Don't be fooled by the name of her startup. As cofounder and head of products for LOLapps, a leading social-apps publisher, Annie Chang is pioneering a very serious business venture. "Right now, the extent of 'social' in most games is sending your friends items to use or clearing weeds from their crops," she explains, referencing Facebook juggernaut FarmVille. "But what if users could actually influence their friends' entire gaming experience?"
Two years after the launch of LOLapps, Chang has finally published games that approach her ideal: In Band of Heroes, for example, if a user wins a war, every friend who joined his army shares the spoils; in Diva Life, users pair off to "clash" with other high-heeled avatars. What sets them apart from other massively multiplayer games, says Chang, is that "they're played with real-life friends, so [the gaming experience] feels more like a local knitting circle than a virtual chat room." Not that intimate should be confused with small-scaled. Chang's inaugural apps let users create 1.5 million quizzes and send more than 5 billion gifts on social networking platforms such as Bebo and Facebook. As of March, the LOLapps publishing network has created promotional games for both Electronic Arts (Dante's Inferno) and Cryptic Studios (Champions Online), with apps were averaging more than 50 million monthly active users.