product (e.g., plush wild species) may have a pass code that may be used by the game server to allow the purchaser/player to go online and explore the web site or online game such as to access a virtual wild world or website as a game player. The game player or garner may construct an avatar to represent them as they navigate the website. The avatar may have characteristics that the gamer may select such as race, gender, clothing, appearance, size, hair color, and the like, and the appearance of the avatar may be changed by the player and/or by the game software in response to the player's health level or other game data (e.g., to integrate offline activities, to reflect purchases of avatar abilities or characteristics with green bucks, and the like). A gamer may be presented an adoption certificate or similar form in some cases that may allow the gamer to name a wild species or animal/insect they have adopted/purchased (e.g., their toy/product or plushie), to state its age and gender, and to associate it with a particular charity/sponsor (for donation of portion of the purchase price and/or later gamer earnings). In some cases, the avatar will at least initially take the form of or be based on the adopted or purchased plushie/toy. A card/badge such as smart card or the like may be provided with the toy/product purchase such as on a key chain, and this card/badge may be carried by the game player so as to provide identifying information (e.g., player ID data via a bar code, a magstripe, a chip, an REID tag, or the like) at or to access offline activities sponsored by or associated with the online gaming environment.
  • FIG. 4 illustrates a main or first screen 410 that may be displayed on a gamer's client device, and this GUI or game screen may include the player's avatar 320 (or this character 320 may be a guide that shows the player the options available at the gaming site such as by taking the player/gamer on a guided tour of the website beginning at screen 410, for example). As shown, in this example of an online gaming environment, the gaming environment 410 includes a global access portion 420, a game arcade tent or portion 430, an avatar or body building portion 440, a health clinic portion 450, and a bank/green buck access portion 460.
  • When a player selects (e.g., moves their avatar 320, clicks on with a mouse, or the like) the global access 420, the player may visit global destinations. For example, the player may spin the web globe and then click on or select a location they wish to visit. After selection, the game may provide video/audio/animation or other content related to the selected location such as information about animals and habitat for that region of the world and/or information about how to help a particular wild species and/or environments of the selected geographic location. For example, the virtual worlds/regions may include a rainforest roundup, a coral chasm, an Arctic access, an Antarctic alley, prairie pioneers, park preservation (e.g., information on national, state, and local parks), and the like.
  • When a player selects the game arcade tent, the player may be able to play one or more online game, which may result in them earning green bucks that may be saved in the bank 460 or spent in the world 410 (such as to support a charity, to purchase products from a sponsor at a discount, to improve their avatar, and so on). For example, fun and educational games (e.g., games of skill) may be presented such as green games to teach players how they can personally take a role in reducing global climate change or effects (e.g., how to live green at home and in the world at large). Gaines may also be provided that are educational such as math and science games. In some embodiments, the games may be altered or modified by the gamer such as to add, delete, or change some portion of the game components to make the experience more interesting or compelling to them, and some of these player-created games may then be made available to other players or to the gamer on their return/next visit to world 410.
  • In the avatar shop 440, the game players may create or modify their personal avatar 320 that they use to navigate the website, and, in some cases, green bucks that are earned online or offline may be used to create or change their avatar and/or performance of offline activities such as exercise or eating healthy may be used to automatically modify the avatar (e.g., reflect levels of exercise of the gamer, reflect a current weight of the gamer in the real world that may be entered as part of the game data, and so on).
  • In a clinic 450 (e.g., a check-in, cheek-up, and check-out clinic), game players may take their avatar for a “physical” check up. For example, the player may enter the clinic after performing an offline activity such as exercising. The player may, for example, log into an exercise meter (or Exermeter) that shows their current/past exercise information, and the player may download/enter time spent outside, time spent performing some activity, amount exercising, and the like. The player's avatar 320 may become instantly (or gradually) more fit or “buff” with exercise or other activities such as eating more fruit and vegetables while the avatar may become less fit or heavier with little or no exercise. In some embodiments, the adopted toy or plush animal may have a separate exercise meter or fitness levels/data to reflect how well the player is taking care of it, e.g., enough water and food, and depictions of water, food, and desired habitat (such as trees, grasses, and the like) may be used to depict the species/toy as being healthy. In some cases, an online newspaper may be provided in the world 410 to provide feature articles about subjects related to the world 410 such as articles about going green, about endangered species and habitats, about winners/gamers that performed activities or won contests sponsored by the game server/website provider, and/or information/content (such as images/videos) provided by other garners.
