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Thursday, May 12, 2011

Playing Cupid: The Report from Our Online Dating Game

Posted By on Thu, May 12, 2011 at 4:04 PM


After our cover story "Tales of Strange Romance" exposed the struggle singles face in San Francisco, we wanted to help one of them find love -- Amanda, who had a terrible date with a prototypical Marina Douchebag.

So we set up Amanda and three young bachelors -- Gavin, Joe, and Omar -- and had them play The Dating Game last night. (The good folks at 3G Studios put it together for us.) Want to see the contestants? Want to find out how they did? Want to know who Amanda picked for a night out on the town at Chaya Brasserie, courtesy of SF Weekly?

Check it all out after the jump.

First, let's check out Amanda and the contestants:

Amanda, our bachelorette, graduated from the University ofWashington last May and moved to S.F. in September, working part-time at a nonprofit. She also works part-time for a recording studio, and pens a music blog. Says Amanda: "I love to read, drink wine, run, barhop with friends, explore Northern California, and go to as many concerts as my budget will allow."

And, competing for a night out with Amanda:

Gavin (Panelist #1), a recent college graduate and self-described "half-vegetarian" who works for a food nonprofit by day and burns pizzas by night. In his spare time, Gavin says, "I like to ride my bike, bounce my curls, eat big cookies, and cook my twin brother grilled cheeses."

Joe (Panelist #2), a native of Arkansas who moved to the city in 2006. Joe spends his days working as an accountant at a branding firm in S.F., but when he's not in the office, you'll find him out and about. Says Joe, "I like spending my free time in dive bars or outdoors."

Omar (Panelist #3), an East Coast guy who went to school at University of North Carolina before moving to NYC for a few years before making his way west. Omar lives in Russian Hill and works at a healthcare software and consulting company in the East Bay. Says Omar, "My weekends usually consist of drinking, with some travel here and there."

Last night at 7, all four contestants logged onto The Dating Game app on Facebook and started answering the questions. After each round, the young men also had a chance to send Amanda a "gift," which she then ranked based on how much she liked it.

The only twist -- Amanda didn't know exactly who was who: She saw only their cartoon avatars and their generic names: Panelist #1 (who was Gavin) Panelist #2 (in reality, Joe), and Panelist #3 (Omar).

The first round of questions were Q&A-style:

If I was going to be your biggest craving, what would I be and what would you do with me?
Panelist #1: You would be covered in chocolate and I would devour you.
Panelist #2: You would be a martini and I would drink you up, shaken or stirred.
Panelist #3: You would be sex and I would do it all the time.

You and I will be sharing a steamy evening together, no doubt -- but where should we share our first kiss?
Panelist #1: We should bring back some high school memories and sneak behind the bleachers.
Panelist #2: Let's be cliched and sneak some smooches in the back of a movie theater, since that is where I would like to go for a first date.
Panelist #3: I plan on getting tanked. Let's just make out in the bathroom of the bar we end up at.

Amanda says some clear patterns already emerged about each of the contestants. "Panelist #3, all of his answers were about sex and drinking," said Amanda. "That was kind of funny, but reminiscent of bad dates I've been on."

After the first round, each of the men gave Amanda a gift.

Panelist #1Panelist #2Panelist #3

While Amanda liked the answers of Panelist #1 more, it was the gift of Panelist #2 that she loved: chocolates. "I have a weakness for sweets," she says. Still, at the end of Round 1, the bachelors were neck-and-neck for Amanda's affections.

Round 2 used word association to plumb the contestants' psychological depths. Here, Amanda began to see more distinctions emerge.

A sample question:

What reminds you of "Edible"?
Panelist #1: Strawberries
Panelist #2: Strawberries
Panelist #3: Panties

"I liked how Panelist #1 and Panelist #2 said strawberries," says Amanda. As for Panelist #3? "The panties thing really threw me," she admits. "It was still funny. I'm sure he wasn't taking himself seriously."

But it was the at the end of Round 2, when each of the bachelors gave Amanda another virtual gift, that the true winner emerged.

Panelist #1Panelist #2Panelist #3

You're seeing that right: Panelist #2 decided to not give Amanda a gift at all. And, according to Amanda, that's what tipped the scales firmly in his favor. "I like when someone plays hard to get," she says with a laugh. "I don't like when people give me a lot of attention. When they ignore me, I'm into it."

With Panelist #2 in a clear lead, there was one final round, in which each contestant did their own Mad Libs-esque fill in the blank, but it was all over for Amanda. At the end of the game, the clear winner was Panelist #2.

The next day, we showed Amanda the pictures of each of the contestants, and let her learn a little bit more about each of them. Did learning about them outside of the game change her opinion?

"Overall, I'd go out on a date with any of them," she says. "They're all pretty funny and cool for doing this. Gavin seems really nice and laid-back. And Omar seems really cool, too."

What about Joe, the guy she unknowingly picked? "It's kinda fun he's from Arkansas," she says. "He likes dive bars. I love dive bars. I liked it. Southern gentlemen, right? Maybe it's a myth or a legend."

She'll soon find out. They'll be headed out for a dinner at Chaya Brasserie, paid for by SF Weekly. She promises to let us know how it goes.

Thanks to Amanda, Joe, Gavin, and Omar for playing!

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Jake Swearingen


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