• Sweden edition
 
Wordfeud: Swedes' latest smartphone addiction

Wordfeud: Swedes' latest smartphone addiction

Published: 23 Nov 2011 12:28 GMT+01:00
Updated: 23 Nov 2011 12:28 GMT+01:00

Wordfeud hysteria has swept across Sweden, and shows no sign of abating.

Hillevi Wahl, a columnist with Metro newspaper recently called Wordfeud her “new addiction”, and apparently she's not alone.

In the span a few months, the number of Swedes tapping away on their smartphone screens, engrossed in this Scrabble-like game, has mushroomed to more than 360,000.

And more than twice as many have downloaded the game, making Wordfeud among the most popular free downloaded programmes in Sweden.

So what lies behind Swedes' sudden romance with Wordfeud?

“I don’t think the popularity has to do with the specific Swedish context - it’s a worldwide phenomenon,” Simon Lindgren, a sociology professor at Umeå University, tells The Local.

“The board game Scrabble does have a place in popular culture. Many are familiar with it, and may also have nostalgic memories of having played it in different phases and situations in life before.”

Worldwide, there are 8 million Wordfeud users.

However, a recent study carried out by research company Novus Group International estimated that a full six percent of the Swedish population are Wordfeud players.

Gustav Örneholm, 17, and Linnea Lund, 18, are two of them. They play the game daily, and so do most of their friends.

“It’s fun to learn new words you didn’t even know existed - just by trying different letter combinations out,” Örneholm says.

“Your writing gets better too. With all the slang being used in short texting and chatting, it’s easy to lose your spelling skills,” adds Lund.

Sweden's Wordfeud frenzy reached a fever pitch recently after complaints arose about the dictionary used in the Swedish version of the game (the game can also be played in English, Danish, Dutch, French, Norwegian, and Spanish).

Newspapers were flooded with reports that the prestigious Swedish Academy (Svenska Akademien), responsible for awarding the Nobel Prize for Literature, had rebuffed efforts by the Wordfeud's developers to obtain the Academy's official Swedish dictionary, the Svenska Akademiens ordlista (SAOL).

“We had a few complaints. A lot of people were upset about the allowance of conjugations, and some common words didn't exist in the previous dictionary. I understand the Swedish Academy's dictionary is the 'word bible' in Sweden”, Wordfeud's Norwegian creator Håkon Bertheussen told Swedish computer magazine PC för alla in October.

The head of the Academy, Peter Englund, downplayed talk of any conflict and soon confirmed that the Academy would indeed allow Wordfeud to include SAOL in its next update.

Örneholm has noticed the changes, and he likes having the new Swedish dictionary, finding it very helpful for expanding his vocabulary.

“Playing against someone who’s got the same starting conditions is an exciting challenge. The person with the greatest vocabulary wins, and you want to show the other one that you’re better in your native language. Sometimes you surprise yourself as well, when you see how many words you know,” he says.

And if you get sick of playing your mother tongue, you could always swap to another language.

“Swedish people learn how to speak English early and we also study a third language in school. I think we all want to improve those skills as well as our Swedish. Since you can play Wordfeud in several languages, you practice all of them at the same time,” Örneholm says.

According to sociologist Lindgren, the link between the mobile game (Wordfeud) and the board game (Scrabble) is an example of how new and old media interact in contemporary society.

The game is neither simply re-used nor completely replaced, but rather developed to suit the small screens and multi-tasking lifestyle of users smartphones and tablet devices.

“I don't think that word games as such are central, but rather the fact that it's a fairly straight forward game. It’s based on a simple game architecture and a short game time, which makes it easy enough to play on the run,” he says.

Lund also praises Wordfeud's flexible format.

“It’s neither time consuming nor stressful. You can play any time of the day; maybe during a short break, on the bus or just before going to bed. Make a move and go on to do something else for a while,” she says.

Örneholm concurs.

“It’s nice to be able to consider your next move for a bit as well. If the other person can’t be bothered waiting for you, he or she could just start up a new game while waiting. You can have up to 30 games going at the same time,” he says.

Wordfeud also mixes new and old media in another way, according to Lindgren.

“Gaming is mixed with built-in social networking features. It allows you to talk to old and newly acquired friends, and discuss anything - not just the game itself.”

The ability to contact other Wordfeud players at random has also made the game a new way to meet members of the opposite sex, according to some.

