Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Game Theory and Words With Friends

           Most of you have probably heard of the popular iPhone app Words With Friends (WWF).  If not then you’ve probably heard of the game Scrabble, which is in a sense the same game but not on your iPhone.  The goal of the game is to spell out words using 7 tiles with letters on them and score more points than your opponent.  The most popular strategy is to use words that score a lot of points.  A PhD student studying political science at the University of Rochester spoke on a radio show and said that you can use game theory to win these games instead.  The article here gives a brief overview of his statement.  His basic proposal is that WWF is a zero-sum game.  This means that the gains and/or losses of one player result in an exact balanced loss and/or gain of another player.  Which also means a different strategy can be applied to win at WWF.
            Another way to win in WWF, using the knowledge that WWF is a zero-sum game, is to prevent your opponent from scoring points.  By choosing words that both give you points and prevent your opponent from getting any, you can improve your chances of winning.  The PhD student, William Spaniel, says that it is more important to play words that result in fewer points for your opponent rather than more points for you.  His book on WWF strategies is an eBook on Amazon.  This strategy can be applied to other games as well.  For many sports this strategy is seen in teams that are more defensive. Defensive teams choose to prevent scoring over simply trying to score more.  So if you’re interested in getting the edge in WWF or just want a general advantage in games you play check out William’s book.

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