Don't look - too late, the game's up

22:50, Jul 15 2014
CAUGHT: A wordsmith maybe, but hopeless at Scrabble.

Forget about the Government Communications Security Bureau, the Security Intelligence Service, the CIA, or even MI5 and MI6 ... the snooping agency you really need to worry about is Facebook.

I know from practical experience in recent days that your every move is monitored and then published for the world to see.

OK, I may be exaggerating slightly there. Perhaps not your EVERY move but certainly every Scrabble move if you are tempted to indulge in an online version of the game with friends - or even strangers.

I have to admit at this point that although I have spent my whole working life dealing in words I'm an extremely inept Scrabble player, just as I'm also absolutely hopeless at crossword puzzles. Obviously my brain isn't wired to cope with the challenges of word games.

That said, I get pleasure from playing Scrabble. It's just the total embarrassment that follows an inevitable humiliation that I abhor.

I'm completely tactically naive, repeatedly setting up my opponents for triple or double word scores.


Nevertheless, as I said, I do enjoy playing Scrabble and numerous defeats at the hands of my word-savvy wife have not dimmed my enthusiasm for the game.

So when a friend last week invited me to play an online game via Facebook I readily agreed even though I knew my feeble efforts were likely to end in disgrace.

The first game went exactly as I feared. My opponent raced into an unbeatable lead while I scratched around trying to find a spot to put in such ambitious words as "the" and "to" on the board.

In my defence the computer was dealing me a dreadful hand each time. At one point six of my seven letters were vowels - hard to place and worth next to nothing when used.

There came a point where I thought of a possible word containing three "e's" but I had some doubts about its veracity. As I was still a Facebook Scrabble novice at this point I was unaware there was a spell checker built into the site.

So I went casting around the internet to find out if my word existed. In the process I stumbled upon a website called Scrabble Cheat. I hastily retreated, not wishing to resort to underhand methods to improve my paltry score.

Shortly afterwards a shouting comment from my playing partner appeared on my Facebook page: "NO WAY!!!!!!"

I was puzzled at this amazing outburst from a quiet, mild- mannered friend and then I saw she was referring to the fact that I had somehow contrived to "like" the Scrabble Cheat page. Obviously in my haste to flee the website I'd accidentally hit the "like" button and Facebook had then hastened to tell the world about my so-called preference.

No wonder my opponent was berating me, albeit in jocular fashion. I felt like Lou Vincent must have felt when he was first accused of match-fixing, except in my case I was completely innocent.

Fortunately my explanation was accepted with good grace. My most telling rebuttal was that she had only to look at our respective scores to be convinced I couldn't possibly be cheating.

This was the second time in a week that Facebook had squealed on me.

A few days earlier, at the behest of a long-time friend in England, I played a couple of games of Juice Cubes on Facebook. I wasn't particularly enamoured with the game and, after passing a couple of levels rather easily, I quickly gave up.

Not long afterwards I received an unexpected comment on Facebook from my wife, who was overseas at the time.

"I see you've passed a couple of levels of a game called Juice Cubes. I'll have to make the 'things to do' list a bit longer."

So you see what I mean about Facebook spying on you and then revealing your every recreational movement to the world.

I think it's extremely Machiavellian.

Hey, that's a pretty good word - it's just a pity I'll never be able to work it into a game of Scrabble.

The Timaru Herald