SEVEN THINGS I LEARNED ABOUT LIFE by playing Words With Friends

Seven Things I Learned About Life by Playing Words With Friends

(DEFINING Words With Friends: a “Scrabble-style” game that can be played through Facebook on a computer, or on one’s own phone, using  a cell phone app. Overall Objective: Players exchange turns forming words horizontally or vertically on the board, trying to score as many points as possible for each word. )

1.WHAT I LEARNED:          CHOOSE YOUR FRIENDS WISELY

After loading the game, the first aspect of Words With Friends game play is: choose an opponent. In order to do this, one has to decide whether to play with

a random opponent that the game chooses for you, OR

choose an online friend whom you may know through Facebook.

I’ve done both. The game allows you to have about 20 different game boards going at any time (although it has been known to allow me to play 21), so having several games in play at once makes sense. I mean, it may take players hours, days or weeks to take their turn, depending on their  interest, schedule, free time. That’s the beauty of it though. Yawn, Have dinner, Watch a TV show or take a phone call. Then get back to the game at your own pace.

Random strangers as opponents, chosen by the game for you, can have pros and cons.

Con: The person may feel no need, no pressure, to keep the game going if it appears they’re losing. They may resign the game if you take longer than a day to get back to them or they may quit because your skills seem superior to theirs. I emphasize the word “seem” as randomness comes into play in this game. More later on that.

Pro: Who cares if they quit? You don’t know them anyway.

Family members or Facebook ‘friends’ may do their best in their  game with you because they know you and they see this as an extension of your relationship. They want to do well and take their turns in a timely fashion because they know you. Or at least in some cases, they know “of” you because they are a friend of a friend who you friended on FB. If they choose not to accept a game with you, or if they lapse so long that the game resigns them, it’s easy to take this as a personal affront simply BECAUSE you know them or know them through others. So, as in life, choose your friends (and opponents) wisely. Sometimes a stranger or acquaintance may well be better suited for sharing a task at hand. There’s an anonymous factor involved. And don’t take it personally every time a family member or friend doesn’t have time for you. Hey, they may well have valid reasons!

2.WHAT I LEARNED:           THERE ARE COMPETITVE ‘WIN AT ALL COSTS’ TYPES,,,AND THERE ARE ‘PLAYING FOR FUN’ PEOPLE IN THE WORLD

The second aspect of the game, after choosing an opponent and having them accept your game is to make a move on the board. If you are the one who’s been invited to play, then the other person would’ve played the first word, but let’s say you’ve decided to be the initiator to invite someone to play…Then it is up to you to

play the first word.

In order to “go for points” (that’s the object of most games), then you should optimally try for a five-point word or higher. This way you can insure that at least one tile is placed on a colored space, a “double word” or DW space. Anything lower than a five letter word, and your first turn has been played for very few points. There are people who simply don’t have the tile choices to play a five letter word. Maybe they have zero to no vowels. Personally, I play anyway. I guess I’m optimistic that way. I figure, I’ll do a low point three letter word now, and perhaps later in the game I’ll turn things around. Surely my vowel situation will improve. I’m not one to PASS, especially on a first play unless it’s absolutely necessary and I see NO plays at all. I’m up for challenging games, win or lose!

Not everyone plays with that frame of mind. They may PASS the first move, leaving you to wonder, ‘Do they truly have zero plays here,? OR are they passing because they will not ”lower” themselves to playing a measly three letter word? Is winning THAT important?’

Short answer: To some opponents, winning IS that important. But it’s all speculation. It’s not face to face. You can’t know whether they truly have ALL consonants or whether they just won’t lower themselves to playing a low point word…UNLESS you ask them. That leads us to number three…

3. WHAT I LEARNED:           SOMETIMES IT’S APPROPRIATE TO INTIATE CONTACT AND SOMETIMES IT ISN’T

There’s a “chat” function in Words With Friends. If my opponent plays a 7 letter word, thus using every tile they have, they  get a bonus of 35 points, plus letter and word value of course…

Conundrum: Surely this is worth a virtual pat on the back, right? Do I type, “Nice word!” into the chat section? Maybe I should, I mean if I don’t know my opponent then it’s still appropriate to initiate a polite phrase of praise, right?

Using your letters all in one shot is sometimes not worth the meager 35 point bonus (a real time face to face Scrabble game allows 50) but creatively using all of one’s letters IS an accomplishment, even given the fact that a shorter word placed on a triple word square may score higher. Hmmmm are “good” moves worthy of virtual congrats?

One must ask oneself, Do I play this game for human interaction or because I like to fool with words? Shouldn’t it be an either/or? There are times I’ve used phrases of praise with a family member, (“Wow, nice move!”) and never got so much as a “Gee thanks!” in return… It finally dawned on me not to take this personally even though it’s easy to feel slighted. Some people may not even know the chat function is there! Besides if I wanted interaction I’d chat in other forums. There’s always that remote risk that if you innocently praise a stranger (i.e. “Nice word!”) it may lead to a response I definitely don’t want such as: “Wanna give me your cell number? I’ll text you some pics of myself…”

Ew!

