“30 Rock” star Alec Baldwin was removed from an American Airlines flight Tuesday when he refused to turn off his iPad.
But Baldwin wasn’t involved in some high-profile Hollywood email exchange…instead he was involved with a game of Words With Friends.
Words With Friends is a multiplayer word game, very similar to Scrabble, but played on a cell phone or computer. The game, created by Zynga, has 12.5 million active users, according to AppData.
Baldwin isn’t the only who can’t seem to tear themselves away from the game.
Emory University junior Samantha Hamilton began playing Words With Friends in 2009 when she first started using the iPhone.
“One of my friends suggested I get it so that we could play each other,” Hamilton said. “He’d already been playing for awhile so he was already really good and made me feel so stupid for playing small words. I started discovering more and more people who played it, and began to improve pretty quickly.”
The time she spent focusing on forming words with a limited selection of letters quickly escalated, and began to be detrimental to her schoolwork and other aspects of her life.
“A friend and I used to play each other back and forth during a class we were in together because it was so boring,” Hamilton said. “We never paid attention and neither one of us got an A in that class.”
Michelle Hayon, a junior at George Washington University, began playing Words With Friends last year when she still had a Blackberry.
“I was jealous of everyone else who had it, it was an exclusive thing,” Hayon said. “So I started playing with people on my iPod so I could play this new game that everyone else was playing. It’s like a club and you’re on the inside.”
Hayon used the game excessively over the summer and had to wean herself off of it upon returning to school in the fall. Now, she uses it as an outlet when she needs a break from her work, but it can turn into more of a distraction than an escape.
“It’s just something to get my mind off of work, especially now during finals week, it’s really nice to have an outlet,” Hayon said. “But with all the other social networks in my life, it can become a huge distraction. When you’re playing it you’re so caught up with trying to find a word you don’t even realize how much time it consumes.”
While Hayon said she doesn’t take the game too seriously, Hamilton can relate to Baldwin’s competitiveness when it comes to the game.
“I’m very competitive,” Hamilton said. “I’ve learned that the whole game is more about tile placement than the actual length of the word or how sophisticated the word is. I hate to lose. Sometimes if I’m playing someone that I normally beat, and they’re doing really well, I wonder if they’re cheating, but in reality it’s probably just me getting complacent.”
The Baldwin airplane episode has received widespread media attention, and continues to spark debate. On Wednesday, Zynga made ALEC the word of the day.
The Words With Friends’ Facebook page read, “Word of the day: ALEC (adj.) Typically associated with ‘smart’ as its prefix to refer to a wise guy, or smarty.” The name is worth at least eight points.
Zynga also published a fabricated game board, spelling out “Let Alec Play,” with a score of “A Baldwin – 1, American Air – 0.”