  • As discussed above, players may earn green bucks/points by playing the online games and/or performing offline activities. The more online games and offline activities they perform the more bucks they can earn. These green bucks may be used in a number of ways in the world 410 and in the real world. For example, the green bucks may be used/spent by the player to improve the habitats of the species they “adopt” through their purchase, e.g., by actual currency donations being directed to or credited to charities or sponsors based on earned virtual or green bucks based on a charity/sponsor selected by the game player. The players may also adopt more plushies/toys to have more online characters/avatars and the like and/or to have access to different portions of the world 410 based on which plushies they have adopted (different pass codes may allow access to different parts of the world 420 or to different games 430 or the like). The gamer may direct that a portion of their green bucks be provided to a particular charity (e.g., to save a species/habitat) or this may be done automatically by the game software based on a player's prior selection/association of their avatar or plushie/toy with a charity/cause (e.g., after a player subscribes to the web site).
  • The green bucks bank 460 may be operated to track the earnings of points/green bucks for each player. Game players may be encouraged to deposit or save their bucks in a virtual savings account at the bank 460. Then, they may use a secret pass code or pass word to access their virtual account where they can deposit or withdraw their green bucks. The players may be taught about the value of saving by providing virtual interest when the players leave their green bucks in the bank 460 for particular/defined periods of time, and this interest may be shown in their accounts to allow them to readily see that their total bucks available is greater or larger than the amount they earned by performing activities or playing online games such that they have more to spend at a later time A vault or stash of green stuff may also be provided that holds all the things/items that the game players may purchase with their green bucks or exchange for discounts/coupons/offers for services or products. These “purchases” may include triggering donations to charities (such as for saving species, habitat, and other causes), virtual items such as habitat/food for their online plushie character or abilities/items for their character/avatar, products/coupons from sponsors, and so on. Again, the vault may be accessed with the player's secret pass code, and they may spend or otherwise use their earned green bucks plus interest on available items.
  • The rewards (e.g., rewards 176 associated with green buck values 177 in FIG. 1) may vary significantly to practice the invention and may be “purchased” by players using their green bucks (or they may be earned more directly by playing an online game, doing an online activity, and/or performing an offline activity that is logged into the online gaming environment). For example, the rewards may include pins and/or buttons (“Wild Walkers”) that may be worn on shows or clothing, and these may be purchased or provided upon reaching some game state or offline activity level (e.g., succeeding in performing a physical activity to encourage fitness and/or outdoor exercise or activities). The rewards may also include endangered animal/insect related rewards such as an “Endangered Elite” series of endangered animal pins and buttons (which may be retired in limited edition runs) that may be worn on shoes or clothing and purchased with green bucks or earned by the online game player by playing online games or by the player doing offline activities (e.g., participating in a river clean up, visiting an educational facility, and so on). Another reward may be certificates (e.g., “Meet, Greet, and Move Your Feet” membership certificates or the like indicating fitness level achievements). The rewards may also include coupons for merchandise from sponsors, and sponsors may also provide online rewards when garners link to their site (such as discounted merchandise). The sponsors may also convert or accept green bucks and, in turn, make donations to causes (such as habitat saving causes selected by the sponsor or the player). The sponsors may also allow players to purchase their products online or offline and by proving game ID or other information cause the sponsor to donate a percentage of the purchase price (such as a percentage of garners' purchases to one or more causes/charities). In other embodiments, once a certain level is reached, the player may be able to access a Green Mall to access green retailers and service providers (with or without the ability to receive discounts for earning the green bucks and virtual interest).
