Traditional online dating sites like Match and EHarmony require you to set up complex profiles, and you have to make some effort to search for and contact potential matches. It can seem laborious compared to the quick and easy nature of Tinder, which in many ways is akin to playing a game.
After setup, which includes a few simple settings, you launch the app and a photo appears. Then you start the process of swiping left to pass or right to accept, and you can quickly swipe through a lot of pictures. If someone you accept also swipes right on you, you have a match and get the prize of being able to chat as we mentioned earlier, but you can also just add them to your collection — like a trading card.
And it can be addictive. Games, somewhat like drugs, stimulate the reward centers of our brains, leading to the release of the neurotransmitter dopamine and an accompanying feeling of pleasure. The prospects and realities of finding love or sex are also tied into our reward system. The game-like aspects of Tinder just add new ways to get a dopamine high from dating. You never know when you're going to get a match, and not knowing when a reward will happen reportedly increases dopamine production.
As with addictive mobile games like Candy Crush, you hear of people deleting Tinder to get away from its lure, only to reinstall it later. There are also people who use the app but never actually set up dates. You can while away hours on apps like Tinder at the expense of all the stuff you meant to do instead.
A group of friends in Chicago infamously found another way to make a game of it. They competed to see who could get guys on Tinder to buy them a pizza first, and dubbed it "The Tinder Games" [source: Fowler].