Okay, I feel compelled to tell you right up front that I am, most definitely, not a gamer. Repeat after me:
I am not a gamer.
That being said, I have somehow gotten caught up in the newest social network lunacy called foursquare (“Check in! Find your friends! Unlock your city!”). It makes me giddy, grumpy, happy, hostile, clueless and competitive all at the same time. Dear God, what have I done?
I actually got to see an intro to foursquare while I was at Web 2.0 Expo a couple of weeks ago, and at first glance, it was relatively harmless. You sign up, you connect with friends, and you go places. When you go someplace, you check in and earn points. If you go places enough times, you might even become “Mayor” of that place. Like any good game theory, we get badges for hitting certain milestones — although they don’t let you know in advance what those milestones are. So simple, so unassuming.
How did it get out of hand so quickly?
Foursquare is in a hundred cities around the world. If you don’t happen to live in one, then you choose one closest to you. Here at Penn State, we straddle two locations: Philly and Pittsburgh. While a couple of us started in Philly, we quickly switched to Pittsburgh as the location database was already being populated by a few existing players. Then we had a tweet up lunch and the conversation quickly turned to foursquare. Which of course was stupid on our part, because more players means more competition.
Of course, my iPhone app happily pushes out foursquare notifications of friends checking in, and I get an email when I’ve been (temporarily) dethroned as Mayor, but it has been interesting watching our level of playing evolve, as we add tags and tips to places we’ve been. We scheme to take over locations, and get points for going somewhere first. I just hope my friendships will survive the game. They are a bloodthirsty bunch, they are. And remember, I’m not a gamer. But I will say this: it does get me out and around my town, and I’ve become friends with still more local people and found some new places to hang. Speaking of which, I need to go and protect my Mayorship of Barnes & Noble from those bloodthirsty friends of mine.