Playing by Appointment
Playing by Appointment is a pattern that forces users to use a digital service at specific times defined by the service, rather than the user. It has been classified as a “temporal dark pattern” that tests the user’s patience and is designed to encourage users to re-visit a digital service to avoid losing the possibility of earning something, such as points or the ability to progress in a game. Playing by Appointment is a manipulative design that aims to control the user’s behavior by dictating when they can access a service.
Snapchat uses Playing by Appointment in the form of “Snapstreaks”, which count how many consecutive days two users have been sending Snaps to each other (denoted by the number followed by the 🔥 emoji). Users are encouraged to maintain their Snapstreaks by sending Snaps back and forth every day, as missing a day would break the streak and reset the counter to zero. This creates a sense of urgency and encourages users to visit the app every day at a specific time in order to keep up their streaks and earn points.
Example: Hay Day
When playing Hay Day, players are encouraged to return to the game at specific times to avoid losing the value of their crops. When a player plants a crop, it takes a certain amount of time to mature and become ready for harvesting. If the player does not harvest the crop within a certain amount of time after it has matured, the crop withers and loses its value. This creates a sense of urgency and encourages players to play by appointment.