If you haven’t heard of it yet, an internet phenomenon called Chatroulette has been getting popular lately. It does something lots of other services have already, which is to throw two random video chat users together for a session that either party can end at their convenience. It can lead to anything from great discussions between new people… to obscene content.
It’s built completely in the Google AppEngine and works exactly the same way as traditional Chatroulette in that it randomly places you into video conferences with other app users. Unfortunately, since the game was just launched today, there’s about a grand total of 10 monthly active users (including us), so the video screen the randomness is a bit non-existent at the moment. More time to get users will lead to a richer user base, of course.
Once you do get going, however, the game is advertised to incorporate the “gaming and viral mechanics of apps like FarmVille.” This is partially true, but the FarmVille reference feels used merely because it is currently the number one Facebook game. Don’t worry, ChatVille has zero to do with planting crops.
The similarities stem from unlocking various badges and achievements (such as the “Person of Interest” badge for chatting with someone longer than five minutes – sadly, a dashboard where these are viewable is not available yet), earning what are called “compliments,” from other users, and leveling up your profile through having positive experiences with other ChatVille users. Additionally, you can begin video chat with any of your existing Facebook friends directly through the platform itself, and post any screenshots you take to your Facebook feed.
On top of this, players are also capable of capturing video feed and even create bizarre images of themselves in what is called the “Photobooth.” In a nutshell, the feature allows users to take four photographs from their web cam and manipulate them using Photoshop-like filters ranging from fisheye lenses to posterization. It is actually kind of fun, but disappointingly, there doesn’t appear to be a visible means of sharing these photos (at least not from the Photobooth itself).
Of course, all the added bonuses are nice, but what really matters is that ChatVille takes away the elements of lewd and inappropriate behavior that litters Chatroulette at times. All of a player’s interactions are tied directly to your Facebook account, so not behaving evidentially has “actionable consequences,” in the fact that your real identity is involved. Facebook typically kicks off users who post obscene content, so in contrast to Chatroulette. Any transgressors on ChatVille could be putting their Facebook accounts at risk.
Whether or not Facebook intervenes, the developers can. Since actions are tied directly to your Facebook profile, they can ban an account permanently. In addition to this, they have also stated that there are systems in place that automatically flag accounts that are deemed “suspicious,” in that they have very few friends, or have just been created, and so on. These flags will automatically lower the threshold for getting banned, making it more difficult for people that just want to cause trouble to keep creating new accounts and continue causing it.
Frankly, ChatVille does look to be a nice, safe, version of the popular Chatroulette, but only time will tell if it becomes anywhere as popular. As far as the social game elements go, at the very least, they will act as nice extras and another means to virally attract new users. Nonetheless, as basic as they are, it is highly unlikely anyone will start playing the app for strictly those features. In the end, it’s going to be the allure of a “safer” place to play a round of Chatroulette. Everything else is just a nice bonus.
Which leads to one last question: Perhaps people want the risk of Chatroulette, in the first place?