you were here first

A while ago I retweeted a retweet from Lawrence about Foursquare and Gowalla and things like that.

I love games of all kinds. Immerse-yourself-and-buy-the-extra-chapter kind of games, five-minute iPhone distraction games, and the pretend-you're-a-robot-Sherlock-Holmes-and-fire-lasers-from-your-fingers-as-you-walk-down-the-road imaginary kind of games (maybe that last one is just me). And there's been lots of conversation recently about the use of gaming techniques in communications, and relationships between the personal and the social on games. And I'm into that, and those people say it better than I ever could.

So there's a bit of me that feels like it's none of my business which games people choose to play or where they talk about them. But the number of times I've seen Foursquare and Gowalla pop up in my Twitter feed means it's nearer the front of my mind. I love things that give you a score and that unlock achievements. But I sort of feel like that this kind of social/play space has kind of been done…and that it has a platform already. And that platform is Facebook.

Obviously half the planet disagrees with me, which is okay. But it just feels disconnected to me that there's this other place where you earn currency for having been the first to a bar, or that you've become a mayor of such-and-such cafe. It's like an elaborate bragging game designed around your disposable income, and/or marital status and/or richness of your social life. I add those things up and keep getting Facebook.

Foursquare and Gowalla are useful because they connect your network to reviews and new social destinations. Which is a good thing. But that's not the quality that seems to rise to the top. And in any case I think I'm after a different sense of utility. Like I'd love a social game that uses the same model to share recipes around butternut squash, or unlocks prizes for knowing how to make your own harissa. Or that helps me make more informed about buying ethically. And I love how things like Noticings start rewarding you for the little diversions that ordinarily would just stop you from doing what you're supposed to be doing. These would just seem to be more interesting things to me.

Of course another way to look at it might be to go back to that point about your disposable income and richness of your social life. Because I've got a mortgage and a one-year-old.

So that may mean that I'm just jealous.

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