No gender boxes, no age line, no dislike button, and no filters in the feed of potential dates. This is XOXO, a new dating app from a company that aims to “reinvent dating tech for the new generation.” We’re here to check out how it lives up to the ambitious claim.
“People, not labels,” manifests one of the slogans on the app’s website, suggesting a concept where users are urged to see each other as human beings rather than a tag cloud of labels. To set this up, creators stripped the app of the industry-standard questionnaire on user’s gender, sexuality, body parameters—and even their age.
The app’s other striking—some might even say counterintuitive—set of features is centered around gamification. Every user is assigned an animalistic virtual avatar (“totem”) that they can customize, treat to in-app purchasable items, and show off to demonstrate their own personality. The totem part is largely fueled by the user’s dating activity on the app, and vice versa.
How do these two seemingly distant concepts, inclusivity and gamification, match up and play out in one app?
The onboarding process for the app starts with a lifestyle quiz, with questions about preferred foodstuffs, dream Friends recasts, and your perceived personality traits. Opinions on trivia across fourteen screens and your name and pronouns across other two—apparently, that’s all the app needs as input to get you started.
From the quiz, the app devises your mental age and your personality type (the previously mentioned totem, which we will get to separately). These are the two primary things that are meant to inform your image in the eyes of other users.
Swiping, liking, matching
From there on, you’re set to get swiping. You’re introduced to the feed of other people’s profiles, swiped vertically and presented by their visuals (photos AND videos, as emphasized by the app team), names, mental age, and interest tags. The latter, along with a short bio, can be added to the profile in the separate editing screen. Like in many competitors, you can like the profile you, well, like but unlike the competitors, there’s no rejection button (“we could all do with a little less negativity,” spokesperson commented) and you can swipe back to the profiles you passed to like them when you change your mind.
To start chatting with someone, you two first need to match—but that can be bypassed by using something called opening line, an ability to message somebody you hadn’t matched with. This extra item, along with the (self-explanatory) superlike can be acquired in the shop section as an in-app purchase.
Totem for you
Your totem, assigned by the quiz, is a cute animalistic avatar, which depending on the type (species) may resemble a penguin, a cat, or a Monsters Inc employee. It represents one of the twelve personality types, obviously inspired by the Myers-Briggs typology, that the quiz places you into. Every type has a “perfect match” among the other eleven, of which the app notifies you upfront
The totem is meant to be a beloved pet as much as your personality indicator. Its mood is signaled by three health bars, dubbed food, fun, and convo. One way of keeping them full is swiping, liking, and messaging other people, which all fill the bars in various vays.
Or, for quick fixes, you can get your totem from one of the “treat” items in the shop that emulate things like sushi rolls or a game console. The shop is also where you go for “outfit” items to customize the pet’s look, like change its fur color or dress it in a vampire cape.
Keeping the little one entertained requires some effort, but doing so continuously ups your “friendship level” with the totem, which brings bonuses that in turn facilitate your dating routine, like selections of recommended users.
Looks de prioritized
This one is just the latest addition to the small handful of dating apps that work with the concept of lowering looks on the list of priorities for daters. It follows a pronounced notion that two thirds of Gen Z prioritize “shared interests over looks when it comes to matching with someone,” as uncovered by a research conducted by Opinium.
However, unlike Jigsaw and S’More, which actively obscure your counterparts’ visuals and challenge you to uncover those by talking more, XOXO aims to offer its whole ingenious gaming ecosystem as a distraction from the numbness of ogling over others’ photos—and as something to bond over with conversation partners. This creates room for people to engage with each other on a more profound level but also approach dating as a more entertaining, light-hearted and gamified experience.
“Soulmates central,” states the company’s website, and the press release says the app has no definite endgame in terms of whether you find relationships, sex, friendship, or camaraderie here. It sure does look like one where you might find any!