Booyah: My Review

Have you seen the buzz around Booyah? I was intrigued by a particular Tweet from Jane McGonigal. A social reality game! Earn achievements for doing the stuff you want to do with your life! Awesome.

And then I downloaded the app to give it a whirl. Unfortunately, it's not the app I thought it would be, which means I still want the app I thought it was going to be. Booyah start with a cute little robot-looking avatar which you can customize with various colors and patterns. And then it pops you into a screen where you can browse categories of achievements to unlock, or the robot can give you ideas for "Booyah moments" to go after.

The problem, though, is that the process of recording those achievements wasn't what I had assumed. You don't just check a box saying "I did this today!" Instead, the social network component is all but forced on you. So if I want Booyah to help me record and celebrate that I went to the gym every day this week, or that I tried a new dish at dinner, or that I finished Chapter 5 of my novel-in-progress... I'm supposed to Tweet it, or put it on my Facebook status, and broadcast it to all of my friends. Why the heck should I spam my friends every time I go to the gym or hit my writing quota? Why can't I be quietly proud of myself, eh, Booyah?

I briefly flirted with the idea of setting up a separate Facebook account to keep private, for Booyah. And then I recovered my sanity.

Worse, half the achievements available in Booyah aren't even under your immediate power to achieve. If you get a certain number of Likes or comments on one of your Booyah updates, that can earn you even more achievements. This is irritating at best, and counterproductive at worst. If I'm going for a particular achievement -- say, getting five friends to comment on a fitness Booyah -- and I don't hit it, then I'm going to be disappointed. And maybe even discouraged. And then I just might give up. You just can't control other people, and it's ridiculous to make that a component of a validation system intended to make you feel good about yourself.

Now, the overall concept is still spectacular: Earn achievements for stuff you do in real life. I still want that app. Booyah, if you happen to read this, here's what you can do to turn me from a grouchy crank on the internet into an evangelist:

  1. Don't give me a uniform set of achievements to go after. Let me pick and choose, so I don't have to even look at the ones I don't care about (like getting people to Like my gym workouts). 

  2. Let me define my own achievements, and let me browse achievements defined by my friends or the Booyah community as a whole.

  3. Let me keep my Booyah moments all to myself (unless I'm specifically in the mood for sharing.)

  4. And let me choose a small group of friends to share Booyah with when I do feel like sharing; one cell who are my writing friends, another who are my gym buddies, and so on.

It really is a great concept; it's just that the implementation hasn't gone in the right direction for me. What I'm envisioning is probably a combination between 43 Things and earning Girl Scout or Boy Scout merit badges. For now, I'll keep waiting for the achievement app of my dreams. And who knows? Maybe when Booyah grows up a little more, it'll be exactly that. 

Updated to add: A friend has rightly pointed out that some of my criticism is unjust -- it's possible to keep your posts private, just in your Booyah journal, and share only some things with Twitter or with Facebook. Still, the whole philosophic focus of the game is around that sharing concept, and fully 2/3 of the available achievements are getting your updates Liked or commented upon. As a gamer, I'm a completist; but as a social person, I hate spamming my friends with stuff I don't think they'll find very interesting (like when I've gone to the gym). So the combination of achievements based on the reactions of my friends plus my drive to earn all available achievements makes Booyah particularly ill-suited to me. And probably others like me.

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