  • The offline experiences or activities may be driven or directed via downloaded and/or printed out activity sheets from the online virtual world/gaming environment provided by the game server. Downloaded activity forms may be adapted to encourage/define activities that the players have to complete offline such as outdoors so as to connect the players to nature and to encourage exercise. Some defined activities may be educational and include science and math components while others may be designed for play and fun indoors or outdoors. Upon completion of the offline activity, the game player may go back online via their client device, a network, and the game server and log in or download the activity (e.g., the time spent outdoors, distance traveled, amount/level/type of exercise, and so on) to earn credits, rewards, and/or virtual green bucks. The green bucks allow the player to integrate their offline activity with the online gaming experience and may be utilized by: (a) receiving printed certificates of recognition such as may be downloaded from the game website; (b) obtaining discount or full price coupons for products/services from partners and/or sponsors; (c) obtaining discounts for or full entry fees to facilities such as national parks, zoos, museums, and the like; (d) receiving badge, button, pins, or the like to be collected and worn; and (e) earning virtual green bucks to spend online (or offline in some cases directly at a sponsor's facility upon reading a player's badge/card and accessing their player account/game data) such as to improve/change their gaming experience (e.g., to improve the habitat of the player's online animals which may be associated with their adopted or purchased plushies/toys).
  • Regarding personal/player ID data (which may be provided in a bar code or other data storage portion of the toy/produce or an associated card, badge, or other player ID element), game players may be issued a personal ID in the form of a badge or card or the like when they purchase a plushie (e.g., at a store or that may be downloaded from the game website). The player may then use the personal ID to identify themselves offline such as to a scanner or reader of a sponsor's system or their personal client device, and the computer that reads this data may record data for completion of an offline activity such as an outdoor activity. For example, the game website/server provider or a game sponsor may host weekly neighborhood walks or other activities for the game players and their friends/family. At the completion of the walk or other activity, the player may have their personal ID scanned or read to show that they attended the event and completed the offline activity such as a walk or other activity. This offline activity may then be downloaded to or credited to their online account by communication of the data from the sponsor system or client device to the game server over a wired and/or wireless network. In some cases, the player's game account may be updated with more green bucks, credits, game points, online or offline rewards/perks, or the like so as to integrate offline activity with online gaming and otherwise a player to participate in an offline activity and also to more fully enjoy the online gaming experience (e.g., walking changes their online avatar's health and so on). The personal ID or bar code data may be used by the game player to obtain offline rewards/perks such as discount coupons from website sponsors for their products/services, discounted entry fees to national parks, zoos, and other areas of interest, and/or to obtain merit badges/recognition items (buttons, pins, and so on). The players may also be able to raise money for their charities and the sponsors may be added to the online gaming experience (e.g., recognition for sponsor donations may be indicated to all garners and provide links to this new/added sponsor to the garners to encourage a symbiotic relationship between game players, sponsors, and charities).
  • The inventor recognizes that in some cases memory retention may be assisted by or should be linked to offline activities such as exercise. Research has shown 30 minutes of brisk walking every day helps retard the onset of Alzheimer's disease or memory loss in general. For example, offline exercise may be combined with playing the online game described herein that may include online memory-retention games when visiting the arcade/gaming portion 430 of the online world 410, and this integration of offline and online activities may better control memory loss or improve memory abilities of players. The game server may execute software to provide functionality that monitors the online games the player chooses to play and the completion of such games.
  • For example, the player may complete a memory retention online game, and the game server would run a program to check if the player's exercise meter or fitness/exercise data from offline activities/exercise includes a predetermined amount/level of exercise (e.g., based on time spent, steps, heart rate-duration, or other parameters) completed offline (and vice versa), if a connection is found/determined between the online and offline activities, the game server program may computer an enhanced score or award of green/virtual bucks because the player performed these activities in a proper ratio/relationship (e.g., 30 minutes of brisk walking on a day they also played one or more memory retention games results in a higher point value or number of green bucks than if either activity were performed on its own during a particular time period).
