There are a handful of notorious online distractions you can always count on to kill your office's productivity. When employees' phones buzz at 3 p.m. and a game of HQ Trivia starts. Or when Kanye West goes on a Twitter rant

Now you can add another one to the list. This week marked the debut of The Word of the Day Is, a Slack game in which contestants try to guess a secret word on the workplace chat platform. Developed by Mschf Internet Studios, a creative firm based in New York City, the game had 500 people competing to win the $1,000 daily prize as of Wednesday afternoon. Because players can take as many guesses as they want--and because there are more than 171,476 words in the English language, according to the Oxford Dictionary--it can become a seriously addictive time waster. 

Erika Yost, a senior copywriter at the firm FCB West in San Francisco, submitted her email address to join The Word of the Day Is after getting a note about it from a colleague in her company's Slack channel. She spent part of her afternoon Tuesday brainstorming and typing in words. "I noticed about four of my colleagues were playing at once," Yost says.

At 6:55 p.m. Eastern, she typed in "inscrutable," and, bingo! It was the winning word. Subscribers to the Slack channel, #guess_here, were notified the game was over for the day.

Yost joked that being a writer by trade may have given her an advantage. "I know a lot of words," she says. 

On Monday, the first day The Word of the Day Is went live, just 40 people logged in, and no one guessed the word ("pasteurized") before midnight. It's growing fast--by Tuesday, the day Yost won, the player pool was up to 330. On Wednesday, more than 500 people joined.

John Urquhart, creative director at Praytell Agency, encountered The Word of the Day Is over social media, and shared it on Slack. He estimates that 20 to 30 of his colleagues were playing the game on Slack Tuesday.

Mschf usually works on unconventional brand campaigns--and occasionally creates something just for fun. There was the font that resembled a classic default serif font, but was about 10 percent wider: "Times Newer Roman" allowed students to forgo tinkering with their margins to fill a page-length-based assignment. The company also started a YouTube channel called Man Eating Food, in which a man eats any food users suggest--as an ice cream topping.

"We like to make good internet," says Ben Rosen, a VP of creative at Mschf. "Sometimes it's for brands and sometimes it's internal. This time it's internal."

The company is paying out the $1,000 awards itself to the first person who guesses the word of the day. Mschf would not reveal how the day's word is chosen, because, Rosen says, if it were to do so, "we'll go broke."

On the third day of play, Wednesday, the game ended at 3:22 p.m., when Jayson Vedad, a lecturer at the City University of New York, guessed "gastropub."

Yost said she has been paid her prize money already, over Venmo. She says she'll likely try again, and is curious to see how the game evolves. "I can imagine people teaming up--that would be fun," she says, noting that in her office, when HQ Trivia was new, people would pool their brainpower to win.

"It's just the type of internet phenomenon that you immediately want to try to figure out how deep it goes, and it has that fun lottery feel that's very conducive to workplace chatter," Urquhart says. 

Published on: Apr 24, 2019