Walk through the park

Last time, I wrote a blog about Breeze, a dating app that brings people together in real life, without having to chat first. This week I would like to talk about another app that combines the online and the offline world: the app Bankje. ‘Bankje’ is Dutch for ‘bench’, so I suppose you already guessed it: this app is all about benches. 

In short, the goal of the app is to make users take pictures of benches they come across. These benches will be uploaded onto a map, so other users know where the bench in case is findable in real life. The user who took the photo can give some more information about services that are close to the bench (such as a light or a trash bin). All users, so the user who took a photo and other users on the app can give an evaluation of the bench in case. 

But, for what?

That is the question I asked when I first heard of this app. Why on earth does this app exist, and later, when I looked up the app in the AppStore and saw the 4.9 out of 5 stars, I was totally clueless (did I miss some hype around benches?). It has something to do with Play anything by Bogost (2016). Bogost says that playing is not something we solely do when there are games involved that are made for playing, but also when in comes to daily tasks and objects. Of course, I am writing about an app now, so there is a made-to-play aspect, but the objects used to ‘play’ with are already there, namely: benches. 

The playground 

There would be no point in using the app if there would not be some sort of reward for uploading benches, right? When you first click on your profile, you see ‘rank: bankrupt’ (notice the ‘bank’ in bankrupt and ‘bank’ being ‘bench’ in Dutch – a nice pun if you ask me). Users who upload a bench to the map receive three points, users who evaluate benches receive one point. These points are not useful in any way, since you can not ‘buy’ something with it in the app. The only use these points have is to make a rank of the users using the app: the more points the higher the users is being ranked. Maybe having the most points will get some users off their couches looking for benches, but for so far, the app has not have this effect for me. 

Besides earning points, the app does not seem to have another goal. I have not read anything about wanting to investigate how benches are placed in the Netherlands and what sort of facilities are nearby or anything like that. I wonder how long this app will keep on being used. Personally, I think not for very long, since the playing element is not that interesting or something you could become better at. If you ask me, it is time for this app to level up!