There is an ongoing discussion at our house about how much time one spouse may reasonably expect the other spouse to devote to playing Words with Friends, the Scrabble-based wordie addiction. What is important to remember is that certain of the previous words are interchangeable: replace “discussion” with “interrogation” and “devote” with “obsess over,” and you’ll be able to grasp hold of the notion that Words with Friends Police lurk everywhere.
The problem lies in the fact that I am a writer, which to my mind provides an ideal excuse to stew, muddle, puzzle, and linger over, not to mention contemplate and dwell upon, the optimal use for the seven letters of the alphabet the game allots me on each move.
“I am working!” I firmly tell Dr. K when, at eleven o’clock at night he suggests that this is not the very best time to be playing games on my cellphone. “This is not a game,” I stress. “This is a mind exercise — I’m expanding my vocabulary.”
It isn’t as if he’s immune to the addiction; plenty of times you’ll find the two of us in a bar, sipping martinis, playing Words with Friends. We still speak to (and with) each other; it just happens to be in the context of — “So, I’ve got two ‘a’s,’ three ‘i’s’, a ‘v’ and a ‘c.’ What do you think I could do with those?”
Anyone worth their weight in salt — or anyone who has been endorsed as a ‘J-Master’ by the Invisible Powers That Be at the similarly invisible WWF headquarters run by Zynga — knows there is nothing worse than being dealt the ‘v’ or ‘c.’ They are the party animals. They always have to invite friends over, and one is never enough. There are no two-letter words (at least allowed by the WWF Police) containing the ‘v’ or ‘c.’ Bluntly put, being dealt the ‘v’ or ‘c’ is a pain in the ass. Even ‘x’, ‘q’, and ‘z’ are easier to manage. They don’t require constant sociability.
The driving force behind all this obsession is WWF’s promotional contacts with its game players, creating a Society of Addiction by sending registered players frequent emails and text notices, just in case we happened to forget about playing the game — or broadening our minds — the description is up to you. I’ve been informed that I am not only a Master of the letter ‘J’, meaning I’ve played that letter more than 50 times, but I have also earned a Master’s Degree in ‘Q’, ‘X’, and ‘Z.’ If that doesn’t get your heart thumping with the pride of accomplishment, I’ve also been informed that I’m a Game Changer (playing a word over 50 points), belong to the Plus 35 Club (use all seven tiles at once), and despite my age, I am a Millennial (having played my 1000th move). With the exception of the Triple Aces designation (possessing three ‘a’s’ in your tile rack, which I can’t imagine is a desirable status unless you wanted to play the word “aardvark”) all of these titles, clubs, and awards lead me to believe that I most likely do play too much.
I’m not alone in this. A recent calculation upon WWF’s fifth anniversary found that over the last five years, we’ve hooked together 58 billion words, consisting of 217 billion letters, enough to wrap the earth 5.4 times. With 13.5 billion feet of tiles in over 7.7 million games, that’s a lot of mind-blowing activity, wouldn’t you agree?
But what I want to know is why is it necessary to keep tabs on we players? And if they did, wouldn’t it be much better to monitor the number of stabs we make at inventing new words? What if the Words with Friends Police designated a new Club for creativity?
WWF is all about perfecting your shuffle: how many letters can you jostle around the board until one of them hits the Zynga-approved jackpot. It’s all about winging it and experimentation, something at which the nearly eighty-years-old board version of Scrabble looks down it’s nose. There are no second chances in the real Scrabble. There are also numerous hypocritical rules mandated by the Zynga lexicon (let’s call it the Zyngionary to make things simpler). Why is it that some abbreviations are just fine, when others are shunned? The Zyngionary permits “meth”, a colloquial abbreviation, but bans “IV” and “TV”, which are proportionately less harmless.
That’s why I’d like to propose a new algorithm, one that would keep track of our misfires. How many times have you played a word that you know is valid (and it’s in the dictionary) only to be the recipient of a gigantic raspberry by the Words with Friends Police that, no, you are incorrect. The word may exist (Merriam-Webster and the venerable Oxford English Dictionary told me so) but not according to Zynga, the Managers of WWF. But go ahead and try again.
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