Internet Response League 2.0

Dear gamers,

As we wrote in our previous post, we have a change in store for the Internet Response League. Originally, IRL was conceptualized as an in-game humanitarian aid volunteering platform, that would utilize player rewards to encourage participation. As we see now though, this goal in its entirety is a bit too ambitious.

The idea of housing the IRL platform within games is impractical and unnecessary. Successfully implemented, it would only save the users small amounts of time and effort, yet the trade-offs are steep, mainly for any of IRL’s potential partners.

Video game worlds are specifically crafted to be fun, interesting, and engaging fantasy environments, that keep players coming back for whatever reason. Introducing an outside application, especially one that exposes users to real-world disaster situations, would largely break the fantasy, something which game developers try very hard not to do.  

At first we believed that we could somehow leave the fantasy intact by toying with the game lore or by slightly modifying the humanitarian tasks (see the Eve Online case). We’ve since realized this to be very challenging. The amount of modification needed to have the tasks fit would distort them to a point where the work would no-longer be helpful to aid organizations. Perhaps other types of micro-tasks may yet be implemented successfully (see the work being done by MMOS), but in today’s world global disasters simply have no place inside of people’s play time.

So, we have a solution:

We will modify our website to house the Internet Response League platform, where users will be able to volunteer their time digitally in humanitarian scenarios. We will find game developer partners who will pledge rewards to the users of the IRL platform, who in turn will be able to represent their favorite game.

With this plan, we won’t be intruding on anyone’s play time. Instead we will welcome everyone to come volunteer as they choose, allowing them to gain rewards in their favorite game in the process. We will do our best to spread the word, but we also think that game developers will naturally like to increase their representation, encouraging their users to help out.

We will start building our site and implementing the volunteer tasking system with the help of our partner MicroMappers. See the below mock-up for an idea of how we envision the main page. If you’re interested in helping, feel free to contact us at

Many thanks for reading!


Eve Online Lessons Learned

Hello readers!

Back in April we announced a collaboration with MMOS and CCP Games. The idea was to insert humanitarian work into EVE Online. While we shared many ideas collectively, ultimately we came to the conclusion that the humanitarian use-case was not compatible with EVE Online after all. Naturally we are disappointed, but we did gain valuable insight as to IRL’s future. In addition, the challenge we faced and our attempt to overcome it we feel were quite interesting, so we decided to write about them.

The challenge, as we mentioned in our previous blog post, entailed fitting our humanitarian micro-tasks into a fully fledged video game environment. In this case EVE Online, a game world set in a far-distant galaxy, many thousands of years after earth has been destroyed, and all knowledge of it has been forgotten. With this in mind, inserting images of post-disaster devastation from earth would be a slight stretch for the game-lore, one that the game developers are not willing to let slide.

Originally we thought that we could spin the lore somehow to state that artifacts from Earth turned up in the EVE Online world, only to be explicitly told that the gateway/wormhole to Earth was destroyed, that there’s no feasible way of contacting Earth’s solar system, and that the ensuing years of struggling to survive erased the planet from everyone’s memory.

With that in mind we figured that the disaster images that we planned to use in the micro-tasking must now originate from the alien planets that inhabit the EVE Online universe. It was also stated that the images that we use could not resemble Earth in any way. So now our task was to have them appear “alien”.

The idea which instantly popped into our minds was to warp the images. However, actually taking the image and changing its contents would not work, since the micro-tasks rely on tagging the locations of objects in the pictures. Any serious warping would distort the accuracy of the results on our end. There was one idea however that did stick out.

Why not simply change the color of the images? The effect would essentially look like adding a filter to a photo, but with freedom to create unique color combinations. After a few initial tests in Photoshop, we discovered that aerial imagery, looking down at the earth, actually creates natural contrast between buildings and the surrounding ground/foliage. Changing the color curve  did not seem to affect a users ability to tag buildings, but on the contrary actually caused the buildings to stand out more so than normally.

As we intended, some of the color curves drastically changed the look of the pictures, some of them with rather alien and sci-fi looking results. For example, a color curve could be applied that made the images look like they where taken using infrared sensors. We thought that this would be perfect for fitting the images into EVE Online, where a vast amount of sci-fi technology exists and lore could be built around the tagging.