  • The game server may provide a number of sponsors such as park and zoo sponsors that help players to earn virtual green bucks through offline activities. When a player attends a park or zoo (for an example of a sponsor facility), they may have their ID card/badge scanned to have their ID data verified and entered into the sponsor's computer system for reporting to the game server the date/time and duration of their visit as well, in some cases, completion of a sponsor-provided offline activity. This information may then be entered by the game server into the bank for increasing the player's green bucks or game points/data or providing the player with other on or offline perks/rewards. In some embodiments, a sponsor may be provided for the game that allows players to use a sponsor-provided credit card, and the players may be rewarded green bucks when they use their credit card. These credit card points/credits may be transferred periodically or on an ongoing basis to the player's bank account to show their present green buck total. In some cases, the green bucks earned in this manner may be used to cause this or another sponsor to donate money to a charity while in other cases the green bucks for this sponsor may be used at the sponsor's (or another sponsor's) store or online site to obtain discounts in purchasing the sponsor's goods/services.
  • In some cases, the above systems and methods may be modified to allow a game player to use voice authentication (e.g., more particularly, a wild species sound/call/noise (such as that made by an animal, an insect, or the like) to authenticate and/or identify themselves to a game server and/or another game player) and/or to allow a parent or other third-party participant to enter information (such as their speech for voice recognition) to verify that an offline activity was properly or fully performed by a game player or gamer prior to giving the gamer credit for the offline activity (such as having a parent verify that a tween gamer exercised a certain amount). These modifications may be considered or include a method and system for voice print authentication of a gamer.
  • In one specific embodiment, a gamer may be requested to authenticate themselves to a game server or a sponsor's system in addition or in place of simply having their ID information read from their badge/card. Specifically, the game server or sponsor system may receive wild species' sounds originating from an identified user to authenticate the gamer (or verify the player's identification based on their voice print in combination with the particular animal sound). The voice print/wild species sound authentication may be associated with the online and offline game applications and, in some embodiments, may be independent from game website, such as a cell phone or communication device application using a method and system for voice print authentication using wild species sounds originating from an identified user (note, “wild species” may also, of course, include animals and other living creatures that are considered or are domesticated).
  • For example, the client device 110 of system 100 may include a microphone or other devices for allowing audio input from a user (such as a player or guardian/third party making an animal noise or speaking) and this audio signal/information (e.g., a species sound input from a gamer/third party verifier) may be transferred as a digital signal to the game server. The game server would use its CPU 162 to execute software/code devices (not shown but part of game control module 166, for example) to analyze the input audio authentication information, such as by comparison to an earlier provided/recorded signal from the gamer/third party verifier (e.g., a stored biometric voice print) stored in data storage 174, to verify the gamer or third party is who they claim to be prior to entering particular game data (such as offline activity completion data that may help the gamer to earn green bucks).
  • For example, a gamer may be prompted to make a wild species noise/sound, the game server would receive an authentication signal from the client device, and the game server would authenticate the user based on the voice print (voice recognition) in combination with the particular sound/noise (e.g., by comparison with a previously stored wild species call/sound from the player such that the player may not be authenticated if they roar when they are expected to make a pig noise and would not be authenticated if they are the wrong person but make the correct wild species noise). A player may have more than one avatar or game character, and the game server or its software may choose the avatar/game character based on the wild species sound made by the player. For example, the player may have a lion and an elephant avatar, and, based on processing of the wild species sound received from the client device, the game server may retrieve the proper avatar upon authenticating the game player. In this manner, the game server may act as a voice authentication server accessing player profiles that may include biometric voice prints along with a wild species sound that may be used in combination to authenticate the game player or a parent/third-party verifier. The specific technique used for performing voice authentication is not limiting to the invention, and it may be performed as taught in U.S. Pat. No. 7,536,304 to Di Mambro, which is incorporated herein by reference in its entirety.
