The flowers for no particular reason, the passionate kisses hello, the foot rubs, the gentle encouragement, the text messages saying you’ll be at the office another two hours so maybe just order pizza and put the kids to bed please?
Love’s little moments are the inspiration for Kouply. This free app for iPhone, Windows Phone and the web turns your relationship into a game — letting you and your significant other award points to each other as positive reinforcement for those seriously sweet gestures.
Did she take you on a wonderful trip? 50 points. Did he cook you a great meal? That’ll be 25 points for him.
Everything can be kept totally private if that’s your preference, but you can also compete against other couples if you’d like. Yes, there’s a leaderboard.
In addition, you can share (with friends on Kouply or on Facebook) the quantifiable evidence of your partner’s appreciation for that wonderful thing you just did. A recent update to the app allows couples to post accompanying photos, as well.
Kouply is a moonlight project from two Seattle-area software engineers and a designer — three guys looking to make at least a tiny dent in the divorce rate by encouraging behavior that has a positive effect on relationships.
Some app developers are seeking millions of users, others are angling for a big exit. This team wants to hear someone say that its app kept their marriage intact.
“That would be our measure of success,” said engineer Tushar Chaudhary, who founded the project along with designer Vineet Gupta and engineer Vinit Jain.
Chaudhary and Jain have day jobs at Microsoft, which has encouraged its employees to develop Windows Phone apps on their own time. Gupta worked previously at the Redmond company.
Kouply was inspired by the wife of one of Chaudhary’s friends, who pointed out the potential impact of tracking “brownie points” in a relationship. Her husband wasn’t a fan of the concept, but Chaudhary saw the potential and worked with Jain and his wife to further develop the idea. Gupta joined as an experienced designer.
The founders acknowledge that some people might object to the notion of applying game mechanics to the institution of marriage — supporting a sacred bond using the same psychology that motivates someone to spend hours slingshotting little birds at nefarious pigs.
But the Kouply founders believe their approach can help to address a serious problem. Someday they even hope to see marriage counselors prescribe Kouply.
Kouply isn’t the only app pursuing this strategy of gamifying relationships. Another example is PairSpark, a Seattle startup with apps for iPhone and Android.
Kouply is notable in part for its underlying privacy settings and sharing features. Couples are treated as individuals in relation to one another inside the app, with separate scores of their own, but they’re seen as single entity when viewed by their friends in Kouply or Facebook.
Through privacy settings, both members of a couple must agree to share a particular piece of information before it’s made public.
Couples can search and choose from a long list of preset acknowledgments with established points — such as, “bought me a present,” or “went out on a date night,” among many others. They can also give a custom acknowledgment, but those are set by default at 5 points to keep couples from gaming the system.
But will it really be natural for people to pull out their phones to give their significant others points for making them feel good? That’s where the Kouply founders say the psychology of games kicks in, as couples strive for higher scores together and individually.
Recognition breeds recognition, they say. It also breeds other things, but that’s another app entirely.