Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Scrabble: To cheat or not to cheat?

I’m a wee bit obsessed with playing Scrabble. Luckily, I mostly play on Facebook, my other obsession. I like to think that the Scrabble obsession is generally healthy. It is a word game that exercises a number of skills: Strategy, vocabulary and creative thinking.

The Scrabble application in Facebook allows you to use a dictionary. You can literally put random letter combinations into the program until you find one that’s really a word, whether you recognize it or not. Then, it is up to you to decide where to place the word on the board.

Some people might consider this cheating. The old fashioned way to play Scrabble, on a physical board sitting in front of your non-virtual opponent, does not allow players to use a dictionary. Of course, since the Facebook application allows the use of a dictionary, it isn’t technically cheating in its newest reincarnation.

What about using sites like Wordsolver that will give you all possible word combinations from the letters you give it? There are even sites, like Scrabble Word Finder, where you can fill in a board and ask it to find not only the best word, but the best placement. If you play the Facebook Scrabble app on your IPhone, you’re given a few times, without penalty, where you can ask it to find the best word and placement for you. You receive the benefit of a well-placed, high point move. 

Since a friend has already outed me on Facebook as a “sometimes cheater,” I will admit that I used to cheat regularly and have mostly stopped. I am not a natural Scrabble player, but I've improved and no longer need to cheat.

In the beginning of playing regularly, while I was cheating, I still lost most games. Here are my excuses for being a poor Scrabble player: An only child, I grew up rarely playing games so I’m not a naturally competitive thinker.  I speak a second language and sometimes get confused about which words are from which language.

Here’s the embarrassing part: Shouldn’t a writer and writing professor be good at a word game?

Aside from all the possible reasons to cheat (including beating my star Scrabble playing husband who almost always wins), I’ve become a much better player in the end. I recently played a game the old fashioned way and noticed the stark improvement. We did use the dictionary function on the iphone to challenge each other about whether letter combinations were words. So high tech!

I’ve learned new words, even if I’ve never used most of them in everyday speech. (Hey, when does the Greek letter “xi” come up?) I’ve become more strategic, creative and, in the end, further addicted to Facebook.

So, if you’d like to play Scrabble with me on Facebook, invite me to a game! I promise I won’t cheat, but I do know a crazy set of weird words. Must be this qi.

As a mandatory P.S. from your friendly writing professor: Cheating in a friendly game of Scrabble is one thing. Cheating on a paper or class assignment is another thing. I don’t ever recommend that.

1 comment:

Thomas said...

I like your story. Are you still playing? I would challenge you, but I still can’t remember all the two letter words in English.