Sophie Heawood: Down with Scrabulous and its 'op', 'voe' and 'id'

The IoS writer rues the day she started playing Scrabble online

Share
Related Topics

My friends are all very upset at the news that they might not be allowed to play online Scrabble any more. The angry chieftains at the toy companies Hasbro and Mattel, co-owners of the Scrabble trademark, told the social networking website Facebook to take down the "Scrabulous" application this week, because it infringes their copyright. As yet, the internet imitation of Scrabble lives on, and Facebook has refused to comment. Still, my friends are already wiping their tears on their virtual dictionaries and wondering what they will do all day long when they can no longer turn letters into words inside a little box on a slightly bigger screen.

I don't get it. After months of resisting the Scrabulous craze, I eventually gave in, but I'm not sure why. I had resisted because it is so boring: playing Scrabble on the internet takes an age. You take your turn and then wait for the other person to come online and take theirs. Whole weeks, months, millennia can pass; Russian chess-masters have got nothing on this.

As for Scrabble's delusions of literary merit – there's nothing literary about being good with words individually. Literature involves being good with groups of words, in a particular order. It's like a chef only being good with separate ingredients: a familiarity with flour, sugar and eggs isn't going to help you trounce Jane Asher in championship cake-baking.

And it's not as if I'm even testing my vocabulary. In my current game, I've slogged my lexical guts out to turn an excruciating selection of letters into genius words such as "queried" and "pronged" – only to watch my cursed opponent leap 20 points into the lead by filling our board with pointless clumps including "voe", "op", and "id". I mean, "voe", "op" and "id" are not even words, surely – they're the noises scientologists make when they sleep, dreaming of Thetans. The computer says he is allowed these follies. I insist my friend is cheating.

"Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans," said John Lennon. Now he would surely say: "Life is what happens to you when you turn on the internet to check the cinema times and find yourself still there four hours later having discovered a website with videos of cats wearing hats." Internet time-wasting is fun when it happens by accident. But Scrabulous is far too intentional for my liking, so it's no loss to me if the toy companies have the application banned.

Yet, ironically enough, it will be a huge loss for them. Thousands of Scrabulous users say they've got so hooked online that they bought a nice old-fashioned copy of the board game to play offline. Hasbro and Mattel "must be certifiably insane. Scrabulous is the best, cheapest, hippest advertising they could possibly have," says one member of the Save Scrabulous groups appearing all over Facebook, and he's right.

One of the reasons the music industry is in such a pickle right now, with major job losses at EMI, is not that the pirate download culture destroyed them, but that they failed to accept and capitalise on download culture sooner.

If the games market is now faced with online competition too, it should watch and learn.

Of course, the toy-makers waited until January to make their complaint, having first benefited from a huge surge in Scrabble's Christmas sales. And it's all thanks to some ingenious programmers who turned Scrabble into an online craze for free. Scrabulous? The programmers should make them a new game: Scrupulous.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Dublin

£13676.46 - £16411.61 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree Trainee Recruitment Cons...

Ashdown Group: Marketing or Business Graduate Opportunity - Norwich - £22,000

£18000 - £22000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Business and Marketing Gr...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Are you great at building rela...

Ashdown Group: Database Analyst - Birmingham - £22,000 plus benefits

£20000 - £22000 per annum + excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Application Sup...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Labour leader Ed Miliband unveils Labour's pledges carved into a stone plinth in Hastings  

Election 2015: Smash the two-party system! Smash the voting system!

Armando Iannucci
Tactical voting is a necessary evil of the current first-past-the-post system, where voters vote against what they do not want rather than in favour of what they do  

Election 2015: Voting tactically has become more fraught in new political order

Michael Ashcroft
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power