Being Together Apart: Wordfeud

Last updated on 27 February 2023

Microblogging mechanisms like Twitter and status updates have given form to new modes of Ambient Awareness (or Ambient Intimacy). They allow people to broadcast short information bursts to their social networks.

Ultra-short interactions e.g. Facebook’s “poke” and “like” or Google’s “+1” fulfill more of a phatic function. They allow for social interaction to occur for the sake of social interaction, keeping ourselves on each other’s radar, so to speak.

The mobile phone game, Bertheussen IT’s Wordfeud, works on a different mechanism and is a different kind of social interaction.

Shared Activity

We already know that shared activity increases friendship and/or intimacy. Wordfeud provides people with a shared experience, even if they are not physically together (colocated).

The game itself is like Scrabble, a turn-based word game in which opponents compete to collect points by forming words on a playing board. Unlike Scrabble, Wordfeud is on your mobile phone and uses the internet to connect players. It means that, when it’s my turn, I can play that turn whenever and wherever I want, and my opponent will get a notification that I have played.

Fostering Friendly Feelings

Today, while in Prague, I played some turns on Wordfeud with a coworker of mine in Amsterdam. Although we’re not communicating explicitly, we are engaged in a shared, competitive experience about which we can later talk with each other and tell others if something interesting happens.

This shared activity lets us do something together without explicitly communicating (there is a chat function, but we don’t use it). The interesting part about this is that it’s not explicit like a message or poke but is more time-consuming than a one-click poke or like.

Is this a new form of social interaction? In what other ways can this type of shared experience be elicited?

  1. Implicit
  2. Asynchronous
  3. Shared
  4. Easy
  5. Competitive
  6. Does not require colocation