First Click: A Pokémon Go dating app makes perfect sense

July 21st, 2016

I’ve never liked Pokémon, and I don’t care about Pokémon Go. But I do use dating apps, which is why I was intrigued by yesterday’s announcement of PokéDates: a dating service for Pokémon Go.

The concept is as straightforward as it is inevitable: you fill out some basic information online, say when you’re free to go pokémon hunting, and then the site matches you up with potential dates. It’s certainly not the first matching service of this sort; it’s actually just an extension of Project Fixup, which eschews algorithms for human matchmakers. And others have launched dating apps around niche interests like dogs, cats, and marijuana smoking. But PokéDates could succeed in actually bridging the gap between digital dating and real-world encounters — something that so many others have failed to do.

Tinder, for example, recently released a "social" feature that lets you organize group outings, but perhaps the best comparison is Happn — a French dating app that claims to help you "discover the people you cross paths with." The idea is that if you make eyes with someone in the street or at a party, you can reconnect with them later from the comfort of your phone screen. But in my experience, that’s not actually how it works. The app’s 250-meter-radius is large enough to sweep up people you may never actually see (it’s even spottier if you’re in the metro), and as I’ve written before, it’s pretty easy to figure out who lives or works around you, which can be creepy. Happn recently added a new social-like feature that lets users post statuses when they’re available for a drink, dinner, or a movie, but I haven’t seen many people actually use it around Paris.

That’s not exactly what PokéDates is trying to do; in some ways, it's reverse-engineering the Tinder and Happn approach. Rather than creating matches based on where you happen to be, PokéDates creates real-world encounters based on choices that users already made. That could mitigate some of the creepy, accidental stalking that comes with apps like Happn, and it could make a digitally-arranged date seem slightly less digital. It’s just too bad that I still don’t like Pokémon.

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