Why the famous mobile game is adding specific abbreviations come its lexicon—breaking through a dominance held spiritual by that forebear, Scrabble


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This week, the game developer Zynga is rolling the end a refreshed version of Words with Friends, billed as the world’s most famous mobile native game. The new-and-improved Words v Friends 2 boasts assorted bells and whistles, prefer the “Solo Challenge” where you square off against bots, and “Lightning Rounds” the pit teams against each other. Yet a more profound adjust is going on invisibly: a substantial expansion in the variety of playable words.

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To storage the eighth anniversary of the game, Zynga announced in September the it was including 50,000 brand-new words to what the calls the “Social Dictionary,” incorporating generally requested items, and words influenced by pop culture and online communication. That consists of not only modern slang like bae, yas, werk, turnt, and also bestie, however also, an ext surprisingly, a grasp of abbreviations favor BFF (best girlfriend forever), FOMO (fear of lacking out), and also TFW (that emotion when...).


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While trendy initialisms might make for good marketing material, purists raised on Scrabble can balk in ~ the additions. Doesn’t consisting of these abbreviations go versus the heart of gamings like Words through Friends that have Scrabble burned into their DNA? (And no, Zynga no making DNA playable, at least not yet.)

As the granddaddy that word-tile board games, Scrabble has actually long made clean what does and doesn’t count as a playable word. Together Stefan Fatsis, the author of the publication Word Freak around the compete Scrabble world, has actually noted, as soon as the game was an initial marketed in 1948, the rules were spelled out best inside the box: “Any words uncovered in a standard thesaurus are permitted except those capitalized, those designated as foreign words, abbreviations, and words inquiry apostrophes or hyphens.”

The official Scrabble players Dictionary, first published in 1978, has complied with those instructions to the letter. And when an open-source alternate to the Scrabble dictionary called allow (an acronym for magnified North American Benchmark Lexicon) was released in 1997, it too considered abbreviations verboten. ENABLE, totally free from the proprietary burdens imposed by Scrabble’s trademark holders (Hasbro in the U.S. And also Canada, and Mattel elsewhere), became a well-known word perform for game-makers emerging their very own Scrabble spinoffs, including, in 2009, a small game called Words v Friends.

The 174,000 native on the permit list have served Words v Friends well over that eight-year history, ever because its an initial development through Newtoy (which was bought out by Zynga in 2010). When Words with Friends has actually enough differences from Scrabble, such as the circulation of letter and point values, to store them indigenous being sue by Hasbro and Mattel, the “no abbreviation” dominion has to be one suggest of commitment shared by the 2 games—until now.

According to Gurpreet Singh, the product manager of Words with Friends, the brand-new Social dictionary is one way that the video game is responding to player feedback. Every day, Zynga fields an ext than 5,000 proposal for brand-new words to do playable, and also many of these have gotten in the dictionary expansion. Interestingly, though, the Words with Friends suggestion form warns that they’re unable to add words indigenous the timeless no-go categories: proper nouns, words v hyphens or apostrophes … and abbreviations.

You now can play bae but not baes, bestie yet not besties.

So exactly how did BFF, FOMO, and also TFW do the cut among the 50,000 new words? as soon as the Social dictionary was being created, there to be no effort to encompass all abbreviations. “There room no hard and also fast rules,” singh told me—and when it concerns abbreviations, “Where carry out you stop?”

For now, there’s just a minimal number of abbreviations contained in the society Dictionary, yet Singh retained the door open up to adding more. (Sorry, you can’t play OMG, LOL, WTF, BTW, or FYI just yet.) “We’re learning and evolving from talking to our players,” sink said. “We want to make certain our player base is excited by these words. It is our barometer.”

Singh likewise acknowledged the the game developers space “not aiming to be many correct indigenous a dictionary perspective.” This is another method that Zynga has set Words v Friends apart from the much more lexically straitlaced Scrabble. As the name suggests, the video game is claimed to be a social suffer that you enjoy “with friends,” therefore why do not do it the borders of acceptable words be more totally free and easy?

Despite this openminded attitude, it might be worth imposing a bit more consistency on the game’s brand-new lexicon. If BFF is acceptable, and it’s treated as a noun, climate surely the plural BFFs should be playable too. Inflammation are typically a stumbling allude for the Social dictionary words: you now deserve to play bae but not baes, bestie but not besties, swole (meaning “extremely muscular”) yet not swoler or swolest. And also you can’t really recognize if a indigenous is right now playable uneven you search for the in the game’s integrated dictionary or shot playing it on the board.

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That would be an ext of an issue if Words v Friends had actually real aspirations to be a competitive game with serious tournaments, like Scrabble. In fact, Words v Friends has actually occasionally organized competitions: In 2015, it hosted the Wordie Games, which attractive some height Scrabble players, consisting of Conrad Bassett-Bouchard, who the year before had come to be the youngest-ever American Scrabble champion at the age of 24.

I confirm in v Bassett-Bouchard, who is now an communication designer for Google, and also he stated he has no trouble v Words with Friends crossing the line and including popular abbreviation to that lexicon. “Its brand image has constantly been that it’s not so much around the dictionary,” he said. “It’s a totally different video game from Scrabble, also if it happens to involve unscrambling words and also putting lock on a board. If you eliminate that Scrabble bias, there’s no reason why these abbreviation shouldn’t be acceptable.”