Tuesday, September 14, 2010

(empo-plaaybizz) Another "fight club" games post

I'm not a movie person or anything - I defer to Jandy Stone on all things cinematic - but I know enough to cause trouble, as I have already demonstrated via my August 17 post with a tangential reference to the "minimal rules" idea from "Fight Club." In that post, I talked about the rule-light game "Sleep is Death."

But let's take a look at another game, Foursquare, which has an established set of rules.

Or does it?

If you're a Foursquare user, take a moment and think to yourself exactly what the rules of Foursquare are.

Take a moment. I'll wait.

OK, now read this description from an About Foursquare post.

If you’ve spent much time on foursquare at all, you’ve no doubt noticed that some users play the game a little, well, differently than everyone else. You’ve probably also noticed the vast majority of those users are from Indonesia.

Judging by their foursquare histories, they appear to trot all over the globe, unlocking a badge in Los Angeles one minute and another in London the next. Without some sort of teleportation device, it would be impossible to travel as quickly as they do. Yet, with some digital trickery, they’re able to unlock new badges within minutes of them first becoming active.

This has inspired a lot of "cheater" accusations, as evidenced in this thread. In response to a request that the mobile Foursquare website be banned (in other words, requiring you to use a GPS-enabled smartphone to use Foursquare), one person replied:

Some ppl don't have bb's or iPhones (like me) & need the mobile website. But I still agree with you that the cheating needs to be curbed. WHY CHEAT? It's stupid & immature & it's not like 4sq gives you actual prizes & stuff for badges. It's suppose to be fun.

But About Foursquare claims that's exactly what the Indonesians are doing - having fun.

So what if a user has unlocked almost every badge without leaving their couch in Indonesia? Someone who looks at the game a different way doesn’t affect the way I play the game at all....

In conversations with some of these “cheaters,” (who will not be named) it’s become clear to me that they simply view foursquare differently than most Americans. To them, the badges are a puzzle to solve, similar to a crossword or jigsaw puzzle. In many ways the cryptic clues given by foursquare do make badges difficult to solve.

They tell me their fascination began because mayorships soon became boring and there were few badges that were naturally unlockable in Indonesia, so they thought it would be fun to try unlocking some of the badges that were tied to US venues.

When considering whether Foursquare should ban the Indonesians, or ban the dumb-phone people like me, or ban people who use their smartphones to check into nearby sites that they don't actually visit, we need to keep one thing in mind. The people who are checking into Foursquare locations are NOT Foursquare's customers.

Let me repeat that (I've been listening to too much Jim Rome, I guess) - Foursquare's customer base is NOT the people using their iPhones or Android Phones or netbooks to check into Foursquare locations.

Foursquare's customer base is the locations themselves. And are the locations harmed by Indonesian visitors? According to About Foursquare, they are not:

For businesses who sponsor the badges, there’s no harm in having more users unlock them, if anything the branding value increases as those badges get posted to Twitter and Facebook, whether they were unlocked honestly or not.

Now there is a scenario in which the so-called cheaters could have an effect on the so-called honest players. Let's say that I'm trying to earn a mayorship at the northwest Ontario, California Starbucks. Now let's say that, instead of the mayorship being held by an employee of a nearby business, it's instead held by someone in Jakarta. Now obviously the person in Jakarta is never going to come to Mountain and 6th to claim any prize - but at the same time, I am denied the prize.

Think through this. If I want to earn whatever prize that Starbucks has to offer, then I have to check in more times than the person in Jakarta.

Remembering that the Starbucks, and not the Foursquare player, is Foursquare's customer, this sounds like a win-win for Foursquare, no?
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