Speaking recently on Sveriges Radio's P3, host Morgan Larsson explained how he thinks male players use Wordfeud as a way to meet women.

“When it's late on a Friday or Saturday night and I don't have anyone to play with I invite a random person to play. I have a made-up name, but you can see I'm a guy when you log in,” he said.

“If it's a guy I'm going to play against, he quits the game nine out of ten times. My theory is that these guys are there to pick up women.”

Following the broadcast, the radio programme's website was filled with comments from listeners who have also noticed that Wordfeud has become the latest tool employed by relationship-seeking Swedes.

“I've noticed that people ask if I'm a guy or a girl. If you answer guy, they quit the game,” writes commenter Erik.

Commenter Fröken E opines that she receives comments about “how inviting my breasts look” from players that are 10 to 20 years older.

“It feels rather degrading as a girl when random guys are only interested in your looks and don't care about the game.”

Regardless of whether its being used as an updated version of a pick-up line, a way to build language skills, or simply the latest form of high-tech procrastination, Wordfeud looks set to remain a fixture on Swedes' smartphones for some time to come.

Paul Rapacioli (paul.rapacioli@thelocal.com)

Your comments about this article

13:39 November 23, 2011 by matona1
enjoy game avoid crime
14:34 November 23, 2011 by BrittInSweden
Words With Friends is better. You can play it on your smart phone and Facebook without creating seperate games on each platform.
14:48 November 23, 2011 by Soft Boiled
Addicted!!
01:40 November 25, 2011 by BritVik
My only wordfeud is usually with the person on the receiving phone since my apps are apsent from my mobile.
20:50 January 26, 2013 by scrabble madre
Wordfeud is definitely addicting; I've found that anagrammer's site http://www.anagrammer.com/wordfeud-cheat/has been helpful.
Today's headlines
Stockholm 'Russian sub' alert
Search for foreign vessel continues off Stockholm
Minehunter HMS Koster takes part in the search in the Stockholm archipelago on Sunday. Photo: Marko Säävälä/TT

Search for foreign vessel continues off Stockholm

Sweden's armed forces were continuing to search for the cause of apparent "foreign underwater activity" in the Stockholm Archipelago on Monday. But the military denied news agency reports that they had imposed an exclusion zone. READ  

Ebola crisis
Sweden hit by two Ebola false alarms in two days
The Uppsala University Hospital. Photo: TT

Sweden hit by two Ebola false alarms in two days

UPDATED: A patient has been cleared of any Ebola suspicions at the Uppsala University Hospital. It marks the second suspected case in Sweden in two days. READ  

Perspective: ‘Russian sub’ alert
Why a foreign vessel lurks in Swedish waters
The HMS Stockholm patrols Jungfrufjärden in the Stockholm archipelago on Monday morning. Photo: Anders Wiklund/TT

Why a foreign vessel lurks in Swedish waters

With Sweden engaged in its biggest domestic military operation since the Cold War, The Local spoke to Johan Wiktorin, a fellow at the Swedish Royal Academy of War Sciences, to get insight into what’s going on in the Stockholm archipelago. READ  

My Swedish Career
US woman starts up Swedish toy store online
Leigh Neil and a llama hand puppet. Photo: Private

US woman starts up Swedish toy store online

For this week's My Swedish Career we meet Leigh Neil, who one day came to realize that there was a gap in the Swedish market for children's toys and decided to do something about it. READ  

Stockholm 'Russian sub' alert
No truth to Russia's submarine claim: Dutch
A CB90-class fast assault craft at Kullbäling, a small island in Stockholm's archipelago. Photo: Anders Wiklund/TT

No truth to Russia's submarine claim: Dutch

The Netherlands on Monday denied a Russian claim that a mystery vessel the Swedish military has been looking for could be Dutch. READ  

Lufthansa Strike
Over 20 Swedish flights hit by Lufthansa strike
Grounded Lufthansa planes. Photo: TT

Over 20 Swedish flights hit by Lufthansa strike

A strike by pilots at German airline Lufthansa will affect over 20 flights in and out of Sweden over the next two days. READ  

National
Dentist gives free care to Roma beggars
Photo: Shutterstock

Dentist gives free care to Roma beggars

A dentist in western Sweden is offering free dental care to his town's Roma begging population. READ  

