The Gamification of Dating Apps

Steam Dating App

Some of these dating apps are so game-like, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them on sale on Steam.

Dating sucks. While being in a relationship can be one of the most rewarding experiences in life, the dating game can be frustrating and heartbreaking. Just finding a prospective date can be a major pain in the ass, and it doesn’t help that dating apps are becoming more and more game-like. Let’s take a look at how the gamification of dating apps affects the modern-day dating scene.

Gamified Dating Apps

Tinder

Using computers for matchmaking is not a new idea, but the current crop of dating apps owes a lot to Tinder. (Which in turn is a knockoff of a gay dating app called Grindr.) Tinder really popularized the “swipe left to reject / swipe right to like” paradigm. All the apps on this list have copied it to varying extents.

I’ve talked about Tinder before and how it leads to a sort of “false productivity.” Swiping left and right really feels productive. Every new face opens a new realm of possibilities. “What if I hooked up with that girl? What if I ended up marrying this one?” But most of the time, it’s a fantasy. Even if you’re a movie star, there’s no way you could go out with everyone on there. The fantasy is more important than the outcome. So even if you match with a lot of people, you’ll find very few who message you back.

Bumble

Bumble is a Tinder clone with a twist. The woman has to make the first move. Women like this because it cuts down on the number of creeps. I like it because it saves me having to message a bunch of women who will never message me back. So even though this is game-like, I can appreciate it. What I don’t appreciate are the time restrictions.

Not only does the woman have to message first, she only has 24 hours to do so. Otherwise the connection is lost. The man can extend the window to 48 hours, but only for one match a day. It all seems so arbitrary, and indeed it is. It’s really just a reason to get you to pay up. With a few extra bucks here and there, you can extend and renew your connections. It’s a very nickel-and-dime affair, but not as much as the next dating app on this list.

Coffee Meets Bagel

Coffee Meets Bagel (which I always want to call “Coffee Versus Bagel” for some reason) delivers a handful of prospects every day at noon. It borrows one particularly obnoxious aspect from video games: microtransactions. It uses an in-game currency called “beans.” You can earn beans by sharing things with your friends or following the app on social media, though the number of beans you earn is minimal. If you want to do much, you’re probably going to have to shell out some cash.

The upside of this is that, like most free-to-play mobile games, CMB is free if you’re patient enough. You get a couple of matches a day without spending a single bean. The thing is, anything else is going to cost you. Want to like someone who’s not a match of the day? Cough up some beans. Want to jump to the head of the line of a particularly popular match? Pay up. Even if you want to see which friends you have in common on Facebook, you’re going to face to spend some precious beans. I understand that CMB needs to make money to keep the lights on, but it gets tiresome.

How Much Is Too Much?

All of these apps are annoying to some extent, so why do I stay? First off, I don’t always stay. For example, I downloaded a dating app called Happn, that finds people you cross paths with in real life. Nice idea, but it wanted to use the GPS 24/7. I decided it wasn’t worth sacrificing my battery, much less my privacy. And then there was Hinge, a Tinder clone that I liked better than Tinder. It worked great, until they started adding expiration dates to conversions. It quickly turned into a ghost town. Last I heard it was a pay app that I have no interest in.

Ultimately it comes down to the people. I’ve come to hate Facebook, but I stay to keep in contact with my friends. I find CMB’s microtransactions annoying, but the service attracts a lot of good prospects. Ultimately the goal of these dating apps is to stop using them. So I’ll put up with the games until I find a girl who makes me want to delete them all for good.

What’s your experience with dating apps? Do you think they’ve gotten too game-like? Let me know in the comment section.

Steve Lovelace

Steve Lovelace is a writer, photographer and graphic artist. After graduating Michigan State University in 2004, he taught Spanish in Samoa before moving to Dallas, Texas. He blogs every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at http://steve-lovelace.com.

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2 Responses

  1. March 15, 2017

    […] Tinder is a popular dating app that works on a simple yes/no choice. You see pictures of local singles with optional short paragraphs. If you’re interested in the person shown, you swipe right. If not, you swipe left. And if you and the other person both swipe yes, the app allows you to chat with one another. It’s a good idea, but the problem is that looking through pictures is a lot more fun than actually talking to people. This once again leads to false productivity. Swiping through photos feels productive. It feels good to see all the dating prospects around you. But when you do find someone who likes you back, you still have to do the work of actually talking to that person. […]

  2. March 15, 2017

    […] I’m not suggesting that you give up on dating. I’m just saying that even if you don’t have a girlfriend, you’ve still got […]

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