Lessons from e-scrabble

15 10 2011

As a form of procrastination from study, I have become addicted to e-scrabble.

Now I have always loved scrabble, but e-scrabble (I play the version attached to facebook) is even better because I can play many games at once.

I play the one week version, which means you have one week to make each move. This has an advantage to me because I can then stop playing at any moment to get on with “real life” (or occasionally, study) and come back to the game days later without having forfeited.

So if someone isn’t playing fast enough, I can open another game and play that at the same time. At one stage I had about 30 games going at once – then as I was going overseas on holiday and didn’t want to have to find data connections to keep my scrabble games going, I had to finish the games. I am now back up to 15.

So as someone who started her scrabble life on the board game and now is e-hooked, here is what e-scrabble has taught me:

1. It is always worth trying any letter combination – even foreign words. E-scrabble has the advantage of letting you try anything – and rejecting whatever doesn’t work.

2. The hard letters are worth the effort. After you achieve a certain level of proficiency, it becomes impossible to win scrabble without getting some of the difficult letters – and preferably not at the end of the game. While my children will exchange X, Z, K, Q and J, I avidly collect them. A high-scoring letter on a triple letter score, particularly when the word is going both ways so the letter scores 6x – well, that is a winning play! Moral of the story: Doing the hard stuff is worthwhile.

4. Zol is a South African word for cigarette. It is also a very useful word to remember. Euoi is also a useful word to remember when you have nothing but vowels.

5. Children are very adept at find cheat programs on the internet. And have no shame in using them. They appear to consider it to be an “aid” and a valid competitive strategy.

6. Anyone who gets more than one seven letter word is probably cheating. If they get 3 or 4 they are undoubtedly cheating. If you are going to cheat, please be subtle about it!

7. While the seven letter word will get you a BINGO! and bonus points, clever placement of other letters can see even a two or three letter words reap points in the 50s.

8. Sometimes it is best to throw some letters – even all of them – back in the bag and get new letters. While I prefer to trade my way out of a bad hand rather than miss a turn, some letters are unrecoverable and it is best to cut your losses early.

9. If you have a dodgy computer connection, it is best not to start a two minute or five minute game. If your computer goes down, your stress levels will go up! Be realistic about what you are actually going to be able to maintain for the entire game.

10. Scrabble is a much more satisfying form of procrastination than housework.

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Hypocrisy

18 09 2011

licensed under creative commons from gothopotam

I have written a bit about my concern about the impact that screens are having on society in general, and children’s brains in particular. And how the all-pervasive training of young brains through screen culture – TV, computers, DS, PSP, Playstation, Wii, X-box, etc – will impact not only the furture of those children through their ability to absorb education, display patience and delay gratification, and their tolerance for novelty and excitement versus their tolerance for boredom and perseverance, but also change the society we live in.

And these concerns, where possible, have been backed up by science.

However, now for a confession.

I suspect I am a screen addict myself.

Now I didn’t grow up with screens to any great extent. I can still remember our first colour TV in Australia – 1976 for the Olympics. I remember getting a Commodore 64, and I remember our school getting a couple of computers which, if you were lucky and in the top maths class, you got to “program” to display a flag made from asterix (I confess I cannot work out the plural of asterix….). I remember in Year 4, being taken to visit a computer at the nearby science and technology park – it took up and entire warehouse full of stacks with tapes whirring on the front, and probably had less capacity than my iphone does.

So my childhood was not saturated with screens. In fact my parents strictly rationed television time to 1/2 an hour a night (but enough on that – I am saving that story for the psychiatrist’s couch).

I do remember working before email. I worked in a pay section briefly and we programmed the computer (which was off-site somewhere) by filling in A4 sheets of paper with Xs in squares. Letters got written in longhand and sent to the typing pool to be typed out. They came back and if there were errors, they had to type the whole thing again. At that rate you were lucky to act on more than a couple of decisions a day. Think of the pace of emails today where I am making 80+ decisions on an average day (albeit some of them trivial).

So my confession is – as the purveyor of the No-Screen Sunday, I am myself a screen addict. Not the DS, Wii or Playstation for me – but I do find TV in the evenings very relaxing and am annoyed if there is nothing on that I want to watch. My computer is usually on if I am home – and my ipad travels with me for those opportune moments to update the blog, check my personal emails etc. Not in work hours of course, but on the weekend and in the evening….. And I am an e-scrabble fiend. Oh yes, and I do love LinkedIn.

So somehow I need to make the effort to set the example for my children about how life off-line is so much more satisfying.

Perhaps after I have finished studying I might have time to do that. There’s always some excuse.

If you like this posting you might also like The effect of Marshmallows on the DS Generation, and Sponge-Bob, Sponge-brain.