Let’s (Gamify) Date(ing) And Make It Addicting In The Process

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Editor’s Note: Event Partnerships Manager Leslie Hitchcock is a non-editorial TechCrunch employee. In addition to working at TechCrunch and being super fashionable, she reviews startups and tech products occasionally on her personal blog, Leslie Just Joined.

A few months ago I broke down and did something I swore I’d never do. Yes, that’s right. I opened a dreaded OkCupid account. [Y'all, I'm so embarrassed right now, you just don't even know.]

For many years I’ve dated successfully in real life. But curiosity got the best of me and it was enhanced by, uh, let’s call it a dry spell despite working in a target-rich environment. As my friend Morgan says, in our industry “the odds are good but the goods are odd.” Go tech scene!

So I opened an account just to see what would happen. In the three months I’d been a member of OkCupid, I went on one date. The site was creepy, felt really amateurish in its design, had a reprehensible mobile product and wasn’t terribly inspiring to me as a single woman in San Francisco. As a result, I called my online “dating” experiment a wash and closed that brief chapter of my romantic life.

Enter Anthony Ha‘s piece last week on the growing Los Angeles-based application Let’s Date. Considering myself something of a mobile app anthropologist, I downloaded it, prodded along by Anthony’s glowing description of a beautifully designed app experience. I’m a sucker for aesthetics. Here are my thoughts and some feedback from some of my amazing lady friends I wrangled to test Let’s Date for me.

Let’s Date is nothing like other dating sites.

Perhaps it’s because Let’s Date pulls in data from your Facebook profile, but all of the people my friends and I encountered seemed like actual real people. Not like “1happyguy000″ or the like on other identity shielding sites.

So @letsdate is super-addictive, but half my interactions involve trying to convince the app that I really don’t want to date 19-year-olds.

— Anthony Ha (@anthonyha) February 8, 2013

While it hasn’t worked so well for me and my lady friends, in theory you’re supposed to be able to train the app to stop showing you the types of people you theoretically wouldn’t want to date. No 20-year-olds, no “smokes like a chimney,” no Paleo, etc. The basics. Plus being able to cross things out on someone’s profile is pretty gratifying; it makes it seem like I have autonomy over who shows up in Let’s Date’s cards.

Some type of filtering would be great, too. Says a self-described borderline cougar friend of mine: “It was so frustrating to be like ‘oh this guy is cute’ and then to realize of course he’s cute…he’s 22.”

Continuing in its differentiation from other sites, according to Pando Daily nearly a quarter of Let’s Date users go on dates within the first two weeks of on boarding. That beats my half-hearted one date in three months OKC experiment by a long shot.

Let’s Date is a lot like other dating sites.

Checking out this Let’s Date app because rejection before 10 a.m. really builds character and my editor is out sick techcrunch.com/2013/02/07/sea…

— Casey Newton (@CaseyNewton) February 7, 2013

There are lots of guys on Let’s Date and once women on board, from my experience (and that of several girlfriends who I coerced into testing the app under the condition of anonymity), the fellows tend to bombard any potential match with interest.

“It’s a really good ego boost,” unnamed friend #1.

That it may be; it gets incredibly overwhelming. While I don’t have very many notifications in my phone’s lock screen by design, the first night I tested Let’s Date I kept the traditional settings turned on. When I awoke in the morning, I found about twenty notifications waiting for me of people who had indicated they’d date me over the night. I quickly adjusted my settings and am able to ignore the alerts easily.

With the combined number of notifications from the app, it does not surprise me that users spend an inordinate amount of time on Let’s Date. Also according to Pando Daily, over 25 percent of users visit 10 or more times a day. That’s astounding to me and leads me directly to my final point on why this app is so successful.

Let’s Gamify Dating, y’all!

What is so fascinating to me about Let’s Date is how they, in effect, gamified dating. Here’s how it works: Choosing from one of the random alerts the user receives, she goes into the app and attempts to guess who indicated they would date her. The prospective suitor’s information will show in the first five profiles the app shows our user. If she, too, indicates she’d date the person who chose her, then and only then would they be connected through the app to set up a date.

A little trip into my psyche: I like to win. I’m a recovering competitive person who tries to enjoy the game and not be a sore loser, blah blah blah. But the phenomenon that Let’s Date creates makes that hard. When I got connected with people, I was elated. Not because we both theoretically found each other interesting, mind you, but because I was correct! When I didn’t choose the “right” person, I was bummed because it seemed like I “lost” that round.

In the same way that I had to eventually delete Angry Birds because I was furious with those damn, smug pigs, Let’s Date will most likely go the way of the app graveyard. My serenity is more precious to me than “winning.”

Bottom Line

A worthwhile suggestion from one of my friends I enlisted to test the app was for Let’s Date to tell a user if you have any friends in common on Facebook, since it pulls from Facebook to make your profile. Not tell you who, just that you have people in common.

As for my online dating experience, it went fine as far as dating goes. But I haven’t made an effort to my match a second time. Not once did we ever talk about how we ended up on our date. Absolutely no one mentioned online dating, which I find amazing. Were we embarrassed? Is this normal? If so, I see no real reason to subject myself to my own prejudices and other people’s shame about the process. At least IRL, in my experience, we’re pursuing each other for mutually interested reasons.

Let’s Date feels slightly different if not for the fact that people seem more earnest and, for lack of a better word, real than they do on OKC. Should I end up on a date with one of these Let’s Date folks, maybe I should bring a TCTV crew with me. How do you think he’d take it?