‘Words with Friends’ spells e-a-t-s t-i-m-e

by | Apr 8, 2012 | Detroit Free Press | 0 comments

Don’t tempt me.

Put it away.

I have resisted “Pong,” “Space Invaders,” “Pac-Man” and “Super Mario Bros.”

I have scoffed at “Asteroids,” “Donkey Kong” and entire generations of Game Boy.

Put it away.

Shut it off.

I’m serious. Don’t tempt me….

I have ignored “Gran Turismo” and “Grand Theft Auto.” I showed no interest in “Myst,” “Doom” or anything with wizards. I have never worked a joystick. My phone is just a phone.

Don’t tempt me. Turn that screen off.

I’m warning you….

I am talking about “Words with Friends,” a terribly addicting app that is basically Scrabble played long distance. It involves nothing more than two players making words out of the letters they are given, and trying to score points by doing so.

My sister-in-law, Trisha, showed it to me a few weeks ago. She handed me her iPad.

“You’re a writer,” she said. “Help me.”

That was a mistake.

The challenge of it all

The first time I tried it, I was on for an hour. That is an hour longer than my lifetime total on video games.

I’m the guy who rolled his eyes at “Halo.” I’m the guy who never owned a PlayStation or an Xbox. I’m the guy who asked, “Why would anybody play ‘The Sims’? Isn’t the real world good enough?”

Get that screen away from me.

Do not tell me the letters! …

I am embarrassed by my attraction to “Words with Friends.” It’s a time vampire. But what’s a writer to do? They say there is a match for everyone on the planet, and though they are talking about love, maybe it applies to video games, too.

All I know is I spent stupid time on Trisha’s screen, trying to come up with a word that used two D’s, two U’s, two L’s and a C. Go ahead. You try. It ain’t easy.

In addition, you want to put your word over a triple-word square, or combine it with another word so you get double the points, or lay it down so it doesn’t create opportunities for your opponent…

Wait. The opponents. That’s the best part. They don’t need to be with you. They don’t need to be in this country! You play your word, send it in, and it’s the opponent’s turn, whenever he or she gets around to it. Now. Tomorrow. Next week.

You can have up to 20 games going simultaneously. It’s like those guys in the park who play multiple chessboards. Only “Words with Friends” you can do in bed, in your underwear.

Not that I’m revealing anything here.

More words on words

“Words with Friends” is now huge. Of course, like everything that is big news today, it happened in the last five minutes.

OK. Maybe a little longer. “Words with Friends” was started by a couple of game developers in 2009. The legend is it wasn’t very popular, until singer John Mayer sent out one tweet to a few million of his fans.

It’s been skyrocketing ever since. More than 8 million people play every day, and actor Alec Baldwin was so intensely involved, he refused to stop and got kicked off an American Airlines flight.

That’s truly embarrassing. But so is this.

I like it. I confess. And I have never liked a video game in my life. I ignored my “Call of Duty.” I refused to enter the “World of Warcraft.” And the only correct spelling of we, in my book, is “we” or “whee” – not “Wii.”

How could a game that was nerdy 40 years ago suddenly be so hip now? And so addicting.

I don’t know. Ask Baldwin. Meanwhile, put it away. Do not tell me what seven letters you have. Do not stick the phone near my nose and reveal a triple-word square just sitting there, next to a Q, and you have a U and an I and – oh, dear God! – a Z.

Move. Out of my way. I will not give away one more precious minute of life, even if my entire working career has prepared me for this app like a Jedi Knight wielding a magic vocabulary.

Not interested. Go away.

OK. Gimme that phone. Just this once…

Contact Mitch Albom: 313-223-4581 or malbom@freepress.com. Catch “The Mitch Albom Show” 5-7 p.m. weekdays on WJR-AM (760).


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New book, The Little Liar, arrives November 14. Get the details »

Mitch Albom writes about running an orphanage in impoverished Port-au-Prince, Haiti, his kids, their hardships, laughs and challenges, and the life lessons he’s learned there every day.

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