How to Break the Ice

Breaking the Ice the old fashioned way!

Op-Ed to the SXSW report card:  Duuude — the hype over location services! Mind boggling. Epic (and ultimately positive for everyone in this space). There are sooo  many  apps out there that can do cool things like:

  • Let u know where the party’s at
  • Let u know where ‘your kind of people’ are
  • Ensure you’ll NEVER miss the epic gathering/quora that’s happening ’round the corner.
  • Give you a shit ton of the most perfect coupons

First off, on the coupons — it’s a good idea. It’s matured nicely, and this space has needed a good old fashioned revenue model for a while. Particularly impressive is Foursquare’s self-serve merchant dashboard. And I’m happy that 4SQ kicked so much ass in the face of better-funded (Gowalla) and more massive (Facebook) competitors. Not a whole lot more to say on the coupon front.
As for the ‘where the party at?’ applications — I know I sound like an old curmudgeon, but are we all suffering from a debilitating case of separation anxiety or autophobia? Possibly we’ve never healed from the psychic scars of missing out on that night in 8th grade when everyone met on the tennis courts at midnight to smoke cigarettes. God forbid we miss a connection. I keep imagining this hipster-lurker ‘friend’ who amazingly pops up (in person or via text) every time you and 2 other people happen to be on the same block. I’m not sure which human impulse is stronger: the savage need not to be left out OR the desire for good company/good time. I think I’ve had the more visceral response to the former, but strive for the latter. Either way, it’s hard to argue against either of these needs as the underlying foundation for an app.
Similarly, lots of apps that help you meet the perfect person, at any given moment.  A funny anecdote: I was talking to a friend at the beer garden x from the convention hall at SXSW, and in conversation I mentioned the term ‘Ice Breaker,’ at which point a stranger at the next table goes: ‘Ice Breaker? That’s the name of the app I just built!’ Seriously, this guy (a nice dude named Ketan who started KidBombay) had just whipped it up in the month preceeding the conference. An app that helps you meet people and…break the ice. The chatter about this functionality was everywhere. It was epic. Group texting, locative texting, GroupMe, Beluga, Yobongo, etc. So far, I like Gatsby as it’s designed to get an actual conversation going. The application tells you that someone who shares your interest is nearby and offers up a convo topic.
IMHO what’s missing from a lot of these services is the ‘grease’ that gets makes an interaction fun, and/or likely to happen at all. At The Go Game, we watch people go up to strangers all the time — because they are on a secret, important mission, worth points. If you’re just told to go talk to the cute girl at the dance — (mom licks your hair and pushes you toward her), it’s often a slow motion train wreck.  What you need is the reason. If I’m playing a game, reality is suspended and I have a mission to complete. It’s at the core of what we do, and we see it work at company off-sites and conferences every day. If you’ve been tasked by the game to approach someone, and find out where they went to college, and enter it for points, they’re more likely to do it. If there’s a fun component, all the better. It’s the social sauce that’s really key.
With this in mind, I think the most exciting interaction-based app was The Situationist, made by Benrik. We all played it and were totally geeked every time one of us got a ‘situation.’ Sadly it was too crowded at SXSW to actually find the people you were paired with, but we were truly engaged and READY TO POUNCE. What the Situationist has done is to add funny (sometimes somewhat creepy) layer of physical interactivity to the app. For example, I can request anyone with the app to randomly approach me and give me a high-five. We were all dying to give someone a high five. WE LIKEY.
Kind of brings us back, full-circle to where we’ve positioned The Go Game App. We strive to make a discreet and finite gathering MIND-BLOWINGLY fun. We aren’t a social service. You can’t check in. You can’t see who’s around you (UNLESS, of course you’re paired up in a Head to Head challenge where you face-off and dance-off). Hey there you have it: sidewalk dance-offs — they probably don’t scale as well as half-priced pedicures, but they’re a lot more exciting. Ultimately, The Go Game ends….and then…well, then you can go back to work on Monday, and continue to score points for brushing your teeth or buying coffee.

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