May I Have a Word with You? ...and You...and You...
Dates are always confusing times, he thought. He hardly knew this person, yet here he was with a shirt tucked in, his hair combed, and his Skoal can screaming to him like a wailing siren wench from the unreachable confines of his bedroom dresser. No matter, hopefully it will be worth it. But dating is different these days, he realized. It used to be that you could count on buying the latest letdown off the Jack Daniel's Grill, chatting about how Friday night television has never recovered from the loss of T.G.I.F., and when things started to hit a roadblock, she would reach in her purse and offer you a piece of gum. Now his date had just polished off some lobster glazed in Winnie the Pooh-grade honey, the conversation drifted towards sexually charged bestsellers that would curl Carl Winslow's tie, and when she reached in her purse during the obligatory conversation lull. . .

. . . she pulled out a plastic board, a complete stranger arrived, and she started beating the ever-loving shit out of him in Hungry Hungry Hippos.

Her fists slapping against the resistance of the unknown adversary, her plastic hippopotamus lunged and chomped like humanity itself would never produce another plastic marble. Silently she smirked, amidst the cacophony of these hippos who were oh so very hungry. Soon the marbles were gone, her hippo was bellyached, and she sexily uttered, "can you believe these things are herbivores, baby!?"

Instead of resorting to phone games, I really wish we'd all just spontaneously start playing the world's loudest board game instead. Unfortunately this hasn't happened yet. Multiple levels of implausibility aside, I like to think that time constraints are the only thing holding this dream back. The time it would take to pull out the game, set up the artiodactyl buffet line, and then find a totally random live human to play would be longer than the time it takes to look up what "artiodactyl" means. Nonetheless, I wouldn't be entirely surprised if within five years we were all spending large chunks of the work day figuring out which of our friends and somewhat-acquaintances we are more hungry hungry than. After all, I never would have believed that five years ago, our lives would merely be the background scenery for what has become a worldwide Scrabble orgy.

Here's a screenshot of some of the other apps I have on my phone. These are the highlights: - I was in a wedding this winter where I knew the groom so well, he and I didn't know each other's last names. I downloaded lots of apps that day.

Oregon Trail - There's way too much going in the new century version of this game. Hunting was enough. We didn't need to also fish and pick out whores at brothels between Independence and Kearney.

Dice - For those moments when your friends want to gamble across the country, which if you knew my friends, happens way more often than it should.

WWE - Just making sure that girls who see my phone will never be sexually attracted to me.

TNA Wrestling - Just making really sure.

More accurately, most people are playing the "Words with Friends" SmartPhone app. A "how is this not IP infringement!" marvel, Words with Friends revolutionized the game of Scrabble by making the tiles yellow, and then successfully nestled its way into subways, dinner conversations, and worship services worldwide. More than half of you reading this have the app installed on your phone. More than half of that group is currently playing the game right now, thinking this article is dumb. And one person in THAT group is trying to figure out if "kelt" really is a word and if so, whether his boss actually knew this or was just throwing down letters and hoping the "sending move" screen would mystically appear.

Like everyone else who can't remember a time when manipulating digital Italian plumbers into eating mushrooms wasn't weird, my Scrabble experience was limited prior to the Words with Friends pandemic. Outside of noteworthy evening where a friend and I found a Scrabble board in a camper and attempted to cram as many dirty words as possible onto it (the best was "cameltoe"), I was mostly naive to the finer points of Scrabble. In my many [zero] contemplations about Scrabble strategy, I just figured that the people with the best vocabularies would win the game. For instance, I assumed Shakespeare would be a fine player because he was quite verbose and those old English words could valuably employ all those "u's." Conversely, Andrew W.K. would theoretically be a poor player because there are only so many tiles and so many opportunities for him to play "party." Alas, at least in the digital version of the game, vocabulary actually means far less than tactics and persistent, unabashed guessing.

The typical Words with Friends game allows for creative words only in the earliest turns. Even though the scores might not be that great, the chance to drop a six-tile word is basically confined to the first two turns. After that, the opportunity to play "hooker" is all but eliminated because the gimmick spots have to be protected at all costs. While it may be fun to lay down synonyms for prostitutes . . . wait, let's talk about Scrabble again. While it may be fun to play the word "garden," if it allows easy access for the next player hit a Triple Letter or Triple Word score, you must default to playing "ya" instead and hope your opponent makes the big mistake.

Basically, Words with Friends is just a 2011 Denver Broncos football game. All defense, no offense, and some virgin ends up winning the game. Rather than go for the gusto and try to win with real words, each combatant bides his time until he can play the word "Qi" for at least 11 points, and more likely 31. I have no idea what the word "qi" means. I refuse to look it up. But I know that it gets played in every single match I'm in, if for no other reason than "Quisenberry" is a dead baseball pitcher, not a plausible play in SmartPhone Scrabble.

In that vein, both players just sit there randomly throwing letters into convenient spots on the board, hoping that the game will either reward their persistence or suffer some malfunction that allows "FUTY" to be played as a scoring word."

I'm not sure whether I'm excited about Words with Friends being an at-the-moment ubiquitous part of our daily lives. From the positive file, the game allows impersonal and the most superficial contact possible with people don't otherwise see. From the negative file, an ex-girlfriend and I had to stop playing months ago because nothing dissolves the glue of civility like playing "whore" for a triple word score.

Whether beloved or merely tolerated, Words with Friends is an undeniable part of first-world life right now. Of course, its staying power exists only as long as society doesn't crave something else. And for me, I'm more than a little hungry hungry for a new challenge. . .

 © 2012
Dedicated to The Stick