  • In one embodiment, a computer-based method and computer system/network is provided for authenticating a user-provided wild species' sounds as they are related to game play or activity related to online game activities and/or to offline activities for the website/game server's subscribers and/or subscriber's parents, relatives or authorized persons reporting for the subscriber (“guardian”) to report game activities and accumulated time spent for the activity of the subscriber. The method may include sending one or more spoken wild species' sounds from an identified game subscriber or guardian (third-party verifier). The method may continue with identifying that wild species' sound (player/verifier authentication input) as belonging to the subscriber or their guardian. The method may also include identifying whether a biometric voice print associated with that person matches that player/verifier from the input one or more spoken wild species' sounds. Then, the method may include authenticating the user/verifier based on the wild species' sounds and the biometric voice print belonging to that wild species' sound as criteria for granting access to one or more online or offline activities such as to determine when the player may receive Green Bucks earned to obtain “rewards” provided by merchant vendors that are sponsors to an online site such as coupons/discounts, to determine when the player may be invited to the Green Mall, and so on as discussed above.
  • To ensure that subscribers/players of a game server/online game actually “earn” their green bucks, a system of verification may be used such that a sponsor can trust that bucks. For example, wild species sound-based voice authentication may be used to show a sponsor such as a merchant vendor who provides the “rewards” can rely on an authenticated system of reporting detailing a subscriber's activities. This verification can be supported by one or more of the techniques discussed below.
  • The game server may be used to identify the gamer/subscriber and/or their guardian (or a third party verifier), and then the game server may act to verify or determine that this subscriber/gamer has completed an online or offline game and activity time as reported to the merchant vendor or as entered into the game server. Each subscriber/player may select a guardian, for example, as a third party verifier to verify their time spent on games and activities associated with the gaming website. For example, a responsible parent or adult of the subscriber (guardian) can call into a designated call center or other biometric voice print/animal sound collection repository. Then, using their selected wild species sound to denote their identity they may provide a baseline voice/sound print that is stored in the game server data storage for later comparison with a received verification input.
  • Then, as part of an online/offline activity reporting process, the call center/game server may verify the ID of the guardian in conjunction with their wild species' sound and only when authenticated act to credit the time or online/offline activity being reported by the guardian or player to the subscriber's/player's account. The call center/game server could be accessed via cell phone or any wireless communication system (such as using their iPhone, Droid, a PDA, a wireless computing device, via a satellite system, or the like), via a landline or wired communication device such as a phone or computer (e.g., via Skype or similar services over the Internet) or via a sponsor/partner facility such as a store location of a selected merchant vendor. A calendar time-frame for reporting may be established or predefined for earning green bucks based on online/offline activities, and the vendor/sponsor may provide or define how many hours of activity or green bucks are needed for a “reward” such as a discount when they make other purchases or the like. When the designated number of hours or green bucks are achieved, the subscriber/gamer is eligible to obtain the “reward.” Typically in any of the applications described herein, the sender of the wild species' sound can change the wild species sound as often as they like (e.g., from one animal/insect to another for use with their voice print in authentication of their identity and right to access a game server or enter completion of an offline activity).
  • To allow for easier reporting of time/completion of an offline activity and to bypass the vendor, a designated “partner” phone company or other service may record and ID the wild species' sound of the subscriber or guardian to record the time spent by the subscriber on a monthly bill sent to the subscriber. This bill, authenticating the hours accumulated, can then be taken to the selected merchant vendor, and the “reward” can be obtained as described above.
  • The guardian or third party verifier may call into the game server or related phone call center where their authentication baseline will be stored including recording the wild species' sound, ID or link it to the caller, and then keep a log of the subscriber's/gamer's accumulated hours or offline activity data. This activity “log” may in some implementations be downloaded by the client or the sponsor/vendor such that it may be taken, to a merchant vendor (or accessed by the vendor) to determine when a player has obtain/earned a “reward.” The sponsor/vendor may update the player's account upon “purchase” of a reward to reduce their number of activity points or green bucks available for rewards or the purchase may be forwarded/communicated to the game server to take such action or record keeping of the player's virtual bank account.
