Gickup, a Los Angeles-based company whose goal is to connect the world through video chat games, has developed what I believe will be the hottest new facebook dating application: Blind Video Date. If co-founders Michael Mikikian and Brian Fudge can raise enough money, Blind Video Date, an amalgam of The Dating Game and Love Connection–famous dating television shows from the 1960s and 1980s, respectively–will soon be the new online craze.
Almost 20 percent of all relationships now start online through traditional dating sites like Match.com and eHarmony, but according to a recent analysis led by the social psychologist Eli Finkel of Northwestern University, these websites are doing more harm than good. Finkel’s research finds that the sites’ algorithms are not effective at finding a true match. While I am a firm believer in online dating, the truth is that in-person chemistry is something no mathematical equation will ever be able to predict. Mikikian claims that although their game’s dating participants aren’t meeting in person, the platform itself “solves these traditional online dating deficiencies by having people talk to each other.”
He has a point. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a short video chat with someone you’ve met online before deciding to meet up?
So how does the Blind Video Date game work exactly?
First, let me educate you on the premise of both The Dating Game (check out John Ritter, who appeared on an episode in 1967, pre-Three’s Company fame) and Love Connection – if you’re under 30, you may be unfamiliar with these shows. In The Dating Game, a woman sat on one side of a wall, and three bachelors, who were hidden from the woman’s view but not the audience’s, sat on the other side. The woman would ask a series of questions (“If you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be?”) to which the bachelors would give their best answers. At the end of the questioning period, the woman would choose her date. Occasionally, the roles would be reversed (a man choosing from three women). In Love Connection, a modernized version of The Dating Game, three potential dates were introduced via video to the show’s guest. The studio audience members then voted on which candidate they thought would be the guest’s best choice. The guest then revealed who they chose, and although the actual date was never televised, the often-hilarious recap was discussed on-air. If it was a love connection, the couple would be reunited on stage; if not, the backstage contestant would disappear. Either way, the inimitable Chuck Woolery, the show’s slick host, would then reveal how the audience voted. For more on what the audience vote meant and to see some ridiculously awesome hair, watch this clip at 8:31. Fun fact: These two eventually got married, and Chuck Woolery gave the first toast!)
Blind Video Date combines these two concepts. Fast forward to 2012, though, and instead of sitting across a wall from one another, participants are all on a computer screen together, but only the audience can see all four people. The solo dater cannot see his or her three suitors, who are covered by blinds (how cute!). Instead of in-studio audience casting their vote, a user anywhere in the world who’s logged in to the show through facebook can vote on the suitor they like the best.
The game itself is short, clocking in at only five minutes – understandable, given the short attention span of today’s average American. The solo dater asks his or her suitors questions and the suitors respond. If the solo dater feels a suitor is taking too long to answer, he or she can hit the “stop babbling” button and the game is automated to kill that suitor’s audio (the twenty-first century equivalent of the Vaudeville stage cane). At the end of the game, the audience and the solo dater must agree on a winner. If they do, the solo dater and the winner get to video chat privately to see if they want to exchange contact information, but not before the blinds are raised, revealing the losers’ faces. After the video chat, which the audience can see but not hear, the pseudo-couple announce whether they’ll be taking their newfound relationship offline or going their separate cyberspace ways.
If a person is interested in viewing and possibly participating in the vote, doing so is as simple as logging in through facebook. If a game isn’t currently airing, a clock lets the viewer know when the next game will take place. Gickup will also record games so you can watch them later.
If a person is interested in being a participant, they need to log into facebook, install the application, and fill out a short questionnaire that includes basic questions, such as sexual orientation and time preferences. The applicant must also tape a one-minute video audition. Mikikian and Fudge are then able to cast the show, organize a game night, and find the best matches for contestants. Contestants can play under aliases, but because they log in through facebook, all contestants are tied to real accounts, which, as Mikikian put it, “guards against the freaks,” or, in other words, the people who like to expose themselves on, say, unmonitored sites, like Chatroulette. They need 500 people to sign up through facebook to start their first show.
In the future, Mikikian and Fudge would like to have premium games, for which users would pay. Currently, their plan for revenue generation is to roll commercials between games.
The genius of this game is that it involves the best parts of reality TV: sex (well, not actual intercourse, but you catch my drift), a sort of PG-13 voyeurism, and the ability to vote and determine the fate of contestants. And it’s the first interactive, online video dating platform to exist, which is perhaps why notable game show and unscripted reality TV producers are backing the idea and serving as advisors.
As a dating columnist and coach for Blast Magazine, I can’t help but also think about the opportunity this game affords dating and relationship coaches and their clients. In effect, it’s a great platform for men and women to practice their conversational skills and for coaches to eavesdrop on their clients and provide feedback based on what they heard. “It’s the ultimate coach-mentor experience,” said Mikikian. David Wygant, one of the country’s top dating coaches, agrees. He has signed on to partner with Gickup, along with two other female dating coaches.
Currently, Gickup (a place to pick up games – the genesis of the company’s name) is in start-up mode, having developed various prototypes that bridge interactive media with the game experience. For instance, in Secret Celeb, audience members can team up with friends or random people across the globe and compete against other teams in a beat-the-clock trivia game. Or Ruthless, a strategy-based trivia game that’s part Trivial Pursuit, part Survivor, in which players can steal points from other competitors and drive them into bankruptcy.
As fun as these games sound, they aren’t live yet. Gickup’s main focus is on launching Blind Video Date. If Mikikian and Fudge can’t meet their $5,000 goal on their Kickstarter page, they vow to find the money from other investors, because they believe their creation has the potential to become an internet sensation.
“There’s nothing else out there like it,” said Mikikian. “This is the future of social games and social TV.”