How to Play Instagram’s Secret Emoji Game

Instagram has introduced a new way to waste time on the app. Tapping an emoji in your direct messages turns it into an entertaining mini-game.
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Social media is designed to keep you scrolling, but we all have a limit on how many reels we can binge in one sitting. If you’re looking for a new way to waste your time on Instagram, check out this hidden feature in your DMs. As TechCrunch reports, the app quietly added a secret game to its messaging feature that users can play on their own.

To try out Instagram’s new mini-game for yourself, go to the messaging tab in the app and open a direct message. You can launch the feature by either sending an emoji in the chat or digging through your message history to find one you sent already. Tap the emoji once to launch a new screen with a counter in the center and a black bar at the bottom. As the emoji you tapped bounces around the box, move the bar with your finger to stop it from reaching the bottom edge. The counter will keep track of every save you make, and if you feel like playing multiple times you can see your high score in the top-right corner of the page.

The gameplay isn’t that innovative; anyone who has played Breakout or Pong will be familiar with the simple mechanics. The most unique aspect is the “ball” that’s being bounced. You can make the game work with any emoji in your keyboard, so now’s the time to play around with your favorite underused symbols—just be prepared to tell your friend why you sent them a random fondue pot emoji in the middle of the night. If you’d rather not explain what you’re doing to another person, Lifehacker recommends using one of the app’s AI chatbots to trigger the game. 

This isn’t the first time Meta has added a solo activity to a direct messaging feature. In 2016, Facebook users discovered they could challenge their friends to a chess match in Messenger by typing “@fbchess play” into the chat. You’re still wasting time on social media, but the games feel slightly better for your brain than mindless scrolling.

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