Words with Cheaters? There’s an App for That!

Danielle Dereleau, Featured Columnist

     One of the reasons I was most excited to get an iPhone is that I would finally have access to the infamous “Words With Friends” game. Sure, the app is supposed to be all in good fun, but I can’t deny that when you play against family, it becomes personal. You earn a certain amount of bragging rights for managing to put the correct letters together, possibly capturing a triple word space in the process, and claiming the title of “winner.” Just as quickly as a game ends, the word “rematch” is clicked and the whole process starts all over again, with the loser seeking redemption and the winner attempting to cling to his title.

     With the will to win comes the willingness to do whatever it takes. This is why companies who produce the “cheater apps” have almost as much business as the company that produces the game. With these apps you plug in your letters and it gives you the word that will win you the most points. You play the world, get a bunch of points, and look brilliant.  There’s a vast array of these apps, many of them free, but if you want the really advanced ones, you have to pay up. I don’t see how winning a single Words With Friends game is worth 99 cents, but apparently to some people the glory is well worth the sacrifice. Out of my family of four people, who are all avid Words With Friends players, only one has actually gone so far as to purchase a cheating app. This is also the person in my family who wins the most often. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been tempted to take this person’s phone when they’re not looking and delete the app, but I’m also afraid of the wrath that would follow, so I leave it be.

     The abundance of cheater apps in the iPhone universe brings with it a certain kind of paranoia. The way a person’s eyes suspiciously glance over at you after you’ve played a word just short of genius. Sometimes in my family this suspicious glance is met with the demand that we display our “double tap” (the small bar along the bottom of the iPhone that displays recently used apps if you tap the “home” button twice) and prove that we haven’t opened a cheater app. If no cheater app appears in this inspection, but the person is still suspicious, they then ask “How did you know that word? Where did you hear it? Did you read it somewhere?” In my case, I usually did read the word somewhere, and I tell them that. However, people who were smart enough to delete the cheater app directly after its use but not creative enough to come up with a fake excuse for how they know the word usually flounder and come up with something like “I…um…I just put random letters together until it accepted a word.”

     Likely story.

     “Way to cheat!” my brother congratulated me once over text complete with an icon of a set of hands applauding.

     So why put up with this? Again, it is a pride thing. I want that sense of accomplishment that comes with outsmarting the cheater app. This isn’t really possible unless you have luck on your side. You see, to beat a cheater app you need to get letters that are worth more points, and use every triple word and double word space that you possibly can. What doesn’t help is that the points system of Words With Friends is somewhat flawed. The fact that I can use almost all of my letters and obtain 15 points while my mother plays a three letter word and gets 95 just doesn’t seem right. I’ll admit, it makes me bitter. Sometimes I boycott my game with my mother, refusing to play a word on our game for a few days until I get over the sting of being outsmarted with letters.

     There’s also the fact that at the moment when you’re about to initiate your comeback and need useful letters the most, you receive something like “IUUOIEF.” True story. This has happened to me multiple times. In this situation I usually leave that game idling while I come up with a word on another game, silently praying that when I revisit the letters will have morphed into new ones that I can actually use. They never do. My thumb itches to tap the cheater app. “Don’t do it,” I tell myself. “Don’t sink to their level!” After this I’m reduced to playing words like “Hi” and “Be” and all hope of a comeback against the cheater app is lost in an abyss.

     Then you face a tough decision: to resign or not to resign . There’s no hope for you to win, but still you refuse to give that satisfaction to your opponent. Instead you play some pathetic word, and end up losing by something like 153 points. And then, “Rematch?” the screen asks. You click yes. And the whole cycle starts over again.

     My father, who just recently got an iPhone, has finally joined the Words With Friends circle at my house. When he created his account, he claimed that he would never cheat to win. Even so, when I glance at the “MisterBill played ‘Bunya’ for 42 points” alert on my Words with Friends screen, I cast a suspicious glance his way, but he’s typing emails on his iPhone, pretending not to notice.