  • In some embodiments, a game method and system is provided to support subscriber/player involvement in team activity via an online game. Some of online games and online/offline activities provided in a game system such as system 100 of FIG. 1 may be designed to require team play. For example, the game may be a MORPG (multi-player, online, role playing game) application with multiple players. In such cases, it may be important to keep track of each subscriber's online time and activity, as green bucks for “rewards” can be awarded to winning teams and not just for individual play. To ensure that a particular subscriber is involved in the activity, the subscriber can log onto the online site, applying their wild species' sound that identifies them via voice print, using Skype, an iPhone or other wireless communication device, or other microphone or cell or land phone device that will automatically record their ID and time, and show that they are online and playing or working at the activity. When they complete the activity, or end their online time, they again call-in to designate that they are ending their participation. This call-in of and authentication of the identity of the subscriber/gamer, using their chosen wild species' sound for example, can also be used to alert their online team members that they are now “in the game or activity,” and they are available to work with other team members or that they are leaving the game-play.
  • Subscribers/game players can apply their identifying animal sounds to their own, selected, virtual wild species involved in the online game play. For example, a game server may provide a gaming environment in which players designate which wild specie or animal that they want to be associated with and then themselves by calling out the wild sound. Then, this sound is ID'd or linked to the subscriber/games as the owner of that wild species, which may be represented in the game by a game character or the player's or game-driven avatar. In this manner, the wild species can now “belong” to a specific player-subscriber or team and participate as an active “member” in the game play to “rack-up” team points or to make specific actions in the play. The species' recognition ID is important for it shows the location of the wild species in the game, which team or subscriber the wild species belongs to, what wild species is involved in the game to show the characteristics of the species in game-play (wild birds, for example, may do a “poop-dump” or other action on a foe, whales can create huge ocean waves for defense, and so on) and in other ways gather green bucks for game points for “rewards” or invitations to a Green Mall.
  • In some cases, a game method and/or system is provided for offline activities used in conjunction with or integrated with online components of the gaming environment or experience. For example, offline activities may include outdoor exploration, with math and science downloaded sheets to assist in the exploration, to reconnect subscribers to nature and to promote exercise to curb obesity. Activities can be used alone or in conjunction with family and friends and in a team-based format. When the activity is completed, the subscriber/garner and/or a guardian/third party verifier may go online to the gaming website or other designated repository to record the time they spent outdoors to complete the activity or to otherwise enter offline activity data. An online “exermeter” or example may be provided for each subscriber that denotes, in avatar form with a bar graph or the like, the cumulative time the subscriber has spent outdoors or level of exercise or completion amount of an activity. In some cases, no or little time shows the avatar becoming “fatter” while ascending time shows the avatar becoming “buff.” Green bucks may be earned for the effort the subscriber expends and these green bucks can be deposited, earning interest, in an online, virtual bank. These green bucks can be exchanged for actual “rewards” (sports equipment, books, and so on at a discounted price in some cases) from merchant vendors/sponsors that display their merchandise on a site.
  • In some cases, the gaming method and system may be used in conjunction with a wireless communication device such as cell phone (e.g., an iPhone or similar product) during outdoor play such as using games downloaded onto a subscriber's/gamer's cell phone or communication/client device. Instead of using downloaded sheets, for example, a game may be downloaded or provided to the client device (e.g., a game application provided on a cell phone) to be used in solo or team game-play. Subscribers use their wild species sound, used to verify their ID, to alert team players that they are “in the game” and ready to engage activity, which may be indicated to each player via the game GUI/game screens with participating player icons/small avatar images/or the like. When they are finished, they sign-out, again (optionally) using their wild species' sound. They also use their wild species' sound, verifying their ID, to designate the start and stop time of their solo play.
  • A monthly cell phone bill may be sent to the subscriber/gamer that designates the time the subscriber spent in game or solo-play and may track the number of green bucks earned to date/in the prior billing period. The subscriber's guardian can verify, using their own wild species' voice ID sound, and calling in to a designated center, that the subscriber actually earned their green bucks for the merchant vendor's “reward” as discussed above. A ring tone voice ID using a subscriber's wild species sound/input may be changed as desired by the player/subscriber. The cell phone subscriber/garner may use their designated wild species' sound, voice ID to make a connection to a designated receiver for a response to engage in game play or chat or text, to plan new game play, or just to socialize.
