There's word on the street

May 24, 2023

I’ve recently been playing… (well, I was, before health things and international travel and exams got in the way)…

…a new game called Words on the Street. It’s a clever little phenomenon - a “massively multiplayer online word game streamed over Twitch”. It plays out similar to a bespoke Jackbox game; you sit in Twitch chat, playing word games competitively. Two teams, red and blue. Play four rounds to try to gain an advantage for the final knockout.

I really like it! It’s the sort of idea that seems extremely obvious seen in action, until you start to think about all of the machinery under the hood, spinning all the plates. Players sit in Twitch chat, goofing around and chatting with their team members and the developers, and type in words for each of the rounds. It all sounds extremely simple, but… well, you try thinking of words which fit certain constraints, while racing against a dozen other people doing the same thing. Some of the games have surprising quirks, too, which rewards understanding of how the game is put together.

It’s all masterfully done, with multiple hand-curated wordlists for different things (stricter wordlists for words generated by the game, but more expansive wordlists for accepted player inputs). The games are also getting adjusted over time to account for player feedback. Today, they nerfed that damned word ladder game, so if a team is stuck on a letter for twenty seconds, they get a new one. Any other rough edges are seemingly getting slowly sanded off over time.

Often simple word games like this fall victim to the numerous online tools which exist online to find words fitting constraints. But Words on the Street’s competitive nature means that taking the time to pull out nutrimatic or qat or OneLook will put you far behind the pack. And the audience is good, too; I jump in for a game or two every few days, but there are those who play day on day, and they get quick. The skill floor is low, but the ceiling is high.

The developers are also promising to add more content over time. Generally a few bug fixes come in, each day, but they’re promising to add a new game to the rotation soon…

Oh, and there are virtual rewards. If you care about that sort of thing.

If I have any complaints, it’s these: firstly, that the stream time is pretty hostile to my current timezone (they start at 5:30am NZT, and generally stream for about three hours each day, which means that I have to get up early to catch games). Secondly, that Twitch’s combined lag and advertisement requirements somewhat hamper the flow of the game. It’s not great to be perpetually five seconds behind every other player, especially when some of the timers are pretty tight. And a twenty-second advertisement is bad no matter how you slice it.

Yes, you can fix it with an ad-blocker. (I don’t watch Twitch, aside from the occasional Foggy Brume stream.) But a game shouldn’t require people to download third-party plugins or programs like that.

Regardless, I’m very excited about Words on the Street, and keen to see how it grows. The trello board for new changes is publicly accessible, so anyone who wants to see upcoming games can go look at it. Personally, though, I’m keeping myself unspoiled.

You can watch the trailer for Words on the Street here (see if you can spot my name!), and you can join the games here, when they’re live. They seem to stream at 1:30pm Eastern Time, every day.