One of the more interesting new angles that I have seen from the clamor of ‘social discovery’ and ‘rewards’ APIs whose developers have contacted me is that of giving real-world rewards: physical goods.
So when I was checking out ‘Pet’ games on Google Play (for research purposes!) I came across a cute-looking one called ‘My Pet Coby’. It’s a nice little (very simple) tamagotchi thing where you tickle your pet, play a bubble popping game with him, feed him ice-creams etc., while the game tries to insidiously lure you into buying virtual food for your pet using your mom’s credit card (which is, hopefully, not password protected). The usual stuff. But it also made a very strong point of reminding me, whenever I started up or closed down the app., that if I came back every day I’d get a free lollipop. This message was so important that it warranted a special full-screen pop-up lasting for several seconds.
It’s probably just me being sentimental but I found this concept really striking, and I could vividly imagine a 3 or 4 year old going around for several days obsessing about getting a lollipop from their pet. It said something to me about lost innocence and of the utterly different goals of a small kid compared to a grown-up. Having a simplistic life where you have very little control of your own destiny, you get transported around to different places and activities according to other people’s schedules, but all the while you have a little private relationship with what you imagine to be a real pet, and you have a little private goal of earning something real (a lollipop) yourself. OK, you get the picture.
So this morning, I started up the Coby app., all excited about my lollipop. Wondering how they would get the lollipop to my house (I imagined a downloadable voucher which I would present to my local shop just out of a pure perverse sense of humour). My sons reckoned the president of the lollipop company would personally fly over in a private jet to deliver it to me. We were all wrong. The game gave me a f***ing virtual lollipop to give to Coby. Something that they value at about 5 cents, if you look at the in-game shop. Gah!