Booyah, which is available as a free iPhone app, is a new social MMORPG from a well-funded startup of the same name. But here’s the twist: Unlike all other online role-playing games (GigaOM Pro, sub required) , you don’t improve your character by performing fantastic otherworldly […]

Booyah, which is available as a free iPhone app, is a new social MMORPG from a well-funded startup of the same name. But here’s the twist: Unlike all other online role-playing games (GigaOM Pro, sub required) , you don’t improve your character by performing fantastic otherworldly tasks, like looting dungeons or slaying hobgoblins — what gamers call “leveling up.” With Booyah, instead, you level up yourself, through real-world activities.

Get regular exercise and attain Booyah’s “God of the Gym” status, for example; jetset around the world enough, and Booyah dubs you a “Wondrous Wanderer.” These achievements are registered as badges in the Booyah virtual “room” on your iPhone, where your comically bulbous-headed avatar resides.

Booyah Achievements

The idea for Booyah originated when CEO Keith Lee and his two co-founders were developers at Blizzard Entertainment, creator of World of Warcraft, which now boasts nearly 12 million worldwide subscribers. That’s largely thanks to the addictiveness of WoW’s character-building and quests, which encourage people to obsessively play for years, just to earn virtual achievements for their Warcraft avatars. As he explained to me in a recent demo, Lee and his partners wondered if they could take the same design principles, which make Blizzard games so popular, and apply them to real life.

Booyah Room

So in Booyah, you self-report everyday activities in a variety of categories (work, shopping, etc.) just as you would on any other microblogging service; here, however, those updates are registered as progress points to your next achievement, and displayed in the “Booyah Society” social network (which can also be integrated with your Facebook or Twitter profiles.) This public aspect, the developers believe, will help keep your self-reporting honest. (If your Booyah friends notice that you’re exaggerating your accomplishments, they may call you on it.) Lee told me the company plans to eventually use iPhone functionality, like the GPS and accelerometer, to track player stats with more objective metrics.

Booyah Society Feed

At launch, Booyah is not without its shortcomings: The social functions could be more robust, and the emphasis on achievements over socialization may limit its appeal with women. Lee told me the company plans to add virtual currency, avatar-to-avatar interaction and other features, but without them, the growth rate may sputter. Still, it’s an appealing attempt to leverage MMORPG play aspects for benefits beyond games — a goal long-desired by developers and researchers alike. Booyah even has accomplishment ladders for cultural activities and social activism, so if players make a genuine effort to earn the game’s wide range of awards, they may also find themselves becoming more enriched, better-rounded human beings. Call it World of Lifecraft.

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By Wagner James Au

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  1. won’t catch on. what works for blizzard and halo and other achievement-oriented games is the fact that they are in control of your achievements. self-reporting is a joke. i went to SPAIN today. oh ya? i went to JUPITER.

  2. That’s a great point, and one that the Booyah team spent quite some time studying. In our app, you can only unlock higher level achievements through social validation. If you post on Facebook that you went to Spain today, you’re friends will all call you out, and you won’t have a booyah moment :).

  3. Copyright infringement on those achievement pictures?

  4. Can you get booyah achievements for leveling in World of Warcraft? Then I think I would use this.

    1. Hi InfoMofo,

      My name is Lexy and I am the Community Manager at Booyah. While our co-founders did come from Blizzard, Booyah is a separate company and we are very excited about our first product. We would love you to try Booyah Society! Go to http://itunes.com/apps/BooyahSociety download Booyah Society for Free! We also welcome your feedback. Please send any comments or suggestions to feedback@booyah.com. Thanks! I hope you have a great day.


  5. Copyright infringement? Never seen those pictures before in my life — whether it be WoW achievements or whatnot. I doubt a startup like that would screw themselves over on a couple SIMPLE pictures….

    1. not that it really matters but yeah they do look like the ones valve has so the pic do look almost like them but hay i don’t really give a flying ****

  6. I’ll definitely try out the iphone app. I’ve also been interested in combining mmo applications with real-life activities.

    In particular, I’m one of the hosts for the DC chapter of Drinking Liberally as well as an aspiring iphone developer. I’ve been looking at how an mmo could help promote grass roots political events, as well as allow trusted users to set up restaurant, movies, and other weekend social events.

    If Lexy or the other Booyahers have looked at this I’d be very interested in your feedback.

    1. Hi AltHippo,

      Thanks for your support with Booyah Society! We would be happy to talk to you.

      Please email any thoughts, suggestions, and comments to feedback@booyah.com and a member of our team will get right back to you. Have a great day!


  7. I would love to try this, but I don’t have nor plan on buying an iPhone. Why not release on more platforms (BB plz) or have something online too. :3

    1. Hi Jessica,

      At Booyah, we started with the iPhone because we are very excited to utilize iPhone technology with the GPS and the 3D engine. Stay tuned for more platforms :)

  8. Definitely gonna give this a try. Interesting concept…

  9. I bet the guys who started it are too poor to fight for copyright, but chorewars.com has had a website with a VERY similar concept for like two or three years.

  10. Many posts in one Monday, July 27, 2009

    [...] review of Booyah, an MMORPG for iPhone, by Wagner James Au. I would have totally tried it out but couldn’t [...]

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