This could be a fraught study because at the outset, I don't think Foursquare leverages serious games well although it has an element of games psychology playing inside its apps. From personal experience, I've earned rewards on Foursquare with values greater than a set of colourful badges. During the spring semester, I want to document the business value of the gaming element of Foursquare.
For the uninitiated, Foursquare is an app--or a game--played by people with mobile phones who “check in” to various merchants. Wait--people check into to fabricated places too and they check into personal spaces (like parking spots, beds, and toilets). They're not doing that to gaining discounts from merchants. They're just messing around. However, I've been following people for several years who clock in and of bed on Foursquare. What's that about?
Anecdotally, I know it's about ambient intimacy. This is a dimension of social media that many naysayers do not respect.
On the other hand, the game-like system of Foursquare does drive merchant interest because it can drive footfall in a “fun” way.
Foursquare has evolved through at least three major versions since I first started using it in mid-2009. It's evolved from a mobile website into a series of very sweet apps on all major mobile phone platforms, including Symbian. Its in-app functionality is very clever.
A few conversations with Foursquare developers at Nokia World confirmed for me that people have been analysing data and feedback from Foursquare members. Algorithms tell Foursquare who is cheating with drive-by check-ins. A year ago, the on-board sensors on phones would finger unwelcome behaviour. Now it's just a server-side algorithm and it's clever enough to prevent me from moving up into Superuser territory.
Unique badges actually motivate people to check into thematic areas. The desire to keep mayorships encourages people to keep visiting places like corner shops.
I like watching people I know check into places I've never visited. I start to remember brand names and discover myself trying new places when I'm in Dublin, Limerick or Cork.
The “Trending” tab tells me about queues or noisy venues.
I used to rack up more than 1000 points a week because I'd spend time setting up new premises on Foursquare. Now I can get the same amount of points by bumping into a friend who has checked into a venue or by coming off the motorway and visiting a new city, genre or venue. Foursquare has started emphasizing real social activities. I think that's a good thing, especially if it helps people spend in local shops.
The screenshot comes from my 4Sq Supersuer control panel.
Fred McClimans discussed the gamification of Foursquare on his blog, January 26,2010.
Ivan Kuo -- Foursquare Levels up to 3.0, on the Gamification Blog, March 11, 2011.
Tom Barrett -- "Building Online Games as an Educational Tool", on the Edtech Toolbox, June 29, 2011.