Getting rid of the check-in mechanism
As Jon Christian is reporting on Techli, the guys from TabLab want to get rid of the check-in mechanic. The co-founder of TabLab, Dave Bisceglia, is quoted with “As far as a gameplay mechanic, it’s not really fun. Gamers are looking for a more meaningful interaction with the people and places around them.” But stating the obvious is an easy thing to do. Stating an alternative is not as easy and that is the point where Dave remains silent. Maybe because he already has an alternative and wants to keep it ultra-secret. Or he has none.
Yes, the check-in mechanic is used in so many location-based services, that in terms of app-design you can already call it old-fashioned. So alternatives are needed. But how could they look like? Location-based apps can only take your location in 2D, but cannot guess why you are located there. And if there are different venues at one location, the mess is complete. So you check-in to tell the app which venue you prefer.
The nearby solution would be kind of an automatic check-in. You always check-in the nearest venue you are. Obviously this is quite absurd, because especially in games different locations have different functionalities, hence game-play requires aware decisions. But with some adjustments you could make it usable. For instance take proximity detection. The player feeds the game with his preferences and the game automatically checks into the locations that match them. You can enhance this by including informations from past check-ins, the player did manually. So if someone checks-in very often into a particular venue, the game learns and starts to check-in there on its own. These mechanics don’t have to be applied only on venues. Also other smartphones with activated bluetooth in range could be considered.
Another possibility to avoid the check-in is to avoid the functionality in the app that needs it. Taking foursquare as an example you could replace the check-in with an overview of the offers from the surrounding venues. And the mayor of a venue could be the one who is the longest time in range. The problem with this is, that the players get less involved in the particular venues and the focus shifts to a higher level – the local area. Seeing foursquare as a game, the whole dynamic would change.
So the way to get rid of the check-in mechanics is to create different game designs, with no check-in requirement in it. In the context of geosocial games this means to abstain from some common concepts like interacting with buildings, venues or any given fixed structure on a map. Instead you have to shift the game concept from certain locations to bound areas, where accuracy regarding the location isn’t that important. But even then it is hard to design a game where you are able to play without check-ins at all, because the need to show your interest in an element on the map is the most basic mechanic in geosocial games. However it would help to reduce their usage to a level, where the mechanic itself doesn’t degenerate to a annoying routine.
Some guys from California have now filed a patent for automated check-ins. They are describing a mechanism, where the user is creating a list of venues for autocheck. If he is nearby such a venue, the software will check-in automatically. If there is no selected venue in range, the software will present a list based on past check-ins to choose manually by the user. In my opinion the mechanism they have filed is quite trivial and I am wondering that no one filed this patent before.