The Scoop: F*ck, Marry, Kill is a game that people have often played at home with their friends. The idea is simple: Given three potential romantic partners, who would you sleep with, wed, or do away with? Portuguese tech company Build Up Labs decided to bring that game into the dating world by creating the FMK app. The unique twist is that potential matches aren’t acquaintances or celebrities. They’re other app users, and the designers added a matchmaking feature that pairs users who feel the same way about one another.

The premise of the real-life version of the F*ck, Marry, Kill game is simple. A person receives a list of names of three people to choose from, often celebrities, but they may also be friends or acquaintances who all the players know.

Next, the player has to select which of these individuals they would like to sleep with, marry, or kill. Making those choices isn’t supposed to be easy, and there isn’t usually a person who the player thinks deserves to be killed, for example.

But the choices are what make the game entertaining — and occasionally controversial.

Portuguese tech company Build Up Labs recognized the game’s universal appeal.

The FMK logo

The FMK dating app is a playful take on the classic game.

“One day, our team was playing F*ck, Marry, Kill with celebrity names, and one of our product managers started to imagine, ‘What would this game be like if we turned it into a digital experience?’” said Build Up Labs’ CEO Rui Gouveia.

Over the next few weeks, the team started thinking about how it could translate the fun of a face-to-face game into an online experience. The result was the exciting — and engaging — the FMK dating app.

Singles start by seeing three options,. Then they choose which ones they want to have sex with, marry, or “kill.” In the game, “kill” simply means a user won’t see that person on the app again.

When users receive a rating, it appears in their profile. For instance, if a user received 20 f*ck ratings, 30 marry ratings, and 15 kill ratings, other users would see those statistics.

When two users rate each other the same positive way — for instance, they would both marry one another — they are matched and can start chatting.

The FMK app brings an old game into the digital age and allows singles to have some fun while connecting with others.

Creating an Edgy Social Experiment

With a name as in-your-face as FMK, it’s no surprise that the app generated considerable buzz when it was released in 2016.

Here’s how the app describes its choices:

  • F*ck – “The one suitable for a one-night stand, and should only be introduced to your family if you want to piss them off.”
  • Marry – “This one’s good for the long term. Cute and all, and seems like a nice person.”
  • Kill – “Not even if you were the only two survivors of a zombie apocalypse. In fact, you would rather f*ck or marry a zombie.”

Many reviewers enjoy the non-traditional nature of the app. Thrillist enjoyed the element of fun and adventure in the app. As writer Gigi Engle said, “Wouldn’t it be fun if we could play a game while finding a potential mate? FMK is the dating app to awaken your inner mean girl!”

The app is tongue in cheek and is certainly not supposed to be taken literally. The kill option doesn’t mean that a user wants to go on a murderous rampage. Instead, these three choices are just a playful way of declaring an interest — or lack of interest — in other users.

Rui said he enjoyed the spirited discussion that arose after the app was released. Some of the more negative views of the app even served to drive interest in FMK, not drive people away.

“Three months after launching, a journalist reviewed the app and presented a darker view of FMK,” Rui told us. “Even though we did not agree with that view, it generated even more buzz, and a couple of days later, we had more than 50,000 users on the platform, having fun with the game and meeting new people.”

Younger Users Have Fun with the App’s Gamified Premise

The Build Up Labs team spent a lot of time developing the FMK app — available on Android or the web — so it would appeal to a broad demographic of users. Even while the team continued to refine the app, users were already enjoying the beta version of the gamified dating platform.

“People were having fun with each other and asking if they could share with their friends. That was evidence enough that we had something to move forward,” Rui said.

Soon after FMK’s official launch, Rui’s team noticed that most users were younger — specifically, many were college students. And users didn’t always behave as they would on other dating platforms. While many users engaged privately on other dating apps, FMK spurred them to connect with their real-world acquaintances. That’s because FMK users were much more likely to use the app with their friends and social circles.

Screenshots of the FMK app

The FMK app puts users in control and matches those who choose each other.

FMK developers created features specifically for their primary users — college students who engage with their friends on the app.

“Since universities were our main target, we developed a University Challenge where we would rank schools based on their level of hotness based on votes. That created a fun competition between universities and also a viral effect,” Rui said.

That paid off and encouraged more young users to start playing the game. The app also continued to amass reviews, and that attention encouraged more users to flock to the app.

That network effect, in which users sign up for the app because their friends have, also helps the app attract a wider user base.

FMK: Encouraging Singles to View Online Dating Differently

The FMK app gives singles more to think about than simply swiping right or left. When presented with three people, they have to put them into three categories.

Plenty of users enjoy this kind of gamified matching platform. After all, telling a stranger that you want to marry them — as a joke, of course — can take some of the pressure off of a first date.

For example, if two users indicate they would marry each other, they’re greeted with a humorous message: “By the power vested in me, I pronounce you wife and husband. You can use the chat to emoji kiss the groom.”

After three years in operation, FMK has generated fans — and a few naysayers. But Build Up Labs is hardly finished with its popular foray into the dating market.

Build Up Labs wants to grow FMK’s base of young American users after finding success in markets around the world.

“We believe the concept will have the biggest impact in the United States. That’s why we are looking for an investor or partnership to help us conquer the American university market,” Rui told us.

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