The lore could state that these images were taken on martian planets, using advanced sensors not known to humans today. And on our end, we could quickly use batch processes in Photoshop to apply color curves to entire sets of images quickly and easily. It seemed like a surefire win at the time!

Alas, there was one inescapable fact that remained. While color shifted, these images still contained imagery from Earth, from Vanuatu in particular for our proposal. Things such as palm trees and cars were clearly visible, albeit a different color.

The EVE Online lore states that the humans who were not killed when portal to Earth collapsed managed to survive on the planets that they had already begun terraforming. According to Wikipedia, “Terraforming (literally, “Earth-shaping”) of a planet, moon, or other body is the hypothetical process of deliberately modifying its atmosphere, temperature, surface topography or ecology to be similar to the environment of Earth to make it habitable by Earth-like life”.

We basically made the assumption that these terraformed planets would resemble earth, in terms of foliage, technology such as automobiles, and even architecture. Unfortunately it seems that this is not the case, and thus our proposal still did not fit within the EVE Online game world after all.

This experience definitely allowed us to re-evaluate the purpose of IRL. We have some ideas which we will share in the future, but for now we hope that our proposal to EVE Online and the thought processes behind it prove to be interesting. We’ve added some of the color shifted photos from our proposal below as well. We thought that some of them came out pretty neat.


IRL Collaboration with MMOS and CCP Games

Great news!

Recently the Internet Response League (IRL) has had the pleasure to begin collaborating with Massive Multiplayer Online Science (MMOS) and CCP games, the maker of Eve Online!

MMOS is an awesome group that aims to allow players to contribute to scientific research while playing video games. Our colleagues at MMOS reached out to us earlier this year because they’re very interested in supporting humanitarian efforts as well. They are kindly bringing IRL on board to help them explore the use of online games for humanitarian projects.

CCP Games has already been mentioned on this blog here. They managed to raise an impressive $190,890 for the Icelandic Red Cross in response to Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda with their PLEX for Good initiative. This is on top of the $100,000 that the company has raised with the program for various disasters in Japan, Haiti, Pakistan, and the United States.

CCP Game’s flagship title Eve Online passed 500,000 subscribers in 2013. The game is extremely unique when it comes to MMORPGs. Rather than having a player base spanning across many different servers, Eve Online keeps keeps all players on one large server. Entitled “Tranquility”, this one server currently averages 25,000 players at any given time, with peaks of over 38,000. [1] This equates to an average of 600,000 hours of human time spent playing Eve Online every day. The potential good to come out of a partnership would be immensely valuable to the world!

We’re currently exploring possible ways to incorporate humanitarian work into Eve Online’s video game environment. In the near future we will write another post detailing the unique challenges we’re facing while attempting to seamlessly integrate digital humanitarian actions directly into Eve Online.

See the video below for an in-depth overview of the type of work that MMOS and CCP Games envision being incorporated into Eve Online. The video was screened at the recent EVE Online Fanfest on March 20th, and features a message from the Internet Response League at the 40:36 minute mark!



1. “Tranquility Server Status”. Retrieved 4/12/2015.

Typhoon Hagupit/Ruby Response

The Coconut Challenge has been a success, but now it is time to focus on the impacts of Typhoon Hagupit/Ruby. If you have time to spare, please head to the link below and help show how strong the global digital response can be!


The link goes to the MicroMappers blog page, where you will find information about the deployment, updates, and links to the Clickers.

Thanks in advance for your help!

Coconut Challenge + Typhoon Hagupit/Ruby

MicroMappers is launching its expedition to the Philippines. The purpose of this deployment is to assess the impact of Typhoon Haiyan on coconut trees (over 30 million were destroyed by the Typhoon) and thus the impact on local livelihoods. The effort involves using the Aerial Clicker to tag damaged and healthy coconut tree trunks. This will help fight infestations that could potentially wipe out the nation’s entire coconut industry.

In addition, directly after this coconut challenge, MicroMappers will be switching gears to another deployment, dealing with the impact of Super Typhoon Hagupit/Ruby on the Philippines. This typhoon, equally as strong as Typhoon Haiyan, is currently slated to hit the shores Saturday local time. Humanitarian organizations around the world are gearing up in preparation, and there will be multitudes of ways for the digital volunteer to help out.

These two deployments are exactly what the IRL idea focuses on, so any help will directly benefit the development of our concept.

