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Posted by on Mar 1, 2012 in Blog, In the news, Introspection, Musings, Random asides | 11 comments

Why I won’t cheat at Words With Friends

Words With Friends CheatMy husband and I play a lot of Words With Friends (for those of you not in the know, it’s a smartphone version of Scrabble). It’s a fun pastime, and we’re good at it. We take pride in finding the words with big values, in getting that perfect combination of tiles that scores the elusive 50-, 60-, or 70-something-point move. When we have the rare opportunity to make a move with a Q, a Z, or an X (always a difficult proposition) we celebrate.

We can’t abide cheaters.

You know who I’m talking about. The people who play words like “jeon,” “yahrzeits,” or “zizit.” People who you know do not know those words, who take hours or days between moves because they’re busy Googling phrases such as “Words With Friends solutions,” “Scrabble cheat lists,” or “word maker.”

Now, don’t get me wrong–if you know what jeon, yahrzeits, or zizit means (and know them well enough to call upon them when the Scrabble need strikes), then kudos to you. But you’ll be in 0.001 percent of the population if you do–and I’m 99.999 percent sure that my and my husband’s Words With Friends adversaries are not in that group (nor are we).

I don’t understand how these cheaters’ minds work. When they win the game, do they celebrate? Do they gloat over their score? Do they feel a deep internal sense of satisfaction? If they do, I’m not sure why. They didn’t win on their own merits. They won with a shortcut, a cheat sheet, a fake set of knowledge.

I read a story in the The Guardian a few days ago; it was the story of romance “author” Kay Manning, who had plagiarized stories from a multitude of romance writers and compiled them all into books she passed as her own and sold. She built a reputation around these works and their excellence, basked in the glory of the praise from her fans. It was fans, however, who brought her down–she was eventually found out by avid romance readers who discovered one too many similarities between her work and that of other, actual romance writers.

Her story, sadly, isn’t even the most egregious. She was a self-published “author,” and hadn’t profited hugely from the sale of her plagiarized works. There are others, such as spy “novelist” QR Markham or YA “author” Kaavya Viswanathan, who escaped detection even by well-known agents and editors, were published by major houses, and made considerable money before they were caught and discredited.

Much like with the Words With Friends cheaters, I don’t understand these plagiarists. What possible sense of satisfaction can they get from their work? Half the fun of being an author is coming up with the plots, the characters, the names, the quirky idiosyncrasies, the locations, the descriptions. When you don’t come up with any of it, when you don’t fall in love with your stories and the people and places within them, you’re nothing more than a transcriber of others’ genius, others’ inspiration.

Worse still, you won based on someone else’s merits.

If there’s one thing that I’ve always been adamant about, it’s this: Whether I win or lose, succeed or fail, it will be based on my own merits, and no one else’s. If (oh, awful thought) my books and stories are universally hated, and I am never able to make it as a writer, then at least I know that I failed on my own merits. I cannot imagine cobbling together a story from other sources, having it become a bestseller, and then having to put on a glowing facade in the face of success, all the while knowing that it wasn’t me–it wasn’t my talent–I was a fraud. 

No. Never. I would rather be rejected on what I created than lauded on what I stole. I would rather lose with my best shot than win with faked prowess.

And I’ll never, ever, cheat at Words With Friends.

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  1. I have a similar aversion to cheating and cheaters. Sure it’s nice to win, but to win on your own steam is too thrilling to mess it up with shortcuts. Though I do now know what a zizit is, and I will use it with pride if the chance ever comes up! So thanks for that.

    As for the plagiarizing… the truth is, we’re all plagiarizing to some extent. Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet was taken from Tristan and Isolde. There are several popular quotes about writers plagiarizing, like: “If you steal from one author, it’s plagiarism. If you steal from two, it’s research.” And “If we steal thoughts from the moderns, it will be cried down as plagiarism; if from the ancients, it will be cried up as erudition.” That said, cutting and pasting entire works, or whole chunks of another person’s writing is pretty disgusting.

    • KUDOS on zizit, Tracey! You made me want to look it up (note to self: A zizit is “the fringes that are on the four corners of the tallit, or on the shirts of orthodox Jewish men”–learn something new every day!).

      And I definitely agree with your point about Shakespeare and other major ancient works that often inspire other writers–however, as you said, there’s a big difference in being influenced by something or basing yourself off something, and just stealing it wholesale (plus, I have a soft spot for Shakespeare–he was my first true love. Well, more like Brutus in his Julius Caesar, but still).

      The Kay Manning story was particularly interesting because she eventually just outed herself and faded quietly away (albeit she did fight the accusations initially). Markham has become incredibly contrite, even doing interviews explaining what his thoughts were while he was plagiarizing. Viswanathan, on the other hand, has never admitted to plagiarizing, simply saying that she was “highly influenced” by the author she stole from–it makes me mad whenever I happen to think about it. I am glad, though, that the system has a way of self-regulating, at least for the very high-profile cases. I can only hope that, one day, I have fans who are just as zealous about my work and protecting it! :)

      Thank you for reading and commenting!

  2. Great post! I didn’t even know that people could cheat at Words with Friends! What’s the point in that? (I’m addicted to the game btw.)

    • Thanks, Léna! I wish I knew what the point in cheating at Words With Friends (or anything else, for that matter) is. Doesn’t make any sense to me–cheating takes any and all fun, and sense of accomplishment, out of it! (I’m completely addicted, too, by the way–we should play! :) ). I appreciate you commenting on the post!

  3. I loved the post. I feel the same way. Sometimes I think a few friends will quit playing because they are bored with winning! :)

    • Haha! I’ve never found winning boring. ;-) I actually rather like losing–it spurs me to get more creative, find better tile placements, and just try harder overall. I hope that my “good loser” attitude extends to more than just Words With Friends–I have a feeling I’ll have to really buck up as I attempt to make inroads in the literary fiction market! :)

      Thanks for commenting, Donna!

  4. I just called 2 friends out on cheating on Words, and they both resigned within a minute of each other. They are dating, so it’s now obviously they shared. But now I’m the bad guy because they are insulted I said anything. However, one had once admitted in the past they used a cheater app. So my question is, why is it socially unacceptable to call someone out? I immediately said I accept responsibility if I was wrong, but my accusation was based on 5 different plays that seemed suspicious. Maybe it’s better to play with strangers.

    • Naw, it’s not socially unacceptable to call people out their cheating. It’s only unacceptable to those who refuse to take responsibility for their actions and like to piggyback on the merits of something other than their own intellect. Keep on doing it! Keep them honest! :)

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