I like playing the Words with Friends online Scrabble game knockoff. Words with Friends is an offering of the San Francisco company Zynga. Trying to fit new words into existing patterns with randomly assigned letter tiles is fun and challenging. Playing online with my kids and work friends is like having brief playdates throughout the day.
Two aspects which make the phone application game almost as frustrating as it is fun are the ridiculous dictionary and cheaters. The Words with Friends dictionary tries to be politically correct using a strange version of inoffensiveness that ends up being as bizzare as it is ineffective. Standard words such as “Jew” and “Arab” are both banned but also rejected are words such as moa which are life savers in Scrabble. Is someone offended by extinct flightless birds? Maybe “moa” is a curse word somewhere?
Then there are the cheaters. When playing the Scrabble game in our family, it is OK to use a dictionary to check the spelling of a word after the tiles are placed on the board and the player’s turn is over. However, using a dictionary in advance to look up which word to play is unacceptable. Playing Words with Friends, it soon becomes clear when your opponent is cheating. An Internet search for the phrase “‘words with friends’ cheat” yields 911,000 hits, including web sites called “Words with Friends Cheat” and “Lexical Word Finder” and “Scrabulizer – Scrabble Solver” and “Scrabble Word Finder”. I am currently losing a game in which my opponent has played the acceptable-but-improbable words voicer, regrate, rawin, duded, aulder, lieus, and exon to his great advantage in scoring. My recourse is never to play with him again and to think poorly of his sportsmanship hereafter. Where’s the fun in that?
Image Copyright 2011 by Katy Dickinson