Game Mechanics: The Foursquare Example

On day 1 of the BIA/Kelsey Marketplaces 2010 conference, we heard from Jon Carder, CEO of, talking about the importance of game mechanics in social systems. It’s a topic I’m especially interested in and I mentioned the importance of “reward systems” in my perfect local media company of 2014 post.

Carder mentioned the following:

  • Game mechanics is the new black
  • He defined them as “a series of rules and functions that tap into our primal response patterns to drive usage, sales, and /or referrals”.
  • He mentioned Foursquare and Groupon as good examples of new apps/sites using game elements.

He suggested a good game system needs four must-have elements (action, goal, scoreboard and reward) and three nice-to-have (competition, clock and social). Here’s how it applies to Foursquare:

  • Action: the check-in is the action
  • Goal: get the most check-ins
  • Scoreboard: you can see total check-ins and unlocked badges
  • Reward: unlock badges
  • Competition: people compete to become Mayor of a place
  • Social: you can broadcast your activities on Facebook and Twitter, telling your friends about your badges/mayorship

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