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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Project Support Assistant - Hampshire - up to 40K

£25000 - £40000 per annum + 23 days holiday Pension Scheme: Deerfoot IT Resour...

Foundation / Year 1 Teacher - Long Term - Salford

£90 - £130 per day + competitive rates, pension scheme: Randstad Education Man...

.Net Developer -London - up to 55K

£45000 - £55000 per annum + Excellent benefits : Deerfoot IT Resources Limited...

Long Term Primary Teacher - Oldham - Start September 2014

£100 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Manchester Primary: Key Stage 1 Teache...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

The daily catch-up: Neigh-Drama Obama, changing welfare and how to tell if you are a journalist

John Rentoul
 

i Editor's Letter: Only a game? Far from it

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice
Hollywood targets Asian audiences as US films enjoy record-breaking run at Chinese box office

Hollywood targets Asian audiences

The world's second biggest movie market is fast becoming the Hollywood studios' most crucial
Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app - and my mum keeps trying to hook me up!'

Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app'

Five years on from its launch and Grindr is the world's most popular dating app for gay men. Its founder Joel Simkhai answers his critics, describes his isolation as a child
Autocorrect has its uses but it can go rogue with embarrassing results - so is it time to ditch it?

Is it time to ditch autocorrect?

Matthew J X Malady persuaded friends to message manually instead, but failed to factor in fat fingers and drunk texting
10 best girls' summer dresses

Frock chick: 10 best girls' summer dresses

Get them ready for the holidays with these cool and pretty options 
Westminster’s dark secret: Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together

Westminster’s dark secret

Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Dulce et decorum est - a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Dulce et decorum est: a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality
Google tells popular music website to censor album cover art in 'sexually explicit content' ban

Naked censorship?

The strange case of Google, the music website and the nudity take-down requests
Howzat! 8 best cricket bats

Howzat! 8 best cricket bats

As England take on India at Trent Bridge, here is our pick of the high-performing bats to help you up your run-count this summer 
Brazil vs Germany World Cup 2014 comment: David Luiz falls from leader figure to symbol of national humiliation

David Luiz falls from leader figure to symbol of national humiliation

Captain appears to give up as shocking 7-1 World Cup semi-final defeat threatens ramifications in Brazil