I haven't played Foursquare yet, but I know the gist of it: You go to places in real life and get points for doing so. The more you check in, the more rewards (badges) you get.
Check in enough and you get a cool title, like being nominated the mayor of that particular place.
Becoming the mayor, or just showing up, leads to discounts and other promotional offerings by participating businesses.
This is an awesome idea, and I love it.
Listen, location based, mobile social networks are the future. Frankly, they can't come fast enough as I'm a bit burnt out on Twitter and I hate Facebook.
Location based social networks without games (see: Brightkite, Google Latitude) don't do well because there's no social glue to make giving your location away worth it.
Aside from your spouse and maybe a few friends, no one really cares where you are or what you're doing. Have you noticed most Twitter updates, at least from smart people, often have little to do with what that person is doing at that exact moment?
Foursquare (and the Dodgeball precursor) provide that social glue in the form of a game.
But, Foursquare is also sort of nutty.
For starters, if you're not playing the game, the updates in your Twitter stream are as annoying as Spymaster DMs.
If you become the mayor of the Dango's Irish Sports Bar in South Glens Falls, New York, what's that really telling people? You like wings (they have a cheap wing night every week), you like beer, and you like sports. It also says: I don't go home often, I'm an alcoholic, and my cholesterol level is higher than someone at a 4/20 party.
You also become a "regular", and I don't know about you, but I don't like going to a place where they know my name, what I'm ordering, my plans for the evening, and that I have two illegitimate children in Los Angeles with Amber Stevens.
Exception: Subway. The guy at Subway can know my business.
And, I was a Boy Scout, so badges as prizes? I couldn't even tell you where my badges are, let alone what I won them for. I know one was for computers, but who didn't see that one coming?
Another attraction to Foursquare is the ability to "unlock your city". If you live in Glens Falls, you can unlock your city within twenty minutes of walking around. And there are just some cities you don't want to "unlock", you know?
What's becoming the mayor of a crack den get you?
When I do play Foursquare, and I will because I'm a nerd and it does sound like fun, I'm going to wear a cape and a top hat. If I'm the mayor, I'm going to act like one.
The deputy mayor gets nothing. Just like in real life. Do you even know who your deputy mayor is? If you do, shouldn't you be editing a Wikipedia entry on professional wrestling?
The last place person in my area? They should be forced to go to work in a bear costume. Foursquare needs some incentive to keep people interested, and avoiding social anxiety is the best incentive for anything, including games you play on your phone when you should be driving.
Foursquare also has a business model. Even Jack Dorsey, the guy who invented Twitter, is an investor! You know what that means? Foursquare is guranteed less coverage than Twitter because there will be fewer idiots talking about its lack of a business model. Jokes on you suckers! It has one!
Wait, they can still write about its valuation though ... gotta keep those page views up some how, I guess.
Discounts are nice, but that whole thing about meeting up with total strangers who are really just trying to get more points than you ? Not so much. I play to win. Fuck those guys.
I plan on keeping my top hat thank you very much, and maybe I'll pick up a monocle for when I play. You know, to see my competition coming.
I'm just saying, you can't expect a bunch of grown men and women to play a game based on how many times they go somewhere without thinking about these sort of things. Or preparing elaborate strategies that involve disguises and sleeping bags.