Friday, September 09, 2011

The Friday Facebook Fing : Words With Friends

Facebook, contrary to popular opinion, is more than just a way to annoy your friends. Of course the option to tell a whole bunch of people who really couldn't care any less how sexy your name is is there should you want it, and it is surprising how many do, but for many of us this constant bombardment of inconsequentia and triviality grates somewhat. And, I choose my words carefully. I say grates, because I would in fact rather be vigorously massaged with a cheesegrater than subject myself to the daily arguments of people who I don't actually remember going to school with.

Amongst the contacts of any discerning Facebook user, there are obvious groups. There are those who you were forced to add because they are family or you have known them forever. There are those who you wonder why you added them at all, due to their obsession with posting Adele Youtube videos. And then, if you are lucky, there are those who you LIKE! It is this third group that I would like to focus on today. Because, today the game we are going to play is Words With Friends.

There is only one word needed to describe the entire concept of Words With Friends, which is yet another brick in the wall that Zynga appears to be building around the entire social/casual gaming world. And that word would be Scrabble. In everything except name, this is Scrabble Online. Which means 7 tiles, take it in turns to place them on a board, and swear loudly when you draw out three letter I's.

What would You do?
Scrabble is one of the board gaming world's true success stories. It could be said that a Scrabble board is a household necessity, and at the very least you would expect one to be in the houses of all but the Jeremy Kyle guest classes. It is a game that anyone can play and have fun with, but can fall apart because it may go on a little longer than you would ultimately want it to. Further, the need to have a dictionary on hand to solve debates can lead to arguments. I personally would have no qualms whatsoever about accepting the word "PWNED", but sadly Messrs Chambers, Collins, and Oxford outrank me in this respect.

Taking the game online has many benefits. The most obvious one is that it is impossible for the dog to eat your J. Without a board to look after, the setup and tidyup times are non-existent. Log on, play, log off. Also, there is greater flexibility as to the time that you can play, because the turns are stored on the server. At time of writing, your correspondent is in the midst of at least 5 games with various friends, some of whom are on the other side of the pond. Try doing THAT with the home version! Games may last several days, broken down into tiny slices of time spent staring at a virtual plastic tray shuffling seven vowels around desperately trying to find a word better than "AT" for 2 points.

I should point out that as this is on the internet that it runs in that awful "English Lite", or "American English", or even "English for the stupid" that they use over there. So, be aware when playing any trans-Atlantic games that there will be plenty of perfectly acceptable words that will make the in-game parser cry.

It is SO a word!

This is one that originally started out life as an iPhone app, and it proved so successful that the big boys decided that they wanted a piece. The good news is that they have maintained the iPhone connectivity, so it is possible to play it on the move as well. Originally there was an ad-supported free version and a paid-for 'Pro' version, but the Facebook game doesn't offer this distinction. You will get to see ads in your face between every couple of turns, but they never last long and are so irrelevant that you instantly forget them. They are intrusive, as you have to wait to click the "I DON'T FUCKING CARE SKIP THIS SHIT NOW" button, but also don't leave any sour impression. This is an improvement on the iPhone ads, which took over the phone for several seconds at a time.

Ultimately, the true strength of the game depends upon the depth of quality in your contacts. If you have a lot of "friends" who treat the letter U and the word "you" as interchangeable, perhaps you won't get the most out of it. If your feed is littered with people who comment on the latest reality TV non-entities, you may want to think twice about who to play with. But, if you have even a handful of intelligent and even remotely game-savvy friends, you can't go wrong with a good old word game now, can you?

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