  • Although the invention has been described and illustrated with a certain degree of particularity, it is understood that the present disclosure has been made only by way of example and that numerous changes in the combination and arrangement of parts can be resorted to by those skilled in the art without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention, as hereinafter claimed. Embodiments (such as the system shown in FIG. 1, the methods described and shown in attached figures, and the UIs/screen shots of the figures) of the subject matter and the functional operations described in this specification may be implemented in digital electronic circuitry, or in computer software, firmware, or hardware, including the structures disclosed in this specification and their structural equivalents, or in combinations of one or more of them.
  • Embodiments of the subject matter described in this specification can be implemented as one or more computer program products, i.e., one or more modules of computer program instructions encoded on a computer-readable medium for execution by, or to control the operation of, data processing apparatus. For example, the modules used to provide the online game and its functionality may be provided in such computer-readable medium and executed by a processor or the like. The computer-readable medium can be a machine-readable storage device, a machine-readable storage substrate, a memory device, a composition of matter affecting a machine-readable propagated signal, or a combination of one or more of them. The system (such as system 100 of FIG. 1) can include, in addition to hardware, code that creates an execution environment for the computer program in question, e.g., code that constitutes processor firmware, a protocol stack, a database management system, an operating system, or a combination of one or more of them.
  • A computer program (also known as a program, software, software application, script, or code) can be written in any form of programming language, including compiled or interpreted languages, and it can be deployed in any form, including as a stand-alone program or as a module, component, subroutine, or other unit suitable for use in a computing environment. A computer program does not necessarily correspond to a file in a file system. A program can be stored in a portion of a file that holds other programs or data (e.g., one or more scripts stored in a markup language document), in a single file dedicated to the program in question, or in multiple coordinated files (e.g., files that store one or more modules, sub-programs, or portions of code). A computer program can be deployed to be executed on one computer or on multiple computers that are located at one site or distributed across multiple sites and interconnected by a communication network.
  • The processes and logic flows described in this specification can be performed by one or more programmable processors executing one or more computer programs to perform functions by operating on input data and generating output. The processes and logic flows can also be performed by, and apparatus can also be implemented as, special purpose logic circuitry, e.g., an FPGA (field programmable gate array) or an ASIC (application-specific integrated circuit). Processors suitable for the execution of a computer program include, by way of example, both general and special purpose microprocessors, and any one or more processors of any kind of digital computer. Generally, a processor will receive instructions and data from a read-only memory or a random access memory or both. Generally, the elements of a computer are a processor for performing instructions and one or more memory devices for storing instructions and data. The techniques described herein may be implemented by a computer system configured to provide the functionality described.
  • For example, FIG. 1 is a block diagram illustrating one embodiment of a computer system 100 configured to implement the methods described herein. In different embodiments, computer system 100 may be any of various types of devices, including, but not limited to a personal computer system, desktop computer, laptop, notebook, or netbook computer, mainframe computer system, handheld computer, workstation, network computer, application server, storage device, a consumer electronics device such as a camera, camcorder, set top box, mobile device, video game console, handheld video game device, a peripheral device such as a switch, modem, router, or, in general, any type of computing or electronic device.
  • Typically, a computer will also include, or be operatively coupled to receive data from or transfer data to, or both, one or more mass storage devices for storing data, e.g., magnetic, magneto-optical disks, or optical disks. However, a computer need not have such devices. Moreover, a computer can be embedded in another device, e.g., a mobile telephone, a personal digital assistant (PDA), a mobile audio player, a Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver, a digital camera, to name just a few. Computer-readable media suitable for storing computer program instructions and data include all forms of non-volatile memory, media and memory devices, including by way of example semiconductor memory devices, e.g., EPROM, EEPROM, and flash memory devices; magnetic disks, e.g., internal hard disks or removable disks; magneto-optical disks; and CD-ROM and DVD-ROM disks. The processor and the memory can be supplemented by, or incorporated in, special purpose logic circuitry.
  • To provide for interaction with a user (e.g., with client devices 110 of system 100 or the like), embodiments of the subject matter described in this specification can be implemented on a computer having a display device, e.g., a CRT (cathode ray tube) or LCD (liquid crystal display) monitor, for displaying information to the user and a keyboard and a pointing device, e.g., a mouse or a trackball, by which the user can provide input to the computer. Other kinds of devices can be used to provide for interaction with a user as well; for example, feedback provided to the user can be any form of sensory feedback, e.g., visual feedback, auditory feedback, or tactile feedback; and input from the user can be received in any form, including acoustic, speech, or tactile input.

