So many of us know Hank Green as an internet educator, author, or philanthropist. But he’s also just a dude who loves a good word game.
This is so true, in fact, that he has bought into a new word game called Gubbins.
As word games rise in popularity — like the New York Times’ Wordle, Connections, and Spelling Bee — mobile gamers may be excited to add another program to their daily roster.
But Gubbins isn’t just any word game. With Green’s help, it’s a word game for good.
It all started when Green saw some game play footage on TikTok and immediately followed the production studio that made Gubbins: Studio Folly, a small, independent game development company in Australia.
Soon after, Green reached out to the studio and excitedly started a relationship. He was able to play a pre-release version of the game and then, as he recalls it, “I said to them the following weird sentence: Can I buy 10% of the revenue of your game and then donate that to charity?”
And they said yes.
Darcy Smith, the lead game designer, and his partner Jessica Shipard, who was responsible for the art and creative direction, were floored when they got those fateful TikTok notifications from Hank.
According to a post Smith shared on Reddit, the duo hopped on a call with Green, spoke for about 90 minutes, gave him the early version of the game, and after a few weeks, received his generous offer.
“All of the lovely things folks say about Hank Green are undoubtedly true because here are the terms we ended up landing on,” Smith wrote on Reddit. “He gives us some cash up front and agrees to post about Gubbins sharing it with his community and the world. In return, we dedicate 10% of the game’s money to a charity. Wild.”
In a November 14 tweet, Green said that donations from Gubbins’ revenue would go toward his organization, The Foundation to Decrease Worldsuck. Every year, during the Green brothers’ annual Project For Awesome event, community members vote on which organizations the foundation's funds go toward. 100% of the foundation’s funds are donated.
Green has spent the last several years helping raise millions of dollars for Partners in Health and other charities through initiatives like Pizzamas, Good.Store, Awesome Socks Club, Awesome Coffee Club, and Sun Basin Soap. Gubbins is another piece of the puzzle.
“As such, [much of] the money will be directed towards reducing child and maternal death in Sierra Leone via Partners in Health,” Smith told Good Good Good. “To simplify, we’re just going to tally up what we make and send [The Foundation to Decrease Worldsuck] 10%!”
And for Studio Folly, it means their tiny team can carry on creating in an industry that is especially delicate to infiltrate at this moment in time.
“During development, our largest concern has been connecting with an audience,” Smith told Good Good Good. “Making a great game is hard enough, juggling marketing alongside it with a tiny team is unfathomable for a lot of folks. We never expected Hank Green to just find us.”
With this brand new release, Smith and Shipard are eager to make their partnership with Green count.
“Now we have a partner on board who has enabled a dream of ours, mitigated our biggest risk of not connecting with an audience, and gave us a bit of money in the process,” Smith wrote on Reddit. “We’re incredibly thankful and hopefully we make Hank proud.”
Just like many of Green’s endeavors, Gubbins has already piqued the interest of the Nerdfighters, his notoriously passionate fan community.
“The money was a nice safety buffer at a precarious time, but the biggest value add is just his involvement and his community, the Nerdfighters,” Smith told Good Good Good.
“They are so overwhelmingly smart, lovely, positive, and supportive — and I hope the interest overlap is strong, too.”
So… what even is Gubbins?
Gubbins is a “friendly puzzle game” that includes placing tiles to construct works. It’s a lot like Scrabble — but you’ll have to work around “weird little pals” called Gubbins, who are either a help or hindrance to puzzle solving. Plus, it gives back to charity.
“Minimalist typography alongside mischievous cartoons serve as a kooky canvas for moreish wordplay,” the Studio Folly website states. “It’s essentially Solitaire meets Scrabble with hilarious friends wreaking havoc.”
Upon launch, there will be 25 Gubbins to “find, collect, and master,” and players can even share their in-game milestones with custom-built postcards.
According to Smith, the postcard feature of the game has elevated the whole experience.
“After every game, you get the opportunity to make a little postcard with the words you’ve made,” he explained to Good Good Good.
“For some, the game isn’t about striving for an impressive high score; the game is now about finding funny, silly, personal, or absurd words to construct the wildest postcards you can imagine. I’m most excited to see folks posting their postcards.”
While Smith shared on Reddit that he predicts minimal monetization from the game in its initial launch, supporters are already sharing their excitement.
“Big shout out to Studio Folly for putting together such a sweet and charming game in Gubbins,” Twitter user @stimkygarbeige shared. “You can see how much joy has been baked into every element of the game, and I honestly couldn’t love it more.”
On Reddit, user u/SanatanaMishra cheered on Smith and Shipard from the comments.
“I hope you find all the success in the world and get a chance to enact your kindness vengeance,” they said.
Additionally, according to a 2022 survey, puzzles (like Sudoku) and word games (like Spelling Bee and Wordle) were the top two mobile gaming genres among Americans, with puzzles reaching 63% of gamers, and word games reaching 52%.
The popularity of these favorites — which have no charitable aspects — indicate that Gubbins could very well be the next big player in the word game scene.
Imagine Gubbins postcards alongside shared Wordle streaks in your group chats; competitions to see who can get the next high score; and persuading friends to download the game to further the cause of Green’s philanthropy.
And of course, Green also continues to sing the game’s praises.
“It looked really beautiful and fun,” he said in a TikTok. “And I’ve been playing it now for months.”
This article has been updated to more accurately reflect where donations from Gubbins will go.
Header photos courtesy of Studio Folly and Hank Green/TikTok