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Idea IS the format

The occasional downtime of Daniel W. E. Light

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Sunday, 6 January 2008

The Scrabble Series Part 1: Playing the Board

This is the end result of one of the oddest games of Scrabble I've ever played. It's one of a few dozen games I've enjoyed on Facebook, pitting myself against Walter, an old friend of mine, and a masterful opponent.

Neither of us set out to use only half of the board - it just happened that way. It didn't limit our scoring either - 674 is a still a perfectly respectable combined total.

Scrabble has been Facebook's killer app for me. It accounts for about 95% of my dwell time, the rest of which is spent trawling for curiosities in my news feed and messing with my status. I only started playing the game at all regularly a year or two ago, at the behest of my visiting father-in-law, Big Mike. In a series of encounters over a series of single malts he took me to pieces. It didn't take long to work out why.

When I played, my first instinct for each new hand was to check my pieces in search of a seven-letter word. Nothing wrong with that, except that most of the time I wouldn't find one, so I'd see if I could find a six-letter word, and failing that a five-letter word, and so on and so forth. Only once I'd found my longest word would I consult the board, looking for somewhere to place it. If I couldn't find anywhere, I'd go back to the hand and resume the process. Taking this approach, I'd be happy to consistently score in double figures.

Big Mike saw things differently. He started by analysing the board, finding the opportunities; not just open letters leading to bonus squares, but what he could scrounge from high value pieces already played. Once he'd mapped the board's potential he started looking for the strength in his hand. He played through a process of ongoing reconciliation, punctuated by flashes of inspiration.

You'd be forgiven for wondering where I'm going with this, beyond drafting a possible introduction for Scrabble for Dummies. Well, I spent friday afternoon going through one of our clients' 2008 film release schedules. There were all sorts of different movies represented therein, from the tentpole summer blockbusters through to bread-and-butter spring and autumn thrillers, dramas and romcoms. Some promise high-value talent and expensive visual effects, others offer subtle and engaging narratives, and one or two even look as though they might manage to combine the two. I've seen what pretty much all the major distributors have to play with next year, and at first glance it looks like some have better hands than others, but in the end what's going to separate them in 2008, more than ever before, is how well they play the board.

* * *

This analogy extends much further than you might imagine, certainly beyond a single post. Hence, The Scrabble Series. I'll put together Part 2: What is the Board? in due course, if I receive the faintest indication that anybody would like to pursue this further.

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posted by Dan Light  # 16:20
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Please take this as being the faintest indication that someone would like to persue this further.

Love that scrabble board.

I too would like to pursue (which IS in the dictionary).....being a player who thought it cool to dream up the longest word and get through the pieces quick!GL
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