• Sweden's news in English

Wordfeud: Swedes' latest smartphone addiction

The Local · 23 Nov 2011, 12:28

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

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

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.”

Story continues below…

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.

The Local (news@thelocal.se)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

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
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
Refugee crisis
Asylum requests in Sweden down by 70 percent
Sweden's migration minister Morgan Johansson. Photo: Christine Olsson/TT

Sweden received 70 percent fewer requests for asylum in the period between January and September 2016 than it did during the same time last year, the country’s justice and migration minister Morgan Johansson has revealed.

The unique story of Stockholm's floating libraries
The Stockholm archipelago book boat. Photo: Roger Hill.

Writer Roger Hill details his journeys on the boats that carry books over Stockholm's waterways and to its most remote places.

Refugee crisis
Second Stockholm asylum centre fire in a week
The new incident follows a similar fire in Fagersjö last week (pictured). Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

Police suspect arson in the blaze, as well as a similar incident which occurred last Sunday.

More misery for Ericsson as losses pile up
Ericsson interim CEO Jan Frykhammar presenting its third quarter results. Photo: Claudio Bresciani/TT

The bad news just keeps coming from the Swedish telecoms giant.

Facebook 'sorry' for removing Swedish cancer video
A computer displaying Facebook's landing page. Photo: Christine Olsson/TT

The social media giant had censored a video explaining how women should check for suspicious lumps in their breasts.

Watch this amazing footage of Sweden’s landscapes
A still from the aerial footage of Sweden. Photo: Nate Summer-Cook

The spectacular drone footage captures both Sweden's south and the opposite extreme, thousands of kilometres north.

Sweden could be allowed to keep border controls: EU
Police ID checks at Hyllie station in southern Sweden. Photo: Stig-Åke Jönsson/TT

Sweden could be allowed to keep ID controls on its border with Denmark beyond the current end date of November, following discussions among EU leaders in Brussels last night.

Why women in Sweden will work for free by November
File photo of a woman working in a Swedish office. Photo: Anders Willund/TT

A new study into the gender pay gap suggests Sweden still has some work to do.

Look familiar? Meet your jawbone's ancestor
Thank God for evolution, eh?

There's something fishy about the human jawbone – it has its origins in the placodermi, a jowly species of fish that lived 400 million years ago, Swedish and Chinese researchers say.

Isis claims unremarked arson attack in Malmö
The arson attack took place on Norra Grängesbergsgatan in Malmö. File photo: Emil Langvad/TT

An arson attack in Malmö that caused only minor damage and was barely reported in the media has been claimed by terror group Isis.

Sponsored Article
This is Malmö: Football capital of Sweden
Fury at plans that 'threaten the IB's survival' in Sweden
Sponsored Article
Where is the Swedish music industry heading?
Here's where it could snow in central Sweden this weekend
Analysis & Opinion
Are we just going to let half the country die?
Blog updates

6 October

10 useful hjälpverb (The Swedish Teacher) »

"Hej! I think the so-called “hjalpverb” (auxiliary verbs in English) are a good way to get…" READ »


8 July

Editor’s blog, July 8th (The Local Sweden) »

"Hej readers, It has, as always, been a bizarre, serious and hilarious week in Sweden. You…" READ »

Sponsored Article
7 reasons you should join Sweden's 'a-kassa'
Angry elk chases Swede up a lamp post
Sponsored Article
Why you should 'grab a chair' on Stockholm's tech scene
The Local Voices
'Alienation in Sweden feels better: I find myself a stranger among scores of aliens'
People-watching: October 20th
The Local Voices
A layover at Qatar airport brought this Swedish-Kenyan couple together - now they're heading for marriage
Sponsored Article
Stockholm: creating solutions to global challenges
Swede punches clown that scared his grandmother
Sponsored Article
Swedish for programmers: 'It changed my life'
Fans throw flares and enter pitch in Swedish football riot
Could Swedish blood test solve 'Making a Murderer'?
Sponsored Article
Top 7 tips to help you learn Swedish
Property of the week: Linnéstaden, Gothenburg
Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
Swedish school to build gender neutral changing room
People-watching: October 14th-16th
Sponsored Article
'There was no future for me in Turkey'
Man in Sweden assaulted by clowns with broken bottle
Sponsored Article
‘Extremism can't be defeated on the battlefield alone’
Nobel Prize 2016: Literature
Sponsored Article
Stockholm: creating solutions to global challenges
Watch the man who discovered Bob Dylan react to his Nobel Prize win
Sponsored Article
Why you should 'grab a chair' on Stockholm's tech scene
Record numbers emigrating from Sweden
Sponsored Article
'There was no future for me in Turkey'
People-watching: October 12th
Sponsored Article
Where is the Swedish music industry heading?
The Local Voices
'Swedish startups should embrace newcomers' talents - there's nothing to fear'
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
How far right are the Sweden Democrats?
Property of the week: Triangeln, Malmö
Sweden unveils Europe's first elk hut
People-watching: October 7th-9th
The Local Voices
Syria's White Helmets: The Nobel Peace Prize would have meant a lot, but pulling a child from rubble is the greatest reward
Missing rune stone turns up in Sweden
Nobel Prize 2016: Chemistry
jobs available