OREM -- If you or someone you know is on Facebook, you're well aware that it's more than just looking at photos of your friends' vacations.
Playing games on social-networking sites is exploding. In 2009, more than 49 million Americans played games like Farmville and Cityville, and the numbers continue to grow.
What we're trying to do is take an exciting medium right now ... and create real-world content that has social value for people on a long-term basis.
–Jeff Wells, CEO "Family Village"
An Orem company, Funium LLC, is about to join in with a game that has a new twist. It's called "Family Village," and the CEO is Jeff Wells.
"What we're trying to do is take an exciting medium right now, which is the social-gaming environment, and create real-world content that has social value for people on a long-term basis," Wells said.
The game involves building and populating a village, similar to other Facebook games; but there are no fictional characters involved. Instead, the on-screen people are your real-life relatives.
"That's one of the keys to the game, is that we want people who play the game to be able to know more about their own ancestors," Wells said.
The idea is to bring family history research to life with vibrant 3D graphics and sound. As you play the game, the game is busily searching the internet for information pertinent to your family.
"Such as census records, maps and yearbook albums, marriage records, war records, those types of things we'll be offering up in the game, so you can go deeper and deeper, build a bigger village and have more of your family members in the game itself," Wells explained.
Jeri Lin Bearnson, an online gamer who's been involved in the early testing of the game, has learned some new information about one of her relatives.
"In fact, just this morning I found a document that I wasn't aware of about my great-great-great grandfather. He was one of the original settlers of Salt Lake," she said.
The game located some old newspaper articles, which she was able to download and save into her game.
Ross Wolfley, the operations officer with Funium, said those who have been involved in the early testing of Family Village have really gotten into it.
"This has the potential to take someone who has never had any interest whatsoever in genealogy or family history, to be able to turn them completely around and get them very excited about it," he said.
Wells put it this way: "I had somebody tell me that doing family history was a lot like doing taxes, and I figured if I can make doing family history fun, like playing Monopoly, then we'd have a winner, which I think we do."
Family Village is in its final stages of testing and will be launched to the public in February. To get to the game, log in to Facebook then click this link.