Introducing Jinni - A Self-Actualization Game Using Tomogatchis
Jinni is your digital twin guiding and gamifying your life so you can be your best self effortlessly
I originally started working on this game in mid-2017, ~6.5 years ago (frontend, backend). It was the first app I made after getting out of my coding bootcamp, more of an art project than anything. I was interested in data visualization, biohacking, and game design and wanted to combine them all. “How can I create data visualizations that help me perform better in life that are intuitive, interactive, and fun?” Charts don’t tell a story. I wanted something that I didn’t have to cognitively think about, a visualization that i could grok at a glance without ever thinking about numbers, probability, data bias, etc.
Back in 2017 I had accomplished my goal by creating an animated tomogatchi that reenacted my daily routines to play them back to me by reading walking/running/biking data from my phone. At the time I didn’t know where I wanted to take it next so decided to put it on hold, go learn how to be a better developer and entrepreneur, and come back to it in the future. I could feel the power behind the idea, I knew the impact it could have, it felt like my purpose in life to make this game, I just wasn’t ready yet. But now I am.
Everyone loves tomogatchis. It seems everyone has an intimate connection to these little eggies.
Jinni is a game that uses your tomogatchi as a digital twin of yourself. The only way to feed your gotchi is to take a picture of the food you’re eating, the only way to make it exercise is to go for a walk yourself. The purpose is to help you understand who you are, what you are doing, who you want to be, and what you should be doing to become your best self. No small task. Thats why we make it fun :) Just like life you get to decide what the goal of the game is-if you want to run more then your gotchi updates based on whether you run or not but isnt affected by how many hours you work at your desk.
The goal is to get you to live in the real world, not your phone. The best way to play the game is to use the app as little as possible. It’s even local first, you can play without reliable internet. And you don’t have to track anything, that wouldn’t be fun. Everything is automated by collecting health data from your phone and connected apps like MyFitnessPal, Strava, HeadSpace, etc.
Game Design Principles:
Choose Your Own Adventure
One aspect of the game that I’ve only just realized the potential of is curating and catalyzing IRL social experiences with friends. As a software developer I’m on my computer all day which i love but also its a hard transition into the real world, especially without friends or local community wherever I’m nomading at the moment. So I’m building a game fort myself to help me find those people and things I love in the real world faster and easier and nudge me to go do them.
Most of the game design and mechanics are based on research from the Human Performance Institute (HPI) and the Virtual Human Interaction Lab (VHIL). I was also inspired by a project I had been helping out with that visualizes biometric data in virtual reality to guide meditations where I enjoyed working with sensors, volumetrics, and physical<>digital interactions.
I’ve been thinking about the story of the game and learning about world building a lot over the past 7 years. This deserves its whole own post but ill explain the basics for now.
Jinn are an ancient Arabic spiritual belief that predates Islam. They aren’t quite gods/angels but they arent humans either, they can live in both the physical and the spiritual world. They have free will just like humans, can be good or evil, have the ability to reason, eat and drink, have children, and die. Essentially they are people with majik.
In order to play the game you have to find a jinn that wants to be bonded to you. Since people are stuck in the physical world, when a jinn bonds to you they lose their ability to interact with this world, you are their only connection, and they exist only in the spiritual (aka digital) world. So the stronger your connection to the physical world - e.g. by being present in the moment or strengthening your mind and body - the stronger your connection is to your jinni, their majik, and the spiritual world.
Because they are bonded to you, your jinni will use their majik, connection to the spiritual world, and jinn friends to help you achieve your goals in the physical world so they can experience it as well.
I think its obvious how this ties into the tomogatchi idea so ill leave it that. Follow my substack to follow the games development progress and other writings around mechanism design,
Features I’m Excited For
Its privacy first, we dont even collect emails, you login with Zero Knowledge Proofs. In fact the first game item you have to collect is a cryptographic signature from a HaLo chip inside a card that I personally hold. This means I can curate my beta testers and the community/culture while I add more social features by vetting every player in real life before letting them join.
Personalize jinni evolution based on daily activities using StabeDiffusion/Midjourney. Part of this is psychological mechanism design that I’ll explain elsewhere and it also adds in a layer of interactivity, tangible progress for players without a rigid points/skill system. Most importantly it realizes the bond between you and your jinni.
Since me and many of my friends are nomads, it would be great if our jinn could help us coordinate our travel plans, know when we are already in the same city, discover local majik spots, etc. Having an interdimensional map of all people/jinn in the game and where they currently are, whether physical or digital realm would be sick.
MySpace customizable homepages so that you can curate your favorite minigames, inventory items, and social features for people to better understand how you play the game and why. Initially this will include Spotify integrations for favorite songs (of course), event calendar via Luma and Partiful (pending APIs), current location sharing, and messaging.
CoordiNation coordination by helping coliving communities gamify responsibilities, organize events like community dinners and delegate tasks to members as part of the game. Ideally the game can also be an interface between CoordiNations to communicate and act as one organism. I also want to make anonymous messaging platform for global communities of practice to find like minded people, share information, etc. by using ZKP to prove they have achieved some level of the practice in the game already.
If you’re reading this you are part of building the game too! Let me know what features you want to see, UI/UX suggestions, lore updates, or just show some love <3
I started working on the game from scratch about a month ago. I’ve spent maybe 10 days in total working on it. I have the app frontend built in Expo, basic things like login page, inventory and game items, and customizable homepage. I’ve also finished the ZKP login flow using NFC cards so only people I meet in person and signoff can play the game. You can plugin your Android and ios health data into the game too.
There is no backend yet so you cant actually save your health data and home page config, login to the game, or really anything useful. The frontend looks like shit too but for just a few days of work and my first mobile app in years I’m very happy with progress and that its ZKP auth is working on my actual android phone already.
This is just an introductory post, there are many more to come. This one is mainly to share more of the background with those that have shown interest and to keep me accountable in building over the next month.
I’m working hard to get the. app more usable before ZuConnect in Istanbul end of this month. I want to have my server running and verifying users’ ZKP for accessing my API. Also want to have health data stored to our database (Neo4j) and *maybe* a Tzolk’in (calendar) page displaying your activities per days and Mayan astrology info.
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