If kids are playing video games, why not do some good while they're at it?
Elf Island, a virtual world created by Atlanta-based Good Egg Studios, ties online games to charity construction in the real world. The more "virtual" homes the kids build by completing mini-mazes, the more real homes that are built by Habitat for Humanity.
Liz Kronenberger, who founded the company with her husband, Craig, said they started the site to promote positive social values online.
"We're really giving kids the proper motivation and the right tools to empower them to make a difference in the real world," she said.
The couple recently unveiled Elf Island's first "GoodQuest," challenging gamers to build 10,000 virtual homes in a month. If they do, the couple will pay for four new homes to be built in a dilapidated community in Honduras.
The quest is harder than it might sound. It took me about 30 minutes — and several heart-pounding attempts — to lead a lumbering giant through a series of timed mazes and around bad guys to build a virtual home.
More quests will follow in the months to come, aiding charities that build playgrounds, preserve endangered species, promote green initiatives and boost music education. Kronenberger said much of the site's direction will depend on what the gamers decide.
"Elf Island's vision will be run by the kids," she said.
Elf Island includes chat rooms and scores of games in addition to the GoodQuests. Membership is now free. But the developers hope to raise revenue in 2009 to help pay for the good deeds with a monthly fee that will likely be around $6.