I read a blog post recently about LeBlanc’ eight types of fun (as applied to being a good dungeon master for D&D) and, since I don’t DM or play D&D, it got me thinking about web applications and gamification. Although Kevin Warbauch’s Coursera class on gamification was very informative, I found that this blog post was more illuminating than the discussion on fun included in the course. It got me thinking about how Foursquare’s gamification were so much more effective than other applications: it covers more types of fun than the usual gamified effort, and it’s consequentially more fun.

This is partially a consequence of Foursquare’s core concept as well as its game elements. For instance, it largely achieves the Sensory aspect of fun because of checking into the locations, rather than any artificial game elements. What could be more sensory than going to a restaurant and trying some new food? Similarly, it achieves Discovery as part of its original mission: Foursquare helps you find new places to go. Submission isn’t as deliberately achieved, but its a side effect of Foursquare being so easy and uninvolved: all you have to do is check in, and then enjoy yourself at the locale.

Fellowship is likely the most important type of fun for Foursquare: the social network is designed to facilitate meeting up with your friends. Although its certainly possible to use Foursquare solitaire, much of the fun is seeing where your friends check in and getting implicit recommendations that way.

More explicit game elements of Foursquare are directed towards gamers who like Challenge. Collecting badges, climbing leaderboards, and creating streaks are all components borrowed from games and can be extremely habit forming. Foursquare, to an extent, also includes the Expression type of fun: the places where you check in, and particularly, where you become King, make a particular statement about yourself. If you’re king of Sun Sui Wah and you’ve collected all the Chinese food badges, it denotes to the world: “I’m an expert on Chinese food.” It’s a much stronger assertion than just claiming it.

The two remaining types of fun are a bit weaker on Foursquare. Becoming King may satisfy those who like Fantasy, but it’s a weak argument. The sense of progression in steaks and points may satisfy Narrative seekers a little, but not to any great extent. Still, six out of eight is extremely good for any game, let alone a gamified platform. Developers would do well by following Foursquare’s example on this in making their applications fun.