As I approach my 30's, I find myself in a mode of reflection. The usual scenario has me fondly remembering the “good old days”, when I was a child. The end result is always awe and wonderment at just how far we have come as a society. As a child of the 80's, summer life was easy going. Fishing with my dad or playing a neighborhood game of kickball or foursquare were weekly activities.
MTV was in its early years and there was the advent of this thing called Atari. A new type of hangout, called an “Arcade”, began to crop up and video games were running through us like a virus. A quick snapshot at where the industry started (Pong) and where it's at now (mobile apps) is not only mind-boggling, it also has me longing for days of future passed.
Until the late 80's, there was this near-extinct concept, called "board games". Friends or family would sit around a table and play different games for hours, ribbing each other, sharing snacks and talking inordinate amounts of smack between rounds. Life, Risk, Backgammon, Scrabble, Chutes & Ladders and Sorry were just a few of the staples, at the Reynolds house.
Now we're in the digital age of the 2010's. Everything is about convenience and speed. We're all on the go, working long hours and interacting mostly in 140 characters or less. I understand how great the mobile app truly is. I know that it helps with productivity and comes in handy, but is everything 'physical' becoming obsolete?
Compact Discs have given way to digital mp3s. Instead of paperback or hard cover, the question is now Kindle, Nook or iPad? Newspapers continue to layoff journalists in droves, while the few remaining conglomerates all clamor to figure out how to monetize this new fangled revenue stream. As each industry continues to crumble, I find myself wondering if classic board games will go the way of the black rhino.
It's no secret that my all-time favorite board game is Scrabble. Such a simple and beautiful game, it started off as a basic flat board and slowly evolved to a swivel top with nice craftmanship and woodwork.
The natural evolution of Scrabble saw Zynga poach the concept and release Words With Friends. While I am thankful that guys like John Mayer and Alec Baldwin championed the mobile app and created renewed interest in this game, I'm still reflective about the evolution of my game of choice. Maybe this is an age thing or maybe it's just someone taking a minute to reflect back and realize how life is passing us all by? Maybe it's good to slow down and breathe.
My love for Scrabble goes back to the little things that make it better, in my opinion, than a cold, stale mobile app. Feeling the letter tiles, analyzing a physical board and studying your opponent are things that brought charm and sophistication to Scrabble. There were a lot of different variables to think about. Knowing your opponent's tendencies, harkened to poker or chess, moreso than a board game, but that's why Scrabble is so special.
Scrabble creates a fun way to break barriers and engage in communication with a person in real life, at a normal pace. Words With Friends serves its purpose well, but for the most part, it feels like you are competing against some computer alogrithm.
Most of the euphoria over Words With Friends is that there is a chat function, you can play at your own pace and you can pick random opponents to play. The whole app just feels cold to me. There's no warmth or exchange of ideas, really. It's play a word and wait for your next turn with little to zero discussion.
Changing the temperature from cold to frozen are the new website genre of "strategy sites". Sites like Scrabble Word Maker or Words With Friends Cheats set out to give you helpful tips and techniques on how to defeat your opponent and increase your vocabulary. There seems to be more warmth emanating from these sites, then the games themselves because you know that there are people on the other end of the site, actually encouraging you and wanting you to use the site to get better at the game. Typically, these sites are run by enthusiasts with an unbelievable thirst for the game and all of the things that go along with that.
The one thing I can point out that Words With Friends has successfully been able to accomplish is that they have brought about a renewed interest in Scrabble and the popularity of the board game has reached heights it hasn't seen in 20 years. Kudos for that, but if I have a choice, I'll take a nice, relaxing game of traditional Scrabble over Words With Friends any day of the week. Which game do you prefer to play?
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