Booyah Society Treats Life Like a Game, Sort Of

By  |  Tuesday, July 28, 2009 at 6:59 pm

booyahlogoIn the same way that Booyah Society is rooting for me, I’m really hoping the new iPhone app can do better than it has.

It’s an idea with a lot of promise, which is why I was excited to meet with one of the creators, Keith Lee, for lunch last week. The “social game,” as he bills it, offers “achievements” — like the accolades you get within Xbox 360 or Playstation 3 games — but for real-life accomplishments.

In other words, instead of getting a symbolic pat on the back for becoming a Level 40 Sword Master or scoring five headshots in 10 seconds, you’re congratulated for going to the gym or eating organic food.¬†Or so it goes in theory.

Screen03In its current state, Booyah is little more than a Twitter that rewards you for using it. Posts are divided into categories, such as Dining, Entertainment and Fitness, and everything you write can be tied to a Facebook or Twitter account. The achievements are dependent upon how much you post, and whether your readers comment back or “Like” what you’ve written.

Unfortunately, the app doesn’t care what you write, so I can get an achievement for saying I ate a salad, or one for saying I didn’t go to the gym, and there’s no difference. I don’t buy the idea that video game achievements are inherently addicting; there needs to be some challenge that makes them worth pursuing in the first place. But that’s where Booyah will run into problems. After all, how do you reward people for specific real-life accomplishments when there’s so much out there to do?

Besides, there’s that whole narcissism thing. Lee is optimistic that posting about exercise and social activism will encourage positive responses from others, but there’s a fine line between humble pride and self-righteousness. I personally feel a little weird telling my Facebook friends what I ate for lunch or how much weight I’m lifting.

There are things I like about Booyah Society, such as the cute avatar that changes as you accomplish more, and the pop-up messages that offer encouraging advice and inform you of happenings in your area. This is the positive message stuff that makes the app alluring in the first place, but it doesn’t translate over to the central idea of going out and doing things. Even if the program is used offline as a simple self-help tool, it should have better awareness of how the user is changing for the better.

I know Lee and the other folks at Booyah are working on these issues. He assured me several times during our interview that the app has several phases of growth in store. So consider me optimistic, but until it truly blossoms into the “achievement system for life” that it’s been dubbed, I’ll be keeping my booyahs to myself.

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