Business & Money
Electrolux profit soars after cost-cutting efforts
Photo: TT

Electrolux profit soars after cost-cutting efforts

Swedish electrical appliance maker Electrolux reported its third-quarter net profit soared 42 percent to 933 million kronor ($130 million) thanks to a cost-cutting programme started at the end of last year. READ  

National
School photographer fired for homophobic slur
Photo credit: Shutterstock

School photographer fired for homophobic slur

A photographer at a high school in southern Sweden was sacked after he called one of the students a "fag" during a shoot. READ  

Ebola crisis
Patient in isolation after airport Ebola alert

Patient in isolation after airport Ebola alert

A male passenger who landed at Stockholm's Arlanda airport has been transferred to an isolation unit amid fears he may be suffering from the Ebola virus. But a specialist was keen to play down concerns. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Gallery
PHOTOS: 'Foreign activity' in Swedish waters
National
Sweden deploys troops over underwater threat
Gallery
People-watching: October 19th
TT
Society
QUIZ: How good is your Swedish?
Business & Money
Get your own office in Gothenburg or Stockholm - free for a day
Blog updates

19 October

Getting it (Blogweiser) »

"Follow Joel Sherwood on FB Few watch baseball in Sweden. This is excellent when your team loses..." READ »

 

17 October

Editor’s Blog, Oct 17th (The Local Sweden) »

"Hi readers, Here’s the whole week of news in just 60 seconds. The most-read story was about a..." READ »

 
 
 
National
A Touch of Scandinavia: Reindeer in the kitchen
Lifestyle
What's on in Sweden: October 17th - 24th
Society
The nudity... and nine other things expat men notice in Sweden
Gallery
People-watching: October 15th
Gallery
Your views: Should outdoor smoking be banned in Sweden?
Business & Money
Sweden has 'large hole' in finances
Sponsored Article
Introducing... Finding a job in Stockholm
Society
Monster salmon caught in northern Sweden
Gallery
Property of the week: Lorensberg
National
Scandinavia's child bride
National
Ebola crisis: How is Sweden preparing?
Lifestyle
Sweden's The Bridge to become 'more Danish'
Business & Money
How Sweden is becoming a cashless society
Gallery
Stockholm Burlesque Festival 2014
National
How a little red horse became a symbol for Sweden
Gallery
People-watching: October 12th
Business & Money
The hottest start-ups from southern Sweden
National
What's on in Sweden: October 10th - 17th
National
Stockholm is 'best' region for well-being
Gallery
People-watching: October 8th
National
Five facts to know about Patrick Modiano
Society
My Swedish Career: A French fashionista in Sweden
Society
Swede's anti-bully Facebook tale goes viral
Society
Have you seen Sweden's viral subway cancer campaign?
National
Isis: Swedes linked to Turkish prisoner swap
National
Should Swedes be banned from buying sex abroad?
Gallery
Fredrik Reinfeldt's leaving presents
National
Five Swedish TV shows you shouldn't miss
Gallery
A tool belt, a casserole, and a book. Fredrik Reinfeldt's parliament gifts
TT
Lifestyle
Top five winter festivals in Sweden
TT
National
Sami reindeer herders win mine reprieve
Gallery
Property of the Week: Gamla Enskede
Sponsored Article
How to catch the first lobster of the year
Politics
Ten new minister faces you should know
Tech
First womb transplant baby in world born in Sweden
Gallery
People-watching: October 5th
National
What's on in Sweden
National
Sweden rethinks Afghan translators' protection
Society
Interview with Geena Davis: 'I want to be in a Swedish movie'
Gallery
Stefan Löfven through the years
Team SCA
Sponsored Article
All-female SCA team takes off on Volvo Ocean Race
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

987
jobs available
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions is an innovative business company which provides valuable assistance with the Swedish Authorities, Swedish language practice and general communications. Call 073-100 47 81 or visit:
www.swedishdowntown.com
PSD Media
PSD Media is marketing company that offers innovative solutions for online retailers. We provide modern solutions that help increase traffic and raise conversion. Visit our site at:
http://psdmedia.se
If you want to drink, that’s your business.
If you want to stop, we can help.

Learn more about English-language Alcoholics Anonymous in Sweden. No dues. No fees. Confidentiality assured.
AA-EUROPE.ORG/SWEDEN