We’ve got so many phrases that refer to games and our human penchant for competition, but the Greeks, in the sixth century, started something that has become much bigger than they ever imagined.
I’m referring to our modern-day phenomenon, online games. Curious, I did an online search of the term, which revealed that more than 500,000 apps are available for online gamers. These games are a far cry from the boxing, running, wrestling, equestrian, etc., games that the Greeks offered in their heyday.
What got me started on this jag is my weakness — or rather, my strength — for word games. Years ago, living in Wagon Mound, I wasn’t able to find much in the way of activities, so my husband and I would challenge each other with crossword puzzles.
“Gimme a word!” often resounded in our quarters. Then we bought a Scrabble game, and that almost came to blows when he accused me of cheating. Well, I wasn’t cheating; I just knew more words than he did, and that didn’t jibe with his feelings of masculine superiority. We soon put our game board to rest to keep the peace.
Today, I, along with many of my friends on Facebook, have succumbed to games such as “Words with Friends” and “Wordox.” They’re both addictive. Initially, Wordox grants Wox (points) for playing, but that option often finds one bankrupt before long.
Words with Friends, on the other hand, is free, but dependent upon one’s having friends to accept a challenge to play.
For me, Words with Friends is addictive. It’s also as frustrating as it is gratifying because sometimes one’s playmate just leaves off play, and it’s not always obvious until one sits for minutes, waiting for a response that never appears. Add to that the frustration of waiting for some individuals to consult their “cheat sheets,” apps one can access, often free.
The apps allow entering of all letters on one’s tray and offer all combinations for words to give a distinct advantage over the players who do not have access to this tool. Obviously, this mode takes time and real brain activity out of the picture. I’d rather have genuine cerebral activity generating the words used. My dinosaur mind just might be extinct.
A match can go on for days. I don’t care for that; I want to “get ‘er done!” I can picture some of my fellow gamers sneaking in a few plays during work break or lunch hour, or, perish the thought, while they’re on the clock.
My first few Words with Friends games began innocently enough. A casual invitation got me started, and I was soon a casualty. The games were on! I anticipated easy wins, but the blow to my ego came very soon.
I didn’t know the rules of the game and especially needed to exercise patience as the computer would go into freeze mode, probably caused by an overload of activity. So, nothing to do but shut down and reset, then continue playing.
Nevertheless, I persisted, to my own chagrin. Just as in Scrabble, higher scores depend on which high-value letter lands on a “triple word” or “triple letter” square.
Oh, yes, there are built-in perks when one finally gets through the maze of possibilities for hiking one’s status — little pop-ups that give warm fuzzies to inform you that “You’re the Boss!” or “You just left your partner in the dust!”
You can even have these posted to your wall for bragging rights. Meanwhile, you’re stuck there for hours while the game goes on. That’s right: you can be involved in multiple matches at any given time if enough players are willing to stand by and wait their turn.
A friend once labeled me as “anal retentive,” a not-so-friendly way of telling me that I needed to loosen up a bit and not be so obsessive about little things. Well, I can be obsessive, but not often compulsive, and when a game is an ego trip or an absolute frustration, that’s my signal to step out for a while.
I like the attitude expressed by Phil Gonzales, an old friend and former classmate at Highlands who told me early on, “Don’t pay attention to the score. Just play to use interesting words.”
I liked that stance and try to keep it in mind. My son also gave me a good perk when he said that he can play a game with me in an hour or so, much faster than with anyone else. The bottom line is that it is a game — and aren’t games to be enjoyed?
So, Friends with Words, let the games begin — and end!
Lupita Gonzales is an educator and member of the Optic Editorial Board. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.