Lifestyle games: Putting the “fun” into “social media”

You’re probably already familiar with Foursquare, the social media site that lets you “check in” to venues and leave tips and to-dos while generating a stream/timeline of where you go and what you do.

I like Foursquare. I think it combines two powerful forces on the web right now: social and local. It gives you the ability to share with those around you in a way that can be practical and valuable (for your friends and for you). Regular use of tips and to-dos, as well as the marketing opportunities that businesses can enjoy because of Foursquare, makes this site a potentially powerful tool.

But Foursquare is also a game. The game seems to be an integral part of the site — people collect points and badges (even though they have little use right now). In fact, Foursquare even says they’re a game.

Foursquare isn’t a game in the same way that, say, chess is a game, or World of Warcraft is a game, or Monopoly is a game. It’s not a separate environment with distinct rules and winners and losers. Rather, it’s a social utility that has an element of gaming to it: Incentives and a dash of fun… more like an environment where good-natured competitiveness and one-upmanship can thrive.

Recently, I heard about another site that offered something similar: It, too, is a social utility with a gaming element.

EmpireAvenue is a site that helps users put a value on their social “footprint’ while at the same time acting as a sort-of stock market where you can buy and sell shares in people.

I just signed up to check it out (so I might not have all of my facts nailed down) but it basically works like this: You sign up and get some money (“eaves”, I think they’re called). You can buy shares in other people. The price of their shares rises and falls based on — (well, I haven’t fully figured that part out yet) — something to do with their social network.

What’s also interesting about EmpireAvenue is that they have a monetization model that could be very beneficial for social influencers down the road.

Like Foursquare, it’s not a game but a site that has a practical purpose but in an incentivized, enjoyably competitive environment.

LIFESTYLE GAMING: A NEW TREND?
This has me wondering if we’re seeing the beginning of a new trend. For lack of a better word, I call it Lifestyle Gaming — that is, the addition of a gaming element to something you would normally use in your life, perhaps to enhance your lifestyle.

There are Foursquare alternatives out there (off the top of my head: Loopt, Gowalla, and Facebook Places) and they don’t have the gaming element that Foursquare has. And, there are social media valuation/measurement tools out there (Klout is my favorite) that again does not have the gaming element that EmpireAvenue has.

Are there others that I’m not aware of or have overlooked? Where might we see additional Lifestyle Games appear? Are there current sites that would benefit from the addition of Lifestyle Game attributes? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this!

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