I know I’m not the only one who struggles to find the next bit of media to consume. I open up Netflix and seem to spend more time looking for something to watch than I do actually watching. It’s not that there’s a shortage of series or movies on there, but rather that I’m often unsure what I might like. I read the short blurb or look at the picture and seem to scroll for eternity. Eventually I find something I love, but once I finish it, I feel like it’s back to square one. Netflix recommendations are sometimes okay, but often really weird and inaccurate, which is why I end up going by word of mouth or other means of finding my next thing to binge.
The same is true for me when it comes to books. I have an Amazon wishlist (I’m a kindle reader) that I try to load up with books as I find them, but it can be hard to find something I think I’ll like. I recently joined Good Reads, which seems to help, but I’m always looking for the next title I could enjoy. Supposedly, there’s an app for that – itcher.
The premise of itcher is quite simple – rate five pieces of media and they can start giving recommendations. You can search for the games, music, movies, series or books, or you can just scroll through whatever is trending. The more you rate, the better the recommendations will be. It’s fairly standard recommendation algorithm stuff, so I decided to give it a whirl.
I have tried out the gaming, movies, series and books categories. Sadly, there is no cross referencing in the app, which I think is my biggest source of disappointment. If you look at my choice of books, series, games and movies, you might see a few trends appearing in terms of stories, characters and genres that I enjoy. Unfortunately, no parallels are drawn between the different media, meaning I had to not only like all the books in the Witcher series, but then go like the games as well. I know it’s not that big a deal, but it would have been a unique approach to recommendation algorithms if that kind of cross referencing happened.
Looking at each medium individually, it seems the recommendation powers vary widely. The TV and Movie recommendations were very generic. I didn’t see anything on my list of recommendations that doesn’t show up by default on media streaming services. Maybe everyone will like Narcos, Weeds and The Simpsons, but it ends up feeling like a cop out for a recommendations application. Books fared a bit better – I kept getting recommended to read books I’d already read and loved, speeding up the process of finding more titles I’d enjoy. However, again some of the recommendations ended up feeling a bit generic; just because someone likes classics like 1984 and The Hound of the Baskervilles doesn’t mean they will also like All Quiet on the Western Front.
The worst were the game recommendations as the app doesn’t seem to differentiate between platforms. Say that you liked Shadow of Mordor on PS4? Why don’t you play it on PS3! You liked the Witcher on PC? Go play it on Xbox 360! Or buy the Collector’s Edition. Obviously it’s just a poorly refined feed of game release details, but I was so very unimpressed with the game recommendations.
The interface of the app is excellent and intuitive, though. They clearly have some excellent app developers on board, I simply think they need to do more to work with other platforms. Imagine if they allowed you to authorize Good Reads, Amazon, Netflix, Steam and the PSN to talk to the app? Then it could pull all your purchases into the algorithm and maybe even cross-reference and realize that you’re the kind of person who likes reading about war and playing shooters and strategy games, or the kind of person who prefers high fantasy and science fiction across all media. Maybe that is too much to ask, but this point, itcher doesn’t offer anything unique enough to make it a must-try app for finding your next piece of enjoyable entertainment.