I live for the buzz of Words With Friends

Your move with Solo Play

My phone buzzes a lot, but there’s around a 75 percent chance it’s just my turn in Words With Friends. In other words, I spend about 75 percent of my life being disappointed. A Words With Friends notification carries much less excitement than a text message or Tinder match, and only slightly more than “Hello, I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn.” Occasionally, people notice my phone buzzing and say something like, “Wow Julian, you’re so popular,” to which I’ll respond, “Yeah, in a way.” I should add that of the 75 percent, there’s a 60 percent chance that the person whose move induced the buzz is over the age of forty, related to me, or both.

Now don’t get me wrong, Words With Friends is a wonderful thing. It allows me to connect with people I might otherwise have a hard time connecting with. Aunt Susan and I don’t watch the same TV shows, but we both understand the gravity of URETHRAL played on a triple word score, connected by the T of the obligatory QAT. It’s also a great resource for making the most of my personal network. I have a serious word rivalry with my pediatrician that has been going on for several years, and I occasionally ask him medical questions over Words With Friends’ rarely used chat feature. Texting him the same questions would be a breach of professional boundaries.


Knowing that a Words With Friends buzz could mean I’m sharing a meaningful bond with a relative or that I probably don’t have meningitis isn’t so bad. However, Words With Friends recently added a feature called Solo Play, where you play against the computer. I like to think of it as Words Without Friends. But true to the original vision of a social word game, the computer waits two whole minutes to make its move, simulating what it’s like to be playing with an actual human friend. Some days when I’m feeling down, my phone will buzz and for a second I’ll feel like everything’s going to be OK. Then I’ll look at my phone and see “Your move with Solo Play,” which has the effect of receiving a Happy Birthday fax from your dentist’s office.

Solo Play might claim to wait two minutes, but sometimes I think it just waits for the worst possible time to make its next move, like right after I’ve texted someone. My phone will buzz and I’ll get excited, but when I see “Your move with Solo Play” on the screen, I know it’s really saying, “She’s not going to text you back, Julian. There’s a reason that you play word games by yourself.”

I want to be strong. I want to say, “Fuck you, Solo Play. I don’t need you. Next time I’m on the toilet, I’ll just read a goddamn book and there’s nothing you can do about it.” But in reality, I’m scared that one day, I’ll start a game with Solo Play and it won’t play me back, leaving me with neither words nor friends.

Yale University