When my Discord server first added Smilebot, everything seemed normal. It was a little widget that spewed emojis and told you what your mood was. When I returned to my Discord after a plane flight, competing corporate factions in our sever were at war with each other in a competition to craft materials and please faceless overlords.
Smilebot is the brain-child of Vancouver-based designer James Lantz and is marketed as an “antidepressant for your Discord community.” On the surface, it’s a silly bot where you can collect smiles and gamble with them. Ask and it might guess your mood or make a little dab emoji. It’s actually a game in disguise. If you’re into bizarre, ARG-esque competitions then I suggest tossing it into your Discord and keeping away from spoilers. Otherwise, read on.
Underneath Smilebot’s happy surface is a warren of micro-games and unceasing toil. Its presence in my server started simple and has only grown more complex, sprawling out like Frog Fractions into a competition that’s dominated my Discord. (It makes sense; James Lantz is the son of Frank Lantz, the creator of the absurd clicker game Universal Paperclips.)
I started playing Smilebot by collecting some free smiles and gambling them in our chat. After a handful of gambles, I was able to purchase upgrades and perks including “Benefits Packages” and “Mindboosters” that automatically produced smiles for me. Where I had been wasting time idly gambling smiles, I eventually started generating millions per minute. These could be spent on more and more perks, including taco parties that filled my DMs with taco emojis and a backdoor into the bot’s inner workings. Before I really understood what was happening I was assigned to the InnoLabs division of a nameless company—some friends were on my team, others were assigned to SecOps—and tasked with various mission, such as getting my friends to input random strings of numbers into chat. Eventually, I was digging through fake emails and playing a text adventure in my DMs.
That text adventure was a piece of strange social engineering. None of the actions I could perform made any progress. It turns out that I could only progress in the game if my friends input special chat commands into our Discord’s chat. For a while, I was stuck in a strange limbo, unable to move further into Smilebot’s labyrinthine plot until I figured out that I needed to manipulate my friends (some of whom had already endured this doomed adventure game) into typing the commands needed to break me out of the game.
Instead of returning to my smile harvesting, I was thrust into a new game where I would craft emojis and use them to write lines of code. I also needed to eat or drink in the game or else I would die and get a game over. This is where I’ve left off: replaying this numbing game, crafting more and more items, and trying to write more code so that my InnoLabs pals and I can overthrow SecOps’ lead. Why? I don’t know. Will this ever end? I don’t know. I might spend forever replaying a chatbot game for higher and higher scores in the hope that something, anything might happen.
Smilebot isn’t a happy little bot for your Discord community. It’s a sick social experiment that you drop on an ignorant population. Eventually, they will be gambling smiles and crafting useless emojis in a terrifying forever war. It’s a mixture of text game and ARG that is sure to turn any Discord upside down.