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April 20, 2017

Zynga’s iMessage game will have you searching for the perfect GIF response

by John_A

Why it matters to you

Zynga’s newest app is a neat, quick game you can enjoy with friends, centered on the time-honored internet tradition of GIF sharing.

If modern messaging services and social media have taught us one thing, it’s that there is a GIF for every occasion. Zynga seems to think so too, as the longtime mobile developer has based its latest game on that very premise.

It’s called GIFs Against Friends and it works similarly to party games like Cards Against Humanity and Quiplash — with the added hilarity of looping animations. One player selects a prompt or writes their own, and then others anonymously respond with GIFs. The judge selects whichever they deem the best, and then you’re on to the next round.

Zynga was one of the first developers to embrace the iMessage App Store introduced alongside iOS 10 last fall with a new version of Words Against Friends. Since then, the company has released a collection of minigames as well, but GIFs Against Friends looks uniquely well suited for the emerging platform.

“We had been working on the iMessage platform for a few months,” Mark Kantor, general manager at Zynga, told Digital Trends, “and we were thinking about ‘what are the things that people are already doing within messaging?’”

The company noted enthusiasm surrounding GIFs, and set out to build a game that utilized them while also being “inherently social.” The result? Up to 32 friends can join the battle for GIF supremacy in a single iMessage group chat. Unsurprisingly, that can create some pretty hectic exchanges.

“Often times, people in high school and college specifically have really big groups within iMessage,” Kantor said. “[The game] often leads to really funny conversations and obviously if there’s 10, 20, or 30 people in that conversation, then I think things can get pretty exciting.”

To allow GIFs Against Humanity to work as intended, however, Zynga needed to make sure the app was serving up the perfect GIFs in response to players’ search terms. Enter Tenor, a company that specializes in GIF curation and supplies its know-how and insights to various clients, from Facebook to Google, Kik, and Apple. For GIFs Against Humanity, the partnership made perfect sense.

“We’ve tried using a number of different [GIF search] services,” Kantor said. “[Tenor] somehow managed to get the emotions, and hit the nail right on the head.”

Tenor attributes the power of its solution to an understanding of how emotions relate to content in the context of messaging, particularly over mobile devices. To Tenor’s co-founder and CEO, David McIntosh, GIFs are merely another language of communication — albeit one that we usually only encounter when we’re texting a friend or sharing a post.

“Traditionally we’ve been hyper-focused on mobile messaging,” McIntosh said. “This is a really interesting partnership for us because it extends that visual language that we’re building to more of a gaming use case.”

While the iMessage App Store has stumbled a little out the gate — due to what many pundits, developers, and users alike have called a confusing interface that makes it difficult to find the software you’re looking for — Kantor believes there is massive potential for apps that manage to enhance the group chat experience.

“I think that the games that are gonna end up being the best within a messenger, they will probably be different games than the ones that stand alone in the App Store,” Kantor said. “The games that we’re seeing most success are the ones that really fit into the conversation. People don’t necessarily want to spend a minute to have the game load, and then spend ten minutes on a turn. They want something that’s going to be really snappy and not pull them away from the conversation, but actually make the conversation better.”

GIFs Against Friends is available now for free on the iMessage App Store.




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