Why FourSquare? (or Facebook Places for that matter)

Jesse Schell had a fantastic talk at DICE 2010 ending with a thought experiment a game-ified life where near the end he imagines a future where marketers and game designers work together to create life as a game. FourSquare is the beginning of that. We go to work we check in we get points, we go to lunch, we check in, we get points and every so often we get points in the right places at the right time and we get badges and mayorships. And the points and badges give us instant gratification which is pleasurable and motivates us to get more points and more badges in a never ending hedonic treadmill of external validation. Ok so I’ve strung together several psychological theories which for me explains why FourSquare exists intellectually.

Then I came with a more practical explanation while waiting for take out food. Unlike a doctor’s office, there’s no magazines at restaurants (though I suppose you could re-read the menu and see all the stuff you didn’t order). So what to do while waiting for your food? Check in. Then it hit me. What to do when waiting for the subway (in those stations with reception), check in. What to do in between innings at the ballgame? Check in. What to do while your computer’s booting up at work? Check in. The genius of FourSquare is not only good game design that meshes with human psychology. They created a brilliant means to pass the time while we wait for the other pieces of life to get going.

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