QrankConfession time: While I’ve railed against social games, I have, at least to some degree, been living a lie. Yes, I too play a social game or two.

I’ve never understood the attraction of FarmVille and its ilk, other than as yet another way to connect with friends online. I just don’t see any strategy or skill behind it (let’s not even talk about the fact that some people actually pay to “earn” more stuff, which is completely foreign to me). Your crops are growing strong and you just earned 50 more acres? Fantastic. How’d you manage that? Sheer luck? A brilliant decision to plant carrots instead of turnips? Maybe a combination of both? (Disclaimer: I make no apologies for my ignorance of the laws of FarmVille-Land. For me, the alternative is much, much worse. And I thank the Facebook gods for letting me block FarmVille notifications.)

I can almost hear FarmVille Nation’s response: “What about video games?” Even though it’s been many, many years since I’ve played a “normal” video game, I respect them for the strategy and skill required. Before you ever play the latest in the Halo series, there’s a clearly defined goal that can only be achieved with the right strategy (cheat codes notwithstanding).

OK, back to my social gaming. On Facebook, I often have a one or two casual Scrabble games going with friends. If that brands me a nerd, so be it. I love the mental challenge of trying different combinations until I find one that clicks (and, with any luck, scores me at least 20 points). But Scrabble pales in comparison to a little game called Qrank.

If you’re even remotely interested in trivia, I suggest you get on this bandwagon. Immediately. You can either play on Facebook or your iPod/iPhone/iPad, and you can only play once a day. I’m convinced that this is a major reason Qrank is so popular. Instead of wasting hours of your day playing a game (you know who you are), Qrank becomes something to look forward to each day – an event, a ritual even. I like to wait and play at the end of the day, but that’s just me (and, apparently, Josh Fisher, with whom I had a major Qrank geek-out at the most recent Social Media Breakfast).

In Qrank, the questions are hidden behind cards (see above image). Clicking or tapping on one reveals a question with four multiple-choice answers. The question is revealed first, followed by the answers. The score for each question starts ticking down until you answer, so the faster the response, the higher the score. Simple enough, right?

There are  24 cards – eight worth 200 points, eight worth 400 and eight worth 1,000 – from which you choose 15. Randomly scattered among these questions are two that are worth double the points and one that’s worth triple. There are also powerups that you can read about here. Obviously, for scoring purposes, you want to leave five 200-pointers on the board. Best of all is that the Qrank team posts two daily hints, one on Facebook and one on Twitter.

The social aspect comes in when you link the game to Facebook and Twitter and add or invite friends within the game. Upon finishing your game, you’ll see your score compared to your friends and people who’ve played in your town, state, country and the world. Unfortunately, the fact that you can play on either Facebook or iDevice has naturally led to rampant cheating. Between creating dummy Facebook accounts or the plethora of cheating sites that have popped up, coming in first on many of the leaderboards, especially national and global, is nearly impossible (I hate to brag, but on November 10, 2010, I topped both with a cheat-free game).

Needless to say, Qrank is no Farmville. To do well takes strategy (such as judicious use of powerups) and skill (fast finger/mouse). And yes, luck also comes into play. Depending on what you’ve read, seen or heard, you may know the answers to a lot of the questions. Many is the day when my score is rescued by something I saw on the news or that popped up in a TweetDeck notification at some point in the day. That luck translates into skill when it comes to retaining that factoid and regurgitating it at the appropriate time.

Do me a favor, would you? Just for today, let the crops wither and the sheep run wild and give Qrank a try. Search for my user name, which is … wait for it … Derek Rice and add me. If you like it, you’re welcome. If not, those fresh 50 acres will still be there tomorrow.

See you on the leaderboard.

Social gaming, intellectual edition

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