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Subject: Exactly what games are word games? rss

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Gil Hova
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We're having an interesting discussion on Twitter about exactly what a word game is. I'm curious what you, a knowledgable BGG denizen, thinks.

Please fill out this simple three-question poll. I want to know the public's existing stance on this vital issue: what exactly would you call a "word game"?

Poll: Let's figure out what we call "word games"!
Please answer these questions according to your personal feelings and beliefs. I want to know what you think a word game is, not that "BGG lists this as a word game, therefore it must be a word game" or "this is how [the dictionary|Wikipedia] defines a word game, therefore it must be a word game". Go with how you feel!

This poll will close on Saturday, June 13.
Is Taboo a word game?
  Your Answer   Vote Percent Vote Count
Yes
41.2% 21
No
58.8% 30
Voters 51
Is Password a word game?
  Your Answer   Vote Percent Vote Count
Yes
50.0% 23
No
50.0% 23
Voters 46
Is Codenames a word game?
  Your Answer   Vote Percent Vote Count
Yes
42.1% 16
No
57.9% 22
Voters 38
This poll is now closed.   51 answers
Poll created by IngredientX
Closes: Sat Jun 13, 2015 6:00 am
 
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First vote!

Word games are games with words in them
In line with hearing far too many times how Super Mario Bros. is a role playing game because you're playing the role of Mario shake

To me, word games include:
Games where having a good vocabulary and spelling are very helpful, like Scrabble, Bananagrams, Quiddler or Upwords. Parts of Cranium also fit the bill where you need to spell certain words backwards, or Scattergories where command of the English language in the form of vocabulary again prevail.


I've also consider games like Baulderdash/The Meaning Of Words (or whatever was sold at Barnes & Noble, and is just a rehash of the former) where you do far too much writing. Apples To Apples... the main part of the game is the "wordplay", so this gets added too.


Last but not least, while there are games that are very language dependent, one can always translate them. If you translate most of the games above in any other language, then they can still be played (perhaps), but now the gameplay takes a whole 'nother meaning, style, approach, or thinking.


EDIT: added in Quiddler
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Mike Jones
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Yeah it's here! Really it's right here.
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good luck getting a definition of what people 'believe' what is was around here.
 
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Tim Mierz
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It's shaky, but I only call something a "word game" if it involves building or decoding words, generally not related to the word's meaning.

I would call all three of the ones you list "cluegiving games," along with Balderdash, Linq, Montage, Inklings, and everything else in this Cluegiving Games GeekList. Sure, they use words, but otherwise it's too wide an umbrella.

Scrabble, Boggle, What's My Word, Bananagrams, Prolix, Bali and others I would call "word games" because it's about the manipulation of letters to create words for words' sake.

I'm curious why people would consider Taboo and Password in different genres!
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Pete
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Games that merely have words in them are not necessarily word games. Games with the word "word" in the title are not necessarily word games. Games which include words but where the primary use is the meaning of the word and not the word itself are not word games. Password is not a word game...it's a charades game that happens to revolve around a single word.

Word games are games involving the construction of words, selection of words, manipulation of words, or other clever use of words. The words themselves, not the mere meanings of the words, must be central to the game's mechanics for me to call the game a "word game."

Pete (voted down all of the games above)
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Gil Hova
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Here's a good snapshot of the Twitter conversation so far.

Please keep the votes and conversation going! It's all honestly fascinating to me.
 
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Carl Frodge
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I think a word game is any game about words, or where the words are the star. Whether you're spelling words, guessing words, or whatever else.
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Jason W
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plezercruz wrote:
Word games are games involving the construction of words, selection of words, manipulation of words, or other clever use of words. The words themselves, not the mere meanings of the words, must be central to the game's mechanics for me to call the game a "word game."


How can you separate the word from its meaning(s)? Without their meanings, words are just a series of scribbles that happen have the distinction of appearing in a dictionary. Without their meanings, words are...meaningless. whistle
 
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azarkon
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In my mind, Word game = scrabble like game.

Taboo and the like fall under party games for me. While party and word games are not exclusive, can anyone come up with a game like Taboo that is clearly not a party game?

What games like Taboo and Scrabble have in common is that they lean on lexical knowledge that is extrinsic to the game, although to a much different extent. You don't have to play scrabble many times to know that the person with the highest vocabulary has an advantage. To some people, like myself, this detracts from the game. I think that when a game is classified as a word game, people expect that it will be biased towards more bookish players.

Taboo and its ilk rely less on lexical knowledge, so have less of this bias, but also, as party games, are less focused on the score and competition and more on the fun of the activity. For this reason, I doubt calling them word games would be to the point.

It's similar to how some games with a train theme, like the deckbuilder Trains are still not "train games" because that term has additional connotations, such as having a pickup-and-deliver mechanism.
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Will Yum
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I don't recognize the games in your poll - well, I have seen Taboo but cannot remember all of the rules. So I skipped the poll.

But here's my thoughts about what constitutes a word game.

