The way I explain Telegram to people is that it’s basically WhatsApp without any of the overhanging Facebook privacy intrusion. Telegram has been my favorite messaging client for a couple of years now, and this week it’s added a very simple, highly addictive new ability: games. It’s delivered via a new @GameBot account, which lets me either play by myself or link up directly to a friend and compete at achieving the highest score. Yes, the dreaded "bot" buzzword is present, but if you just ignore the trendiness of the branding, it’s an ingenious addition.
Starting off small with just three games from its GameBot, Telegram is prioritizing quality over quantity. Corsairs is a fun object-dodging game, MathBattle forces you to do mental arithmetic against a timer, and Lumberjacks is a hugely satisfying away to kill time while chopping trees. There’s also a bunch more games from Telegram partner Gamee, and "hundreds" more are promised. I can't vouch for the quality of the rest, but Telegram's own games are wonderfully simple and fun. Impressively, Corsairs took only five hours to code and MathBattle was done in three. Perfect snack-sized gaming that’s as easy to develop as it is to play.
Telegram’s greatest appeal is its speed and reliability, and the new GameBot builds on those strengths. As the company’s announcement explains, "the new Gaming Platform requires 0 bytes of disk space and won’t add a single byte to the size of our apps." All games are built in HTML5 and are requested just like any web page. Telegram does store your high scores across chats, so you can use a win against one friend to dominate all the others as well.
To play Telegram’s new games, you’ll need at least an iPhone 4 or an Android 4.4 device along with the latest version of the app, v3.13.