Scrabble, anyone?!?

For my first play journal, I decided to play my favorite board game… Scrabble! I would like to think that I could make the assumption that all of my peers have heard of or played Scrabble at some point during their lives, I won’t. So, here are the basics of Scrabble. Scrabble is a word-based game for 2-4 players. Players are given 7 tiles, each with a letter and point value on it, to spell out words horizontally or vertically on the game board. Players are supposed to fill in the grid, intersecting with existing words on the board already. The object is to play words to score the most points. Once all letters have been played, the player with the highest score, wins.

Remember now? Ok. Instead of playing the game on the traditional board version  that I grew up playing, with wooden tiles (which was sitting on the shelf), I decided to play Scrabble on my iPad. I figured the technological version of the application would be entertaining, because I had never played it and I figured there might be nice to try out to play solo, instead of having real bodies gathered around a game board.

I downloaded the application on the iPad. One of the first things I noticed was there was not separate free and paid versions in the iOS app store. This was concerning to me as I will do everything in my power (up to $5) to avoid the inconvenience of ads and pop-ups during any gameplay on a mobile device. Upon opening the application, I presented with some wonderful tutorials, just like Gee described in the Chapter 5 article.  I hadn’t even started the game play yet and I was already being walked through the different types of games available to me. The digital version of Scrabble presented me with three different types of game play: Player vs. Computer, Player vs. Online Player, and “Pass n’ Play”, which is people sitting around passing a device back and forth.

To begin with, I decided to start with Player vs. Online Player, as this seemed to me to be the most interesting of the 3 options – who was I playing against? Where were they from? After selecting that game, the tutorials continued by instructing me to play a word. After doing so, each of the buttons/functions within the game were each highlighted with text boxes explaining how they could be used during the game. Finally, the tutorials ended I was presented with an opponent, Guest5016, my new nemesis.

It only took one turn before I decided that I was tired of waiting on that online player to play words, so I started two other games; one against my girlfriend with the “Pass ‘n Play” feature, and one with the all mighty computer.

For each of the games, I had some initial concerns; Player vs. Online Player… who was this person? What is their experience level? Are they better than me? How long have they been playing? For the “Pass ‘n Play” option, I just didn’t want to lose to my girlfriend. We play often on the board game version and it gets pretty competitive. For the Player vs. Computer game, I decided my skill level was “Skillful”, which was the middle difficulty option (just go for it!).

I know the ins and the outs of the board game version of Scrabble. I grew up understanding the official rules, but also “house rules”, which depending on which roof you were under, decided the little details of rules; You can use proper nouns, names, accepted slang words, etc. The iPad version? Official rules only. So while I considered myself a “Skillful player, maybe I should have evaluated my skill level against the rule set I was actually playing against – I couldn’t even play house rules because the iPad version disagreed with words my girlfriend and I wanted to use!

The design of this game was “ok”. Throughout the digital version, from the beginning until I won or lost, I was presented with some nice background music that was light enough to be thought provoking, the tutorials I previously mentioned, and an attractive interface. Then, there were the ads. I mentioned at the beginning that there was not a paid version of this app. I’m accustomed to being able to remove ads by forking over a dollar or two, and it’s worth it for me. After EACH turn, in ALL three games, I was forced to watch an add; some contained 30 second videos, some were simple (X) out to close, and then my least favorite… “Rotate your device”, Are you kidding me? You’re going to burden me with ads and then make me rotate my iPad, just to see the add and click on the (X). I grew frustrated quickly – especially with 3 separate games going.

Gee mentioned the idea of “pleasurable frustration” in the readings provided during this learning cycle. “The feeling of the game being highly challenging, but ultimately doable…”. This was present for me while bouncing throughout the three games I was playing; I was winning one, and losing very badly in the other two. I was frustrated with my decision to choose “Skillful” as my game-level vs. the computer. I was questioning just how many hours a day my online opponent spent looking up words with the dictionary feature to enforce their dominance over players like me, and I felt like I could win because I was currently leading my girlfriend by 50 (she was not pleased).  

At the end of all 3 games, my record was 1-2.

The basics of Scrabble as a game for me were all present in the digital version, but the ads were so distracting that I wanted to abandon my computer and online player Guest 5016 nemesis, and just bring out the board game to play with my girlfriend – under our house rules, without ads.

The learning potential of this game is high for individuals trying to problem solve and learn new words. It’s easy to look at the tiles present in your hand and spell words like “jump” or “laps”. But once the game gets deeper, players are confronted with the need to fill in small spaces and play new 2-3 letter words that span multiple vertical or horizontal rows. Many of these words are not common English words and require players to use the dictionary to discover is they are in fact valid words. I feel like this game could be used in both formal and informal learning settings, depending on which version of the game as used – board vs. digital.

Scrabble is still my favorite game, and the running scoreboard of wins and losses with my girlfriend can continue to grow, regardless which version of the game we play.