Here is a link to the MicroMappers website, where you can find more information:

If you are interested in volunteering, here is a direct link to the Aerial Clicker:

The Youtube video on the site will give you a description of how the clicker works, and you can also hit the tutorial on the top right corner at any time.

Questions/comments regarding these deployments or anything else are always welcome. Any volunteering would be deeply appreciated. Thanks!

IRL in Team Fortress 2

Team Fortress 2

Team Fortress 2 (TF2) will be the game to kick off this series. While it may not be the most played title currently released by Valve Corporation, it certainly can be considered their most iconic, especially when considering its unique in-game economy. This is an excellent place to start and provide some general examples.

TF2 is a first-person shooter (FPS) action game from 2007 with cartoon graphics and an economy that was valued at over $50 million. [1] It is important to note here that this is not money that Valve has earned from the game, but rather the total value of time and money that players have invested into the game to increase the quality of their play. Hats are considered the most valuable asset in the game, offering nothing more than visual appeal (and hilarity). Some of the rarer hats, which are randomly found by players, can reach ludicrous price tags. One example is the “Burning Flames Team Captain” which was priced at over $5,000 in March of last year. [2] [3]

Burning Flames Team Captain

The implications that these facts have for IRL are incredible. It means that there is a large community of gamers playing TF2 that are willing to invest their time and/or money to obtain these virtual objects. The game itself is free to play nowadays, and since time is a factor that can be used to obtain every single item, there is no actual monetary value to Valve. The company does offer most of the common items for sale to players, which accounts for their profit, but the most valuable items, such as the Burning Flames Team Captain, are only obtained randomly by lucky players. These players can then trade these rare items to other players for items with real world value, and Valve sees none of this value. This means that Valve is willing to create and facilitate content for this economy which they do not directly benefit from.

So if players can trade these valuable items among themselves for real-world value (completely at Valve’s expense), then why not incorporate a system where these players can earn items through volunteer work (where Valve could see some actual value)? Simply enabling this type of interaction would qualify as a (very efficient) form of social responsibility. While Valve may not gain anything anything monetarily, the long term benefits in terms of publicity should be more than worth the effort.

This example can become even more detailed (and hypothetical). For example, there could be a few different hats designated for different levels of IRL commitment. There would be the standard hat, which most people would own with a minimal amount of time spent volunteering. However for those that choose to go above and beyond, spending a significant amount of time participating would reward you a special edition hat. For each deployment, this special edition hat would change, meaning that these hats would become very rare and valuable (assuming they would be trade-able). This could potentially drive IRL participation sky high, as the rewards become increasingly sought after collectibles. If this happened, Valve would see a massive surge of press and good will on their behalf.

These are all unfortunately just ideas for now. Turning a free-to-play game into a humanitarian volunteer machine would be an unprecedented feat, and a worthy challenge for any company. There are obviously many different ways that this could happen, and it is my hopes that this type of discussion will spur Valve Corporation and other video game companies to try out this innovative method of social responsibility.

As always, please contact us if you have questions/comments, would like to work with us, or would simply like to say hi! The next post will focus on another video game. See you then!





1. Good, Owen (17 December 2011). “Analyst Pegs Team Fortress 2 Hat Economy at 50 Million”. Kotaku. Retrieved 8/20/2014.

2. “Burning Flames Team Captain Item Information”. Retrieved 8/20/2014.

3. “TF2 Earbuds Price”. TF2 Finance. Retrieved 8/20/2014.

IRL Ideas/Recap

Hello everyone, the test phase is still in the works! The partners with whom we will be working with are still in the process of readying the images for use. In the meantime, we figured we would bring you some content in the form of ideas.

The Internet Response League has the potential of assuming many unique forms depending on the specific video game companies that choose to participate. What may work for a MMORPG may not work for an FPS. With that in mind, over the next few weeks we will bringing you posts that detail the possible ways in which individual game franchises could incorporate IRL.

For this week, a quick recap of the basics of the Internet Response League:

  • Humanitarian organizations need large amounts of volunteers to help tag media immediately during/after a disaster.
  • Video game companies have large and persistent player-bases that could be enticed to help out with in-game rewards.
  • The motivation for the video game companies to participate and reward their players includes publicity, social responsibility, and potential bragging rights.

These are the basic pillars that the Internet Response League rests upon. There are many ways that these ideas could manifest themselves in real-life, and we invite you to help think of any that we may miss!