I’m a “bad” Tinder user. I downloaded the app sometime during my sophomore year of college in 2016, and since then, I’ve swiped in countless geographic locations, been on one (1) Tinder date, and had five or fewer conversations that lasted longer than three messages (one of them was comprised entirely of Avatar: The Last Airbender GIFs, which dubiously counts).
For me, Tinder has always been a game with no concrete purpose. At first, it was a low-stakes way for me to explore my newly realized bisexuality. Now, it’s a source of idle entertainment and a way to kill time by swiping and imagining potential relationships. The fact remains that swiping and matching are fun on their own, and something that I’ve been happy to do for the past three years without making any concerted efforts to go farther.
Swipe Night is supposed to lower the conversation hurdle, but in the end, it just felt like another layer of my already gamified Tinder experience. Each person’s profile is already flush with data: if someone diligently fills in all the boxes, a glance will tell me their age, gender, profession, what kind of music they listen to, the kind of relationship they’re looking for, and if they’re basic (“The Office and chill??” and/or a fish holding pic). At a certain point, knowing if they picked up a first aid kit rather than a bag of Cheetos at the ransacked convenience store in this fake apocalypse scenario doesn’t tell me much. That said, it was still fun seeing what other people had chosen, but only within the parameters of Tinder being a fun game in and of itself.
Luckily, Swipe Night‘s story actually does stand on its own. At its core, the series is all about the desire to find human connection in the face of impending doom. I didn’t really get this until the final moments: my choices led me to the “Puppy Bunker” ending, in which I rode out the impact with Rico Nasty (who guest starred throughout the series) in, yes, a bunker full of puppies. I felt jealous seeing people who had gotten the “Love For The Homies” ending in which you, Graham, and Lucy join Molly on a dock to ride out the apocalypse together. My survival felt hollow knowing that the friends I had spent the entire series trying to reconnect with were dead.
If you read too much into it, there’s a message there about learning how to prioritize and find meaning in your relationships in the chaotic digital age. Taking it at face value, though, Swipe Night manages to foster genuine character attachment in bite-sized pieces of content that are, first and foremost, part of an elaborate marketing scheme. It also lends a bit of ethos to the short form content we’ll see on experimental streaming service Quibi, which includes gimmicky series like Spielberg’s After Dark, which will only be available to watch when it’s, uh, dark outside. Ultimately, Swipe Night manages to spoof the demographic it’s targeting (users ages 18-25) without feeling like it’s pandering, and hits a surprisingly empathetic note in its final stages. And in the end, it did get me back on the app, swiping away.