Claims (20)

  1. 1. An online game method, comprising:
    with a game server, receiving a player identification code from a client device operated by a game player;
    providing the client device access to an online game served by the game server when the player identification code is verified;
    storing a player record for the game player in data storage accessible by the game server;
    receiving data indicating performance of an offline activity by the game player; and
    modifying the online game based on the received data, whereby the performance of the offline activity is integrated into play of the online game,
    further comprising, prior to the modifying of the online game data based on the received data, receiving an authentication input comprising a voice portion and a wild species sound portion and authenticating the received authentication input as being provided by a particular sender based on comparison with a biometric voice print.
  2. 2. The method of claim 1, wherein the player identification code is associated with a product purchased by the game player.
  3. 3. The method of claim 1, wherein the offline activity is performed at a sponsor facility, wherein the player identification code is processed to verify the game player is present at the sponsor facility, and wherein a communication device at the sponsor facility transmits the offline activity performance data to the game server with the player identification code.
  4. 4. The method of claim 1, wherein the offline activity comprises a health-related activity and wherein the modifying of the online game based on the received data includes increasing a health status of an avatar linked to the game player.
  5. 5. The method of claim 4, wherein the modifying of the online game comprises awarding virtual currency to the game player and further comprising receiving a request from the game player to use the virtual currency in the online game to affect game play.
  6. 6. The method of claim 5, further comprising receiving a request from the game player to use the virtual currency to receive an offline reward.
  7. 7. The method of claim 1, wherein the authentication input is received from the game player.
  8. 8. The method of claim 7, wherein the authentication input is received from a third party verifier.
  9. 9. A game server, comprising:
    means for serving an online game to a plurality of client devices;
    means for receiving data from the client devices based on performance by game players of offline activities;
    means for authenticating an identity of a provider of the received data; and
    means for modifying the online game based on the received offline activity data when the identity of the data provider is authenticated,
    wherein the authenticating means comprises a biometric voice print processing mechanism and wherein the data provider inputs a vocal input comprising an animal sound.
  10. 10. The game server of claim 9, wherein the data provider is a third party verifier differing from a game player associated with the offline activities.
  11. 11. The game server of claim 9, wherein the online game comprises an avatar associated with each of the game players and wherein the modifying of the online game comprises modifying a health state of one of the avatars based on the received data.
  12. 12. The game server of claim 11, wherein the received data comprises information indicating completion of an exercise-based activity.
  13. 13. The game server of claim 12, wherein the health state comprises a virtual weight or virtual muscle tone of the one of the avatars.
  14. 14. The game server of claim 9, wherein the modifying of the online game comprises providing a quantity of virtual currency to the game player associated with the received data.
  15. 15. The game server of claim 14, wherein the modifying of the online game further comprises applying a portion of the virtual currency toward a reward within the online game served to the game player.
  16. 16. An online game method, comprising:
    presenting a product to a game player, wherein a player ID code is associated with the product;
    operating a game server to provide the game player access via a client device to an online game based on entry of the player ID code;
    operating the game server to receive data defining an offline activity completed by the game player; and
    operating the game server to modify the online game served to the game player based on the defined offline activity,
    further comprising prior to the operating of the game server to modify the online game, performing voice-based authentication of a provider of the offline activity data including processing a digital data input received from a wireless communication device.
  17. 17. The method of claim 16, wherein the online game is modified by associating a quantity of virtual currency with the game player.
  18. 18. The method of claim 17, further comprising receiving an order from the game player for a reward using the quantity of virtual currency and, in response, delivering the reward to the game player.
  19. 19. The method of claim 17, further including determining the quantity of virtual currency exceeds a predetermined invitation amount and, in response, presenting the game player with an invitation to access an online mall.
  20. 20. The method of claim 16, wherein the digital data input includes a wild species sound generated by the provider.
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