Facebook got me hooked on Messenger with a simple basketball game

I’m totally addicted to Facebook Messenger‘s latest feature, a simple basketball game that might have been cutting edge for the Internet back in 2006 but looks pretty basic by today’s standards. Maybe this is just a case of the lazy Fridays, but I have a feeling there’s something bigger going on.

In case you missed it, here’s how the game works: First, open a Messenger conversation and send someone the basketball emoji, then tap the emoji to launch the game. To score, flick your finger to shoot the ball into a hoop. Your score drops back to zero each time you miss, and the better you do the harder it gets.

Simple, right?

The first time I played was for work. I was writing a quick how-to article and decided to grab a few screenshots showing the new Messenger feature in action. I launched the game inside a conversation with my cousin, scored three or four points and assumed that was it. I was wrong.

A few minutes later my cousin responded, mocking my embarrassingly low score. Taking the bait, I tried again and managed to score ten points. The basket started to move back and forth. “This is fun,” I thought after finally missing for a high score of 12.

Before I knew it, I had raised my high score past 20 points. I was competing with multiple friends in one-on-one matches and in a few group chats. I even started Messenger conversations with friends I hadn’t spoken to in months just so I could show off my skills.

Without much effort, Facebook probably doubled, tripled or even quadrupled the amount time I would have spent in its chat app today, and that’s not just dumb luck. The company wants us to spend as much of our lives as possible inside its apps, and games like this help push user engagement figures. Facebook Messenger may seem like a simple messaging service, but it’s quickly becoming a platform where you watch videos, shop and play games with friends.

Of course, the more time you spend inside Messenger, the more data Facebook collects and the more money it can potentially make. But, as long as the company keeps offering fun little experiences like this, you won’t hear me complaining.

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