You reap what you sow, as they say.
Zynga is putting out a sort of follow-up today to their incredibly popular, incredibly addictive Words With Friends mobile game. But where Words With Friends was the perfect melding of a puzzle game that made you think and the social exuberance of going up against your friends, GIFs Against Friends feels like the Idiocracy version that we probably totally deserve in this year, 2017, the year of imitation humor.
We’re obsessed with memes and GIFs, and GIFs Against Friends trades in that obsession. The game is played out in iMessages. One player, the judge of that round, selects a prompt and the other players have to offer up their best reactionary GIF. The judge picks the "best" GIF, a la Cards Against Humanity, and boom, you have a game.
Let’s put aside the soulless victory in "competitive" games like this that deal in when they reduce your win to one person’s arbitrary opinion. And while the lack of depth to this concept was its first fault, that fact that every GIF is locked behind an in-game price tag is worse. You start with the helpful offerings of "angry" and "happy" reactions and are soon thereafter gifted with "dogs," which, considering the audience of coworkers I played the game with, that was at least fitting. But that means you have to actually invest time in the game, working with a small set of binary options, before more GIFs open up to you.
Then there’s the seriously bad UI design that’s hard to navigate, too.
This is a mess.
Its saving grace is that you can enter your own prompt rather than using the cringey standard-issue ones they provide.
Ultimately, the reason why we have a game like GIFs Against Friends is because we’ve traded originality for familiarity.
Look, I’m certainly not above using a well-placed GIF or an absolutely appropriate meme when the occasion calls for it. But we’ve clearly made the format far too accessible, and too many people have caught on to our obsessions. Even the most serious of topics aren’t safe from the GIF and meme treatment, and now they’re invading our sacred video games where the format is basically copy/pasted without much substance.
And yet, it does speak to our current culture. You can’t open Instagram without seeing everyone link out to the same salt bae image with some new, textual connotation. That one salty reaction GIF seems like it’s attached to every tweet out there. And your FB feed is probably filled with the same five United Airlines jokes.
And with that, I leave you with the summary of my feelings about this game, using an outdated meme for maximum appropriateness.
So, if you’re still curious, the game is available now on iOS. It’s free, but it does have a cost.