Sunday, February 7, 2021

An Ethical Dilemma

This post contains an invite link at the bottom, but I make no monetary gain from it.

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Play more
games.

Wil Wheaton

I recently had a nice chat (more of an interview really) with the Founder of a social platform called GameTree. It's a platform I've been on long enough to forget how long I've been on it, and he wanted to personally ask what I thought of the changes that had been happening lately. Which, for starters, is one hell of a way to show you care about your users; I can count on one hand how often I see that happen.

For the most part, they're pretty good changes. The sorts of things I can see improving the platform for the better, in the long run.

But he's got a problem. Essentially, GameTree's goal is to help gamers find other people to play with, not terribly unlike dating apps try to set you up with people in your dating pool. Except, unlike a dating app's goal to keep you there, and keep you spending money (or watching ads), by not actually giving you access to your best matches (because once you fall in love, you don't need them anymore), GameTree genuinely strives to match you with the best gamers for you.

As John put it, it's a leaky bucket problem. And he's not just trying to match gamers, he's also trying to run a business.

That's the dilemma: 

  • either deliberately rig the matching process to never give you your perfect match and keep you swiping as long as possible, 
  • or give the honest results and risk losing you and all the potential revenue you represent when you find what you're looking for.

That sort of choice keeps some people up at night.

So instead of rigging the matching process, he's looking at other ways to retain more users, mostly around expanding the feature set. On the docket are allowing users a small personal gallery, expanding messaging from just text to video and voice, and expanding profile customizations.

You're not alone, and you're not an island.

Some of those may seem like small things to someone who's been on Discord or Facebook or Twitter or MySpace, but the goal isn't to be like any of those places. Too often on "traditional" social media platforms, you have your friends and you're an island unto yourselves. Too often on "traditional" dating platforms, you're alone and trying to find someone to spend some time with, be it one night, the rest of your life, or something in between.

GameTree isn't either of those things. You're not alone, and you're not an island. 

It's too easy to meet some people, and move things over to Discord or Telegram or somewhere else to keep the conversation going. And I understand the temptation, having given into it myself. But I think GameTree has every right to make their platform more enticing, and I think they're going about it in not just a reasonable way, but an ethical one too.

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And before you tell me you're "not that kind of gamer," what kind of gamer do you think I'm talking about? They've got a truly massive library spanning the major consoles, PC, mobile, and tabletop. I've even found the games I've backed on Kickstarter there, from Jason Tagmire and ButtonShy, to Poketto, to Cyan and more. I even found Volcanoids, a relatively new game from an independent developer.

Play a game with someone new. You never know how far things
will go...

Stop in, find a few games you enjoy or want to play more of, and find someone else who shares the same tastes.

Or go through your entire library and share and rate every game you have. You never know, you might find an obscure title that you've forgotten about and always wanted to play co-op, but never found someone else to join you.

...I may have done the second one. And I may have not found everything I'm looking for yet, but nobody's hiding my best matches from me. Not only am I getting replies to my messages (which, from my perspective of traditional dating apps is a minor miracle), I am making friends. It's not the desolate wasteland Tinder or Grindr make it out to be, especially for those of us who aren't classically attractive and have to get by on personality alone.

Every person I've found so far has been a geniune person. There are a few party-poopers hanging about occasionaly, but bad actors are a serious minority and nobody's catfishing. There's too little to gain in this sort of environment from this sort of platform that they don't bother. It makes for a nice change and one less thing to worry about when taking the leap to reach out.

Play a game with someone new. You never know how far things will go.

And in the words of Wil Wheaton: Play more games.

If you've read this, and it sounds like something you'd like to give a try, I have an invite link you're welcome to use. It does not give me any special benefits or monetary gain if you use it, though I might get another shiny badge on my profile.

If not, no hard feelings. You can find it at gametree.world or in your choice mobie app store. I'd still like to see you over there. You never know, we might play a game together sometime.

And John, if you're reading this, I hope something I said helped. I think you're doing the right thing, the ethical thing, and I'm happy to continue supporting the platform and network you're trying to build in every way I can. I'm just sorry I can't do more.