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Laura Kessel is managing editor of The News-Herald in Willoughby. She writes a weekly column and shares her thoughts here.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Just a word about this ‘friendly’ new game

Does anyone know what qi means?

Neither do I.

But I’ve used it twice this week.

I haven’t used it in a sentence, mind you, because I wouldn’t know how to pronounce it, either.
Darn you, Words With Friends!

If you’re not familiar with this ridiculous phenomenon, I congratulate you.

Before this week, I knew it from afar. I spent a few moments here and there watching friends struggle with this online version of Scrabble. Periodically, co-workers teased each other after one of them got a high-scoring word that sunk the other person.

Played on smartphones or tablet computers or now even Facebook, it’s a word competition that you play when you have a few free moments.

Games can go on for weeks at a time — if it weren’t so tough to resist playing, that is.

Realizing the other person made a move is like knowing there’s a Christmas gift waiting for you.
You just need to open it and see it what it is.

That’s when the trouble begins, at least for me. These “gifts” are usually in the form of big-point words that follow my six- or eight-pointers.

I knew I was in trouble when my first 12-pointer was matched with a 75-point word that pretty much guaranteed I was the loser.

It’s gone downhill since then.

I’m far too timid for this game. One of my co-workers, the first person in the office I remember playing Words With Friends, was offering me some strategy the other day. He said I have to think two or three moves ahead, to be able to use the double- and triple-word tiles to my advantage.

He doesn’t realize this is the first time I have played Scrabble since I was about 8 and forced to play as part of an English assignment.

I spend most of my turns trying to find the letters that have nothing attached so I can avoid having to come up with TWO words from my tiles.

I refuse to take the blame for my lack of prowess in Scrabble. My parents obviously were obsessed with money and land procurement, because our board games as kids consisted of PayDay and multiple versions of Monopoly.

Obviously, based on my childhood, if this game were being played for paper money that comes in odd colors, I’d be far more competitive.

In moving through the two games I’ve completed as of this writing (I started a third midway through, against a new opponent, one of our reporters), I’m proud to say that I’ve yet to become one of “THEM.”

The “THEM” to whom I refer are those who use the many cheating tools available to Words With Friends users. You give them the tiles on your board, they’ll offer some words you can throw down on the board.

I have, however, logged on to a few times to figure out if the odd couple of letters I’m hoping to string together is actually a word.

That’s where qi came up. When I saw a definition, I just said, “OK, let’s go.”

I didn’t bother to read the definition.

But, let’s just say that when that 10-point Q comes up next time, I’m going to be hunting for another I.

Who knows how long I’ll keep up this madness.

Among the people who responded to my Facebook post asking, “Why did I start playing Words With Friends?” was a former co-worker.

“I hear you. But once I found myself spelling crap like ‘qi’ it started to lose its allure. You’ll get there.”

Who woulda thought that my friend qi might eventually turn on me.
Twitter: @Lauranh


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