4.WHAT I LEARNED:          SOME PEOPLE ARE WORTH YOUR PATIENCE AND WORTH THE WAIT

Not sure about this but resignation times are now 11 days without a move for an invited game and 5 days without a move for a random game. (Previous times were 22 days and 7 days, respectively.) Sometimes the person never responds to your invite. Hard not to take that personally but I have to remind myself they may be very busy. Not everyone has time to keep up a game, or two, or twenty. But let’s say you’ve got a challenging game going. It’s neck and neck, so to speak, that is to say you and your opponent are never more than a few points behind or ahead of each other. It’s fun to play a game like that. THEN suddenly…the moves are lapsing. The other player doesn’t take a turn for three days, four, five, six! Have they forgotten you? If they go too long, the game will auto-resign them! NO!

There’s a ‘nudge’ button for that! Yes, you can send a friendly reminder to them, by way of a computer or i-phone message that reminds them to take their turn. In this case, that may well be all they need. After all, they could be facing deadlines at work, dealing with a sick child, etc. etc. Be patient and keep an open mind. Don’t be quick to assume the worst. It may be tempting to try and quit, just to acquire an opponent who plays in a more timely fashion, but keep in mind…there are times life overwhelms you too, and in a close game, DO stick it out till the end, as it’s often worth the wait. That’s why you signed up for this to begin with!

5.WHAT I LEARNED:           DECIDE WHAT YOUR OWN PERSONAL STANDARDS ARE AND STICK TO THEM

How come it lets me play S-H-I-T but I can’t play bitch, texting, memes, or goths? Bitch is a female dog. I would expect that to be legit usage. I want to use my ‘H’ on a triple letter square…That’s the breaks!

I can play ‘meme’, a fairly new word to the hip PC generation. But I can’t make it plural. No M-E-M-E-S allowed! The “invalid word” message pops up. So it won’t allow bitch (which IS a dog after all) but I HAVE laid down the word W-H-O-R-E (pun not intended) and gotten away with it. Go figure.

The way I understand Words With Friends is that the word has to be in a dictionary or the Enhanced North American Benchmark Lexicon (ENABLE), a public domain list of acceptable words, but note this: (and it’s a good thing) Words With Friends can add words as it sees fit. For example, Z-A and Q-I are now available for use! I recall that there was a time in earlier versions, they were not allowed. Proper nouns, abbreviations, prefixes, suffixes and words that need a hyphen or an apostrophe are no-nos. Derogatory words or slurs are not allowed.  That’s a given. If the game has decided you can’t play your carefully chosen word, as I said, the message asks you to ‘please choose a valid word.’

People who are used to Scrabble will notice differences right away. There’re copyrights to consider. In comparison to Scrabble, Words With Friends has one more D, one more E, two more Hs, one less I, one less N, one more S and one more T. It has 104 letters as opposed to Scrabble’s 100. There are more triple-letter spaces and fewer double-word squares.

So why the need for cheats, people!? I say, embrace the rules, challenge them… challenge yourself. But everyone’s different and there’s a life lesson I’m never through learning.

There are an astounding number of “cheats” available online for this game that I refuse even to validate here. That’s just me. Consider this scenario: I do read books. Lots of them I write ’em too. I love words. I fancy myself as having a colorful vocabulary. So I think up a fab word and I play it in Words With Friends.

An opponent thinks, “Wow that $%^&* played a fine word. I’m rage-quitting on her ass and starting over!” Aah, the rage quitters are easily turned into “cheaters” aren’t they? My personal philosophy is that I wouldn’t cheat in a face to face board game…why then should I now? But the rage-quitter justifies it by saying, “I don’t personally see it as cheating. I’m simply researching my word options through online programs because I’m savvy that way. I’m making the best of my given letters to fully utilize them in the game in the best way possible.”

I see it as cheating and I learned you can join ’em or hold your ground and play out of your head, especially if that’s how you get the most satisfaction out of the game. It’s how I get mine. Decide early what your stance is on this. What If your opponent has always played words like ‘hat’ and ‘pickle,’ and suddenly they are playing ‘schism’ and ‘panache?’ They may or may not be using a cheat. Is it politically correct to resign the match or give them benefit of the doubt? That’s a personal choice.

6.WHAT I LEARNED:          SOME THINGS IN LIFE ARE RANDOM AND BEYOND YOUR CONTROL AND SOME ARE OUTRIGHT LIES. DON’T BELIEVE EVERYTHING YOU’RE SEEING. ACT ACCORDINGLY, AVOID CONFLICT, GO WITH IT.

According to I Tunes, 20 million people are now playing this game and they all have their own pace, skill set and vocabularies to bring to the virtual playing board. When choosing an opponent why not choose players with similar abilities? Problem solved. No cheaters, fun games had by all. When choosing an opponent, the game will give you little clues as to which opponents to select. Little phrases will pop up in blue text next to their FB icon: “Plays with similar abilities!” “Plays at your pace!” “Loves to chat!” “Plays good defense!” Wow, that narrows down my opponent choices, right? WRONG! Those are randomly generated phrases based on nothing. Don’t believe them!

A lot of the things in the game are random. That’s a fact to accept with little to no grumbling, if possible. I’ve had my opponents post little side chats like, “Got no vowels, this sucks” or “You’re getting all the good letters.” I don’t respond to those little grumbles. I know that the letters we end up with will challenge us, and sometimes they seem sucky but who wants a game ‘given’ to them? I don’t. Accept all aspects as beyond your control and

7.WHAT I LEARNED:           HAVE FUN!

That life lesson speaks for itself.

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