Dating apps are boring now. Every. Single. One. No matter how devoid of romance you are, there is no salvation to be found in swiping through people you’ve already had a dry three-message exchange with. It’s time to give it up.
Tinder, however, has other ideas. As if sensing my personal apathy towards online dating, the app recently launched “Swipe Night”, an interactive event that claims to get users better matches by immersing them in a virtual experience in which they control the outcome.
Taking place on the Tinder app over the last few weekends in September, Swipe Night is essentially a five-minute, choose-your-own-adventure TV episode. Created by Karena Evans, who also directed the music video for Drake’s “Nice For What”, and co-written by Nicole Delaney who worked on Netflix’s Big Mouth, Swipe Night follows a group of friends who gather for a meteor shower party that turns into a fight to survive the apocalypse. In each episode, users have seven seconds to swipe left or right and choose between two outcomes. The interactive feature is designed not only to change what happens in the story, but to provide users with a conversation starter to chat with matches about when the episode ends.
Finding my soulmate by playing an online game about the apocalypse – in the middle of a pandemic – does feel very on the nose, but then I am ready to settle down into an “established relationship” ahead of the rumoured second lockdown. Tinder, you won me over.
So, on a recent Saturday night, I open Tinder and the first episode of Swipe Night starts to play. An alert appears on the screen: “You’re late to meet your friends Graham and Lucy at Molly’s comet viewing party”. I feel seen: I’ve never been on time to a party in my life. I turn up at Molly’s and am presented with the first choice of the night: swipe right to compliment her outfit, or left to make fun of it. She is wearing a corset sewn with strips of LED lights and despite the fact that it looks horrible, I’m already late to her party, so I swipe right out of guilt.
The video takes me into the party where I meet my other “friends”, Lucy and Graham, who turn out to be a really irritating, bickering couple. Is this a subliminal message from Tinder to put everyone off getting into a proper relationship and make sure that they stay on the app until they die? I’m offered the choice of talking to Graham or choosing which music to play. Unsurprisingly, I choose the latter and put on “Time Flies” by Rico Nasty, which causes her to make a cameo in a floor-length pink fur coat and tiny sunglasses on a crystal-encrusted chain, singing along to her own song. I’m mesmerised to the point that I forget I’m on Tinder.
Next, the video moves to the bathroom, where I’m confronted by the sight of Graham cheating on Lucy. It might be because we’re living through a pandemic and I haven’t had to deal with relationship drama for so long, but I couldn’t be happier to pass judgement on someone else’s relationship. When Tinder gives the options of “covering for Graham” or “telling Lucy”, I of course tell Lucy. They get into a huge argument, but thankfully, the camera pans away from the ensuing fight.
After all the excitement of the party, it’s finally time to go outside and watch the meteor shower. Another set of options appears: film the cosmic event, or “stay in the moment”. I immediately regret opting for mindfulness and choosing to stay in the moment, as it turns out that one of the meteors is going to hit plant Earth. This is the end of the world, I could have sold the footage to The Sun. The camera begins to shake and there’s a stampede as everyone at the party runs from the meteor. In all the commotion, I’m asked to choose between saving a random woman and Molly’s puppy.
I choose the puppy and make a quick getaway with Rico Nasty, who has appeared in a bright pink car. And with that, and my Tinder Swipe Night adventure ends.
The choices I made during Swipe Night are immediately displayed on my Tinder profile: “Saved the puppy”, “Stayed in the moment” and “Told Lucy the truth”. I start swiping and can’t help but judge my potential matches’ choices as if they were real ethical dilemmas. After running through a sea of profiles, I finally click through to one guy. Then I see that he “Covered for Graham” and almost instantly hate him. Any of the usual shortcomings on Tinder profiles – jokes they obviously got after Googling “funny Tinder bio”, or making a point of letting you know that they’re over 6-foot – suddenly pale in comparison. Covering for Graham. is simply unforgivable. I move onto another profile, and match with a guy purely because he also ended up in Rico Nasty’s car, and I assume that we’d have a laugh together. But then he asks why I decided to save a puppy over the girl. I do not reply.
Attending a fictional party in an apocalypse scenario even worse than our own probably isn’t the best way to make a meaningful connection with someone. Unsurprisingly, Swipe Night didn’t help me to find “the one”, but I am quite frankly, grateful for the opportunity to see Rico Nasty and her huge fur coat.
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