How “Words With Friends” is Altering My Brain
I have two friends to blame for getting me into “Words with Friends” (WWF) – the online app I play on my phone. Both of them thought that since I am a writer, I would be really good at it. Well, it turns out I suck at it. I’m better now, but at the start, I was really horrible at it. I could create a sentence of twenty, three-syllable words, punctuate it properly and sing out synonyms for all twenty words, but give me a bunch of letters to place on a board and I was hopeless. Even though there’s a “shuffle” button at the bottom of the screen, I often still couldn’t “see” the right combination to make up a word. And as the games progressed, I would have issues with word placement because sometimes I could see a word there in my tile-rack, but I couldn’t figure out how to set it on a crowded board. Another reason I was losing all the time is that I can’t see how the words work in combination so that I could set the tiles down for the most available points. “With the letters I can tell you have based on what you’re putting down, you’re missing words and opportunities for points,” one good friend noticed.
And then, after about a month of struggling and losing to various friends left and right, another friend pointed out that it really is a different part of my brain that I need to use. This particular friend owns a highly successful natural and pro-biotic food company, Zukay Foods, and he jokes that fermenting food for a living improves your WWF skills. Maybe he’s not that far off, actually. He has an undergraduate degree in chemical engineering and a graduate degree in marketing – he’s all about strategy and logic (but don’t tell him I admit or even know that about him). I’m a writer; I’m all about imagination and language.
So now I’m doing a little better at WWF, about six weeks after starting. It’s not that anyone gave me any tips or that I use a dictionary or cheat-site or anything like that; it’s just that practicing a skill makes you better at it, and I seem to be doing a lot of WWF practicing these days. Just realizing that it’s not my usual brain-function at work made me change the way I think about the game, which allowed me to open up to other methodology for playing. It could easily take over my life if I let it. I love it now! It makes me laugh when I do something really rare, like get a 75-point word. I once got a word for 110 points! It’s utterly ridiculous how much of a kick – nearly a high – I get when I achieve on this game. It’s a game for heaven’s sake!
I am still wondering if the game might make me a better writer in a way because I’m seeing different possibilities for words and words in combination. That remains to be seen. But for now, I think I’ll go on playing, bending my brain in different ways and seeing what comes of it. Let me know if you want to start a game – I’m up for it!