The canonization of videogames strives to preserve and protect certain games for future generations to enjoy. It consists of games that are deemed significant and serve an immense purpose in not only the realm of videogames, but must also be compelling enough to be seen as valuable to our general culture as well. This importance can be defined by various elements including cultural, historical, or aesthetical aspects, to name a few. Many games already placed within the cannon are often classified as groundbreaking; a game that is a first of its kind and has set the precedent for countless games thereafter. Although it may seem difficult to determine what exactly creates a canon worthy videogame, it all comes down to one fundamental detail—the game must be special. The famous game Words With Friends deserves to be canonized not for its unfathomable and impressive popularity, but for its unique method of seamlessly combining a classic board game with modern technology to create a videogame that impacts our society culturally as well as socially, which is what canonization is all about.
For those unfamiliar with the game, it is essentially a simulation of the board game Scrabble, although the two are in no way shape or form directly associated. It is well known in its iPhone App form, although it can be enjoyed through many different platforms. It was developed by brothers Paul and David Bettner, who Morris of CNBC claims “came from the core videogame world” (Morris). Then the creators sold the game to its publisher Zynga, who then released the game in 2009, and it immediately became a mass hit, since it already had a huge fan base because of its similarity to Scrabble. The rules and regulations correspond to those of the popular board game, but Words With Friends differentiates itself through the different values assumed by not only the letters, but the bonus spaces on the board as well. Words With Friends also includes a chat feature, which lets opponents converse as they play. It also lets players connect with their friends via Facebook or email or one could utilize the randomize option if players are in need of a competitor. CNBC’s reporter, Chris Morris “estimates the game currently averages 8.9 million users on an average day — and nearly 21 million per month. And the numbers are still on a rapid ascent,” documenting its many fans (Morris).
One component that has contributed to the success of Words With Friends is that it offers multi as well a cross platform gameplay. It can be downloaded to Android phones, the iPad, the iPhone, the iPodTouch, the Kindle Fire, the Nook Tablet, and finally Facebook. Almost everyone today owns a cell phone, iOS device, electronic reader, or a computer, so virtually no one is ever excluded. It is therefore able to reach a wider audience because gamers can connect with anyone via Facebook or email. It enables gamers to play using any device they have, anywhere they are, serving as one of the game’s best characteristics. Even Ian Bogost commented on this featuring noting that “app load quickly, but also allowed users to start a game just by entering another player’s username” (“Bogost.com”). Since it does not limit gamers to one device, as many videogames tend to do, and allows gamers connect with countless opponents, no matter which device they own, the cross platforms play Words With Friends provides expanded accessibility.
The way in which players can connect and interact with specific people or find an opponent through the randomize feature means that gamers are always playing with a real person, unlike most videogames where computers are involved or at least optional. Oftentimes, computers are accompanied with artificial intelligence, so Words With Friends contains an absence of computers and all the problems and glitches that are known to come along with them. The elimination of these computers greatly plays a role in the social aspect of Words With Friends.
The most unique aspect of Words With Friends is that it is free. Of course one must own one of the various platforms, however, once you have a platform in your possession, you can acquire Words With Friends with no cost. Unlike the Xbox, Wii, or PlayStation or essentially every single other system where one must purchase the platform and then shell out additional money for each individual game they want to obtain. This method is unfortunately the norm, and can get quite expensive. There is a paid version available through the App Store, but the only true difference between the free and paid version, is that the free version includes advertisements, which do not affect gameplay. This aspect is also unique, because free apps usually include partial gameplay, for instance, a free version of a certain game may only allow players to advance through level two. Words With Friends free version includes the full version of the game, which is almost unheard of.
Finally, as stated before, Words With Friends most appealing factor is its carefully calculated spin on a classic game. It seamlessly combines a classic with modern technology in a way that does not stray too far from its original, but still is new and improved. For fans of the American favorite, Scrabble, this virtual simulation is simply a more convenient form of the game. It eliminates the hassle of calculating your scores and lets players discard the tiny tiles and pieces that come along with Scrabble. This blend of new and old is a difficult feat to accomplish, and few videogames have done so in the past.
Many may not initially understand the significance of Words With Friends, claiming it is just a carbon copy of a board game that was never important to begin with and does not have a place in the gaming world. Many will criticize it as unoriginal, undeserving of canonization, or containing no groundbreaking aspects or features. However, this assumption cannot be more counterfactual. Scrabble is a game all Americans know and love. Inferring from our previous history, technological advancement will continue full sped again. Imagine all the things technology has replaced, and eliminated through technology. Maps have been replaced by GPS, payphones have been dominated by an array of cellular devices, and an infinite amount of other examples apply. There may come a day when our society knows nothing of board games and the social and cultural aspects they have provided to our society, which is what the videogame canon is all about conserving. Although Words With Friends may seem strange compared to Super Smash Bros, Halo, or Gears of War, I do not think it’s differences should deem it incompetent. The videogame is in need of variation and Words With Friends qualifies perfectly.
Words With Friends rightfully deserves to be canonized. It has contains features many other videogames fail to possess, including its combination of modern technology with a well-known classic, its cross platform game play, it’s appealing price point, and most importantly, its cultural and social aspects. It is important to our culture and needs to be preserved for generations to come.
Bogost, Ian. “Words With Friends Forever.”Bogost.com. 2 Oct. 2012. Web. 30 Oct. 2012. <http://www.bogost.com/writing/words_with_friends_forever.shtml>.
Calkins, David. “Words With Friends- Play the Popular Word Game Today!” Zynga Words With Friends. Zynga, n.d. Web. 30 Oct. 2012. <http://www.zyngawithfriends.com/en/index.html>.
Morris, Chris. “Zynga Expands Its Social Circle With Words With Friends.” CNBC.com. CNBC, 9 Mar. 2012. Web. 30 Oct. 2012. <http://www.cnbc.com/id/46682664/Zynga_Expands_Its_Social_Circle_With_Words_With_FriendsEnter website address or keywords to cite.>.