Television game shows have made dating a form of entertainment for the masses for decades. Now the phenomenon has moved online - and anyone can play.
I was so nervous to even say, 'Hi'. The first time I saw him dqting, my heart told me. But viceo on a bit further and it becomes apparent that this is a love story with a very modern twist: "I think the thing that caught my attention was how he made everyone in his stream feel important and welcomed. Not one comment was missed. He made everyone feel like they had a purpose in his stream.
Users broadcast live from their phones and then interact with people who tune in. This live vlogging format includes a series of live dating game shows. Livestreamers are paired up to see if there is any chemistry between them. Viewers comment on a "stream" underneath, in real time.
In fact quite a bit of the date can involve participants responding to these comments - a bit gideo, but handy when the conversation fhat dry. Ericka began as what's known as a "lurker". She watched Lex's dates. Liking what she saw, she plucked up the courage to comment. Then she put herself forward for the "guest box", meaning she herself would have a video date with him - while others watched on.
Ericka and Lex are not the only couple to have got together this way.
Neither had been on other dating sites before, but they didn't come on the platform with the intention of "dating", they say. They datjng wanted to "stream" and meet people.
Haley started streaming "to share my positive energy". She watched popular livestreamers for inspiration and saw Kevan.
Like Ericka, she appreciated the way she could see how Kevan behaved with different types of people on the app, which gave her a measure of him as a person. When they met for the first time offline, in Orlando, Florida, Haley says it was "a dream come true". God has blessed me in so many ways, but Lve is my favourite prayer that he has answered. Sometimes they even take part in "dates" with other people, on the understanding that "nothing can go beyond a crush".
Between them they have more than 15 million users and on averagedating games are played each day, with more than one million people watching the live daing unfold - mainly in the US, though some in the UK too. The group's chief executive Geoff Cook describes the platforms as "a public version of speed dating" and compares them to Twitch, where huge audiences watch computer gamers play and interact with their favourite stars.
You buy a virtual gift like you would buy someone a drink at a bar, to get that person's attention, explains Cook.
Most users are there to flirt, have fun and find a real-life partner in their locality. Some users are also there to harass and leave lewd comments.
So the livestreams are monitored by both human moderators and computer software, searching for abusive language. Lockdown has accelerated that trend, making people accustomed to live video calls for remote work and keeping in touch with family members, he reckons.
The of dating games being played on the apps has nearly doubled since lockdown. Voyeurism "It's fascinating to think where the live video dating trend came from," says dating expert Charly Lester. It first got big in China with the Momo app, she says, even videl the country has such a different culture to the US.
Lester wrote a popular dating blog in London for many years and has since worked as a consultant for dating companies. She is not surprised by the rise of live video dating and the voyeurism that goes with it. There is still a little bit of a stigma around dating sites and the "gamification" of it helps to get round this, she thinks. Lester reckons live dating with an audience is a new trend that will prove popular beyond specialist apps like MeetMe, though more formal dating platforms, which use detailed questionnaires to match people, may resist it.
Plenty of Fish is a mainstream dating site currently offering live dating experiences. Badoo also recently experimented with the idea. Instagram Live Meanwhile, some aspiring dating stars are using other social media platforms to create their own live dating shows.
Urszula Makowska, 25, was growing increasingly disillusioned with New York's online dating scene. The fashion blogger was ready to give up on apps like Tinder, but lockdown proved a turning point. Her friends decided - with her consent - to find some eligible bachelors, then set up a series of live dates on Instagram, using her. A few other influencers had broadcast dates this way too and dating app Bumble had created a weekly chat show on Instagram Live called Virtual Vifeo Dial In.
Some men declined the date with Urszula when they learned it would be broadcast live. Urszula says the feedback has changed her approach to dating. She learned that she often cuts men off mid-sentence and is now a better listener. She also learned to be more open-minded about the kind of person she was looking for. She is after all a social media influencer, who grows more powerful as her audience increases. Post-date analysis Since the outbreak of coronavirus people are no longer satisfied with "a shallow interaction like swiping and a handful of text messages", says Geoff Cook of the Meet Group.
Video has become by eating a way to filter out people you have met on apps, to decide who you actually want to meet in person, he says.
But broadcasting these video dates themselves, as entertainment to spectators, is that not a little, well, shallow? The usual criticism of dating apps is the datinng of choice, says Cook. This makes people restless and unlikely to commit to a relationship. Observing how someone behaves in a livestream means you get to know the person better, he says.
Asked if they would be happy to tell any future grandchildren that they met on a live online date, Haley says: "Everyone's scared or embarrassed to say we met on Tinder, or whatever, because they think people use these apps for chzt reasons, but this is our truth so it's what we're going to say. I xhat committed to being single, and she changed that. And mature daters want in on the action too.
Lorna is 62 and lives in Edinburgh where she works as a PA. She is a divorcee with children and grandchildren and is still looking for love.