Creating social commentary, one comic strip at a time

Steven Liang wants to change how we learn language, create public discourse, and create the means for more people to become content creators.

At first blush, his Facebook app Wititudes, seems like a basic image meme creator. Behind the wide array of images to play with, lies a game-like structure meant to spur discussion, promote collaboration, and get your friends talking.

Wititudes employs a series of game mechanics that encourages players to explore the game’s features, while sharing and voting on content created by other players. While the underlying purpose is to foster creativity and wit, the active community and game-like functions of the app caught my attention. Liang and I traded a few e-mails to learn more about how Wititudes hopes to become more than another simple newsgame or image meme creator.

Tell us about your game?  What is unique about Wititudes?

Steven Liang: Wititudes is a social and word game platform for creative writing, expression and improvisation.

A player draws a random word, phrase or inspiration and is challenged to caption a comic or image. The creations are then rated by other players and the best ones bubble up to the top.

I was originally inspired to create the game after taking a comedy improv class. I wondered it if that sort of creative thinking could be recreated in a social game. There is a lack of truly social activity in current social games, and there aren’t many social games or word games that encourage a player to create new media.

The impact I hope for is to encourage more people to become creators and exercise their creativity and expression, and for that to build social connections and lead to further dialogue and discussion. 

What’s so valuable about this creative process?

It is very important for people to create their own media because it democratizes the medium.

That of course is already happening with the Internet and social media.

However, even though the tools are there now, it is still only a very small fraction of people that utilize them to create on their own. People are still used to being consumers and not active participants

We want to make it extremely easy for someone to create their own media, and additionally, we want to provide the creative impetus and game and social incentives to encourage people to do so.

How is it different than other image meme generator sites?

Wititudes provides a more social and structured experience, and there is a more directed focus on challenging one’s creative thinking and writing.

The game can direct focus of the creative process on a particular word or theme, and that allows engagement in a variety of topics within the framework. Additionally, the underlying concept of Wititudes can be taken well beyond simple images.

How do you think Wititudes will contribute to media like political cartoons or other socially charged creations?

Political cartoons have a long tradition and time tested power in delivering a compelling piece of commentary in a succinct fashion.

We want to enable and encourage any person, even someone without any artistic talent, to create such a political cartoon and provide them with a distribution channel for their cartoon to be seen. Additionally, as players participate in the game and its challenges, they may be inspired to do further research into current events and political issues.

Do you think there are any dangers in being the source of the images and word banks that players use to create the comics?

We try to be balanced when adding themes and words and the player of course can go in any direction when given a word.

However, there is that underlying fear because it is still directing the topic of conversation. The answer to that of course is to eventually open the platform and allow players to create their own group and curate the theme and words for that group themselves.

What’s next for Wititudes?

You can expect the media that players can create to diversify beyond comics, the challenges to become more topical and relevant to current issues and incorporate opportunities to learn more, and for the game design to continually evolve to help people spark that creative inspiration and connect with each other through the platform.

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