Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Absolutely Scrabulous

I'd been meaning to write about my addiction to Scrabulous almost since I started this blog last summer, but now it appears I've been scooped by the Chicago Tribune.

Nevertheless, it's worth investigating this strange Facebook-driven Scrabble craze, as the Trib says that more than half a million word junkies play Scrabulous online every day. That's an astounding number, especially when you consider the extreme nerd-factor previously associated with Scrabble. When did it become trendy to play a game that encourages you to have a big vocabulary?

An even better question: Why is everyone freaking beating me in online Scrabble? When I have a wooden tray of seven wooden letters in front of me, I can take you down with minimal effort. The words come to me quickly (after all, there's nothing worse than playing in-person Scrabble with an overly discerning Wordsmith), the triple-word scores go my way, and my score soars to triple digits in no time. Not so in front of the computer monitor. I currently boast a disturbingly wretched record of 6-56-1, with 10 games in progress (six of which already don't look very promising). Having spent five years as a student of journalism, words are kind of my thing. As such, I have been subjected to the worst trash talk imaginable via the all-too-convenient Scrabulous message board. Worse yet, I have actually received apologetic messages from my opponents.

"I'm sorry...that was really lucky."

"Sorry....I know you don't like it when I use medical words."

" did I do that?"

"I swear I'm not doing this on purpose."

"I didn't even know that was a word."

Herein lies the answer to my question. Why does everyone beat me? Because Scrabulous contains a technologically enhanced element of luck that a flesh-and-blood round of Scrabble simply does not tolerate: A nearly unlimited amount of time to take your turn and a nearly unlimited amount of words that are only words because the Scrabulous dictionary says so. My Scrabulous turns have devolved into a twisted series of trial and error. I put down a series of letters covering as many colored squares as possible, click the "Play Word" button and say a silent prayer that my 32-point gibberish is accepted by the dictionary deity. It usually isn't. My opponents' words usually are. Game over.

But I don't want to come across as completely bitter. Scrabulous is the greatest procrastination tool to come along since Facebook itself and the game lends itself to the leisurely (or not so leisurely) pace of people logging into Facebook to take their turn. I want to live in a world where people play Scrabble in their free time and Scrabulous is helping to make that a reality, half a million people at a time.

Incidentally, does anyone know a word that contains six vowels? If so, I usually have the necessary tiles to put it on the board...
UPDATE: Uh-oh! Looks like Hasbro is finally taking some action against the makers of Scrabulous. I'm not sure why the company would want to alienate half a million people who are demonstrating their love for Scrabble. Doesn't seem like a smart business move to me. They're probably just miffed that they didn't think of it first.

1 comment:

Anna said...

Yah, it's the time factor and the dictionary aid. You can sit and stare at the board as long as you want. I also think since you play so many games at once you might start losing your focus.