A word game involves words as a primary component of the game and the play. It might mean that you are trying to come up with definitions for the word(s) and the word(s) might be real, obscure, or even imaginary. Or it might mean that you are trying to convey the meaning of the word or get someone to guess the word in question - so it's not a challenge of definition, but one of recognition.
 
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Will Yum
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jdw734 wrote:
plezercruz wrote:
Word games are games involving the construction of words, selection of words, manipulation of words, or other clever use of words. The words themselves, not the mere meanings of the words, must be central to the game's mechanics for me to call the game a "word game."


How can you separate the word from its meaning(s)? Without their meanings, words are just a series of scribbles that happen have the distinction of appearing in a dictionary. Without their meanings, words are...meaningless. whistle


I've heard/read that some top Scrabble players do not know the meanings of many of the words that they use in the game. They are good at remembering the patterns of the letters and that the words are valid for play because they are in the official set of acceptable words.

Here's a paper about it...

https://www.psychologytoday.com/files/attachments/56143/the-...

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Will Yum
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azarkon wrote:
In my mind, Word game = scrabble like game.

Taboo and the like fall under party games for me. While party and word games are not exclusive, can anyone come up with a game like Taboo that is clearly not a party game?

What games like Taboo and Scrabble have in common is that they lean on lexical knowledge that is extrinsic to the game, although to a much different extent. You don't have to play scrabble many times to know that the person with the highest vocabulary has an advantage. To some people, like myself, this detracts from the game. I think that when a game is classified as a word game, people expect that it will be biased towards more bookish players.

Taboo and its ilk rely less on lexical knowledge, so have less of this bias, but also, as party games, are less focused on the score and competition and more on the fun of the activity. For this reason, I doubt calling them word games would be to the point.

It's similar to how some games with a train theme, like the deckbuilder Trains are still not "train games" because that term has additional connotations, such as having a pickup-and-deliver mechanism.


For some top Scrabble players, there might not be extensive knowledge of the meanings of the words they use in play.

http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/what-makes-nigel-richard...

"For living-room players, Scrabble is about language, a test of vocabularies. For world-class players, it’s about cold memorization and mathematical probabilities. Think of the dictionary not as a compendium of the beauty and complexity of the English language, but rather as a giant rulebook. Words exist merely as valid strings with which to score points."
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Gil Hova
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willyum wrote:
I don't recognize the games in your poll - well, I have seen Taboo but cannot remember all of the rules. So I skipped the poll.

But here's my thoughts about what constitutes a word game.

A word game involves words as a primary component of the game and the play. It might mean that you are trying to come up with definitions for the word(s) and the word(s) might be real, obscure, or even imaginary. Or it might mean that you are trying to convey the meaning of the word or get someone to guess the word in question - so it's not a challenge of definition, but one of recognition.


I'd suggest clicking on the links of all the games and just getting a feel for them from the description. It won't take you much time, and since they're party games, you'll have enough info to make an informed vote from the description alone.
 
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Pete
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jdw734 wrote:
plezercruz wrote:
Word games are games involving the construction of words, selection of words, manipulation of words, or other clever use of words. The words themselves, not the mere meanings of the words, must be central to the game's mechanics for me to call the game a "word game."


How can you separate the word from its meaning(s)? Without their meanings, words are just a series of scribbles that happen have the distinction of appearing in a dictionary. Without their meanings, words are...meaningless. whistle
You don't have to have any clue what a word means in Scrabble. It merely is either legal or not legal.

Pete (offers one example)
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Pete
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azarkon wrote:
In my mind, Word game = scrabble like game.

Taboo and the like fall under party games for me. While party and word games are not exclusive, can anyone come up with a game like Taboo that is clearly not a party game?

What games like Taboo and Scrabble have in common is that they lean on lexical knowledge that is extrinsic to the game, although to a much different extent. You don't have to play scrabble many times to know that the person with the highest vocabulary has an advantage. To some people, like myself, this detracts from the game. I think that when a game is classified as a word game, people expect that it will be biased towards more bookish players.

Taboo and its ilk rely less on lexical knowledge, so have less of this bias, but also, as party games, are less focused on the score and competition and more on the fun of the activity. For this reason, I doubt calling them word games would be to the point.

It's similar to how some games with a train theme, like the deckbuilder Trains are still not "train games" because that term has additional connotations, such as having a pickup-and-deliver mechanism.
Oh, I get it. It's kind of like how any game about war is a wargame?

Pete (runs and takes cover)
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James C
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I've never thought of any of those games as Word Games.

I'm with a few of the above posters. To me a Word Game is one that you spell, build, construct words. Stuff like Scrabble, Quiddler, Paperback or Letter Tycoon.

Oh, and it's not just top Scrabble players that don't know the meanings of the words they play. I play plenty of (real) words in very competitive family Scrabble that I have no idea what they mean. You can learn many of these words by reading a lot or simply playing the AI in the official Scrabble app.
 
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Just in case anyone is curious:


https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgamecategory/1025/word-game
 
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Gil Hova
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Scottgun wrote:


Sure, but as I said in the poll header, I'm more interested in what individuals consider word games. There's a fascinating split that the BGG classification doesn't reveal.
 
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