I’m getting addicted to the game Word Challenge on Facebook. OK, let’s face up to the truth of the matter. Deep breath. I am addicted to the game Word Challenge on Facebook. Between DVDs, Cadbury’s Roses, cans of Guinness Original and the occasional pork pie I was playing it for most of Boxing Day. And yesterday. It consumes me. It has me in its thrall.


I lay in bed last night, or rather into the early hours of this morning, having finally prised myself away from the laptop. Just one more go. I couldn’t sleep. I felt too worked up. ‘Let yourself fall into a snooze,’ I thought to myself, burrowing back into the mattress, my duvet almost covering my head. ‘Let yourself relax and slip away.’ Snooze. Soon. Zone. Zones. Nose. Ones. One. Son.


From a state of melting relaxation I opened my eyes to the darkness, panicking. Panicking. King. Pan. Pain. Nip. Nap. Pin. Gin.


‘Bloody hell, what’s happening?’ I thought feverishly. Every word I spoke to myself I could see written before my mind’s eye. And I would then quickly begin to deconstruct it. Anagrams. Grams. Gram. Nags. Nag. Rams. Ram. Man. Mans.




I was like a toddler that had got over-tired. I felt fidgety and restless. Petulant. Pet. Tun. Lane. Tan. Leap. Peal. I couldn’t close down. I couldn’t stop thinking about words and letters. My brain was racing. This lasted about half-an-hour before I finally succumbed to sleep. Succumb. Bum. Bums…


I think I’d been playing it too much.


The concept of the game is very simple. And therein lies its appeal. You are given six letters. You make as many words out of those letters as you can. If you make enough with that particular group, you have the option to change them for a fresh set. The longer the word, the better it scores. Two minutes and counting, away you go. Extra seconds are awarded for longer words.


Fair enough, Word Challenge lacks some of the bells and whistles of Grand Theft Auto XVI: Dearne Valley Destruction or Call of Duty 10: Operation Goldthorpe. It doesn’t even have Blinky, Pinky, Inky or Clyde of Pac Man from 1980 bobbing about to bugger things up for you. But it is addictive in spades. It’s very more-ish. I’m hooked. And the fact is that my PS2 sits gathering dust underneath the TV. A few rounds of virtual golf with Bootneck on Tiger Woods every once in a while is about the only use it sees. And despite the options to customize my clothes, give my player an afro haircut or a big arse, Tiger can’t hold a candle to Word Challenge. Word Challenge is the dog’s bollocks.


It’s appeal is it’s immediacy. Give me the simple set up of the game to work with and the rest comes from inside my head. The challenge is direct. Bingo. Almost. I rack my brains. Go through permutations. My fingers trying to keep up. Stumped by too many consonants. A nifty run when I get inside a series of letters and hammer out word after word after word. Green ticks lighting up, my score going through the roof. I love it. My present high score is a shameful 12,856. My friend O’Connell’s stands at 14,345. I feel driven to beat this. To grind her into the digital dust. And I will. Give me time. Watch this space.


Given the appeal of Word Challenge it’s strange that I’ve never been a fan of Countdown. I’ll have two from the top and a big one from the bottom, Carol. Where the jokes always bring the house down. But I could never get into it. Though the principle of the game is similar. A series of letters from which to find words under the pressure of time. But where Word Challenge has got under my skin and keeps me going back for more, like a George Michael to Hampstead Heath, Countdown feels stodgy and apes a middle class way of life that was outmoded in 1954. Because it’s elitist. It only wants the long words. And it only wants one of them per round. ‘Vermifuge,’ imparts some tidy bird from the Concise Oxford Dictionary once the clock has ticked down, ‘n. A medicine that expels intestinal worms adj. Causing expulsion of intestinal worms; anthelmintic.’ Cheers for that. I’ll try to use it in my next conversation. Countdown would scorn the three letter combos that I sometimes skip through to keep my momentum going. Bag. Bin. Lit. I can see Dictionary Corner raising its eyebrows at Gin, Nag and Git. But Word Challenge is egalitarian. Word Challenge is the people’s word game. Word Challenge is the game that George Orwell would have been happy to put his name to. Because Word Challenge welcomes my three letters. Rewards me for them. And after all’s said and done, Countdown has Richard Digance or bloody Stilgo or some other Radio Times favourite talking a glass eye to sleep before the commercial break. No, thanks. I’ll stick to bludgeoning three, four, five and the occasional six letter word into my keyboard. This one’s for George. Red.


Obviously I’ll lose interest in Word Challenge just as quickly as my addiction began. It’s the way with these things. Like my Rubik’s Cube and Astro Wars. And then I’ll just walk away. Hey, come on, it’s not crack cocaine we’re talking about. I can turn my back and leave anytime I want. Anytime. Easy. No problem. It’s not like I need it. Do me a favour. No. I can turn it off whenever I desire to. But not until I’ve beaten O’Connell. Bring it on. Let’s have another go.


One comment

  1. guinnessorig · December 30, 2008

    Ah. 16695. Nice.


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