If you’ve got a mobile device of some sort that can run the Words with Friends application, then there’s a chance that you’re as hooked on this game as I am. WWF is essentially Scrabble by another name. But since it plays out in the Wild West (my own name for the internet and/or wireless network that connects us all globally), you’re playing matches against many people whom you don’t know. Sure, you can also play against your friends or acquaintances–one of you has to search for the other’s WWF screen name and then initiate a match. But you can also look at the app’s Facebook page where users often post their screen names. Or you can do like I do and let the app search for a random player who happens to be online at the same time as I am (I found my favorite opponent this way; I play with him/her almost exclusively).
Let’s face it–it’s not easy in this day and age to find an ideal opponent in a game that makes decent use of one’s mind. By ideal, I mean someone who’s as intelligent as you–or more so, hence encouraging you to get better–and someone who’s no-maintenance. We lead busy, complicated lives and live in homes with “open floorplans” where all our crap is laid out for all to see. Today, inviting someone over is no longer receiving them in your pretty little parlor room for a round of chess or bridge; it often means putting laundry away and mopping the floors and emptying the sink and preparing a meal: stuff you might not feel like doing right this moment.
Enter WWF. You make your move on the board at your convenience; your opponent makes a different move at his/her convenience. You check in whenever you’d like and play according to your own schedule. Matches can go on for days. How lovely and low-key. Whenever I know I’ll be traveling and won’t be able to check in or play for a few days, I tell my one opponent over the chat function. We never carry on long conversations, but we always wish each other safe travels and congratulate each other on off-the-chart point combinations.
I’m a decent player. I don’t cheat–apparently there are apps where you can plug in your letters and the app will tell you the best point combination, don’t see the point in playing this way. I am, however, the occasional “plugger.” On the WWF Facebook page, it reads the following: “according to the Texas Rangers baseball team, a plugger is a player who, without penalty, throws down made-up words at the board until one of them sticks.’ I’ve done this, and I argue that it’s NOT cheating since it’s coming from my own brain. If this word I’ve never heard of gets accepted on the board, I promptly look it up in the dictionary and add it to my vocabulary.
You’ll find a bit of everything and every kind of sportsmanship in the WWF corner of the Wild West: obsessive players, not-too-bright players, ultra-smarties, and sore losers who will resign the game if they see you’re doing much better than they are, or who accuse you of cheating if you put a word on the board that they’ve never heard of. Of course, a game or sport–even a seemingly innocuous one like Words with Friends– is just another arena in life where we display our best or worst qualities.