Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Rainy Day iPhone Games

I didn't do much today.  It was raining and I felt a cold coming on, so I didn't take Nick anywhere.  This morning, I napped on the recliner while he watched television.  Some spring break.  This afternoon, I caught up on my Words with Friends game on my iPhone. 

Is that game good for my brain?

I hope so, since I'm playing it.  If you don't know about Words with Friends, think Scrabble.  Oh, I play Scrabble with a friend on my iPhone too.  It's not to hard to compare the games.  Generally, I like the game of Scrabble is better, but the sound-effects and human factors for Words with Friends is more comfortable. 

I used to be a technical writer for folks too cheap to hire a human factors engineer.  While I was reviewing the designs to begin writing about them, I'd do the human factors too, since I tended to look at how their designs worked the way a layman would.  Oh, I could talk the engineering talk since I'd graduated from college in engineering and worked as one for six years before I switched to writing.  Here's the thing - I was a good engineer, but it didn't make me happy, so I was never going to be brilliant doing it.  I never got the deep satisfaction in it that I did when I was writing. 

So there I was, with an engineer's and also a layman's perspective.  I could tell you that, though you'd included all of the required information on the screen of the flight navigation system, the pilot wouldn't see one critical piece of information since there were too many facts to discern in one crowded space.  I could tell you that you'd buried a feature so deep in the system, it seemed not to exist at all.   I could tell you that the general public would never understand the words you were using on the screen and you'd better find a simpler way to say it.  It was fun.  Sometimes they actually took my advice.  So now, eleven years after I quit working in the field, I still find myself critiquing a web design or a game. 

I like the shuffle noise that Words with Friends makes.  I like that I can look to see who is playing from Facebook, but not have to fill my Facebook posts with the times I won, or worse, lost.  I like the colors on the page that shows whose turn it is and somehow, it seems to take less time to switch between games.  I like the shape of the rounded yellow tiles.  Still, I have a little trouble placing those tiles onto the bottom row sometimes and I don't like how the they shift over by themselves on occasion.  I never have that problem with Scrabble.  I love Scrabble's two letter word list.  I love having the smiling face of the teacher and being able to put her to sleep when I'm playing a simpler game with Nick. 

I wonder, though, if it's quite fair that Words with Friends took the idea for Scrabble so blatantly.  I mean, really!  It's the same game, though the scores tend to be higher for Words with Friends.  Is that part of the joy of it, that we can easily score in the 300s?  I imagine so. 

I feel a little sorry for the Scrabble folks.  I hope they're getting royalties enough that they don't notice that I'm playing their game with more people under a different name. 

Here's what I don't like about either game:  the words.   Neither game will take words such as 'texting.'  Okay, we all know what I'm doing when I am texting you.  It may be a new word, but it is indeed a word.  I can't think of my other examples right now, but you know what they are.  My friend, Max, said that she was mad they wouldn't accept 'bantha.'  Well, it took me a little while to figure that one out.  It was some creature from Star Wars.  Yes, 'bantha' should be accepted if 'qatar' is.  I mean really, I had to look that up, more than once.  And what the heck is a 'xo' or a 'na?'  I used to play alone, basically against the teacher that Scrabble provided, and I could not believe the words that it used.  No person I ever spoke to has used the words 'hafiz' or 'vespid' in conversation. 

Here's my advice to both game companies - make it real, folks, make it real. 

Thank you for listening, jb

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