Playing Scrabble in the digital age

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There is nothing better then playing a board game on a rainy day whilst sitting in front of a woodfire. Yet in this digital age, computer games are taking over this old and outdated pastime. Recently a friend popped around and asked if I wanted to play her in a game of Scrabble. Confused, I went to the cupboard to grab the dusty, old, forgotten game. She called me back, pointing to my iPad. After downloading the game and the apps required on both of our iPhones, I had one of the most interesting gaming experiences of my life, and which showed me the power of device integration.

EA and Mattel have collaborated on bringing this old board game to life in the 21st century. We have all seen remakes of board games on current digital devices, but the unusual part about this game is the need for an iPod touch or iPhone, which functions as your letter rack. After purchasing the “Game Board” from the App Store for your iPad, ($9.99AUD) you then download the accompanying letter racks for your miniature iDevices for free.

Firing it up, you are instructed on all iDevices to turn off WiFi and turn on Bluetooth. I thought this was a little odd, as you usually use a shared WiFi network for this sort of connectivity. You connect all devices, up to a maximum of four iPhones and/or iPod Touches to the iPad, and then start the game. There are other methods of playing, such as against the CPU, but these a not as fun nor as interesting.

The iPad dishes out letters to the mini iDevices, and away you go. On your mini iDevice you have a few functions, such as an inbuilt dictionary. This allows you to check words as you think about them and it makes an even playing field as a “word referee”, sorting out unacceptable words from those people who like to “invent” their own “new and unique” words. You can also swap letters when it is your turn, and organise your letters around to make it a little easier to remember the word you were going to do next.

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As you can see from the above screenshot from an iPhone, once it is your turn you rotate the iPad screen to face you, so you don’t have to keep moving the iPad. Once you do this, the iPad remembers your position and automatically rotates the screen around to each of the individual players for their respective turn. When you have decided on your word, you “flick” the letters from your mini iDevice to the iPad. The flicked letters show up on the iPad immediately, where you can then move them to where you want them to be on the game board. If you want to recall the letters and start again, hitting “recall” on the mini iDevice will bring them straight back. Once you are finished placing your tiles, you just hit the green tick on the iPad, and the iPad adds up your score, and moves onto the next player.

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Overall, the gaming experience is really great. It was an eye opener for me on how devices can be used and unique experiences can be had. Andreas has already mentioned this new experience in a post, but was disappointed with the execution. Admittedly, the Scrabble concept is nowhere near as complicated as what he was reviewing, but it works well for such a simple concept.

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Stuart Cope

Stuart Cope is a former contributing editor at Nothing But Tablets, which was merged into Pocketables in 2012.

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