A familiar modern scenario: You spend hours in matchmaking waiting to get picked for a quick game of Halo, but see no results. You’re swiping right all day on Tinder, but nobody swipes back. In the 21st century, browsing for dates can seem a lot like being stuck while looking for matches in a multiplayer game lobby. Even when you’re itching to play, you can’t get started until the game shows you a match you might be interested in.
Comparisons between dating and gaming are commonplace in modern culture, and thanks to a recent profile on Tinder from Fast Company, it turns out this connection is less superficial than many might think. Just as more matches become available when a Call of Duty player “ranks up,” Tinder queues mysteriously start to fill with prospects when the app’s users deem you “more desirable.” So how does this happen?
According to its CEO, Jonathan Badeen, Tinder uses a variation of ELO scoring to determine how members rank among the site’s userbase, and therefore, which profiles to suggest and whose queues profiles show up in. Invented by the physics professor Arpad Elo to determine rankings among chess players, ELO assigns ranks by judging players’ presumed skill levels against each other. If two players with the same ELO rank play each other, their rank should stay the same regardless of the outcome of the match, to reflect their similar skill level. If a player with a high ELO rank plays a lower-ranked player, though, then the system uses the difference between their ELO scores to recalibrate their rankings.