Hanna Kemalyan has passed the first step: Acknowledging she has a problem.
“Hi, my name is Hannah, and I’m a ‘Words with Friends’ addict. It’s been 16 minutes since my last score.”
“My Achilles (heel) is the iPhone app “Words with Friends,” mobile wordsmithing at its apex; “Scrabble” sans dictionary, board and, well, clothes if that suits,” she jokes.
A hairstylist at Texture in Downtown Lodi, she whips out her phone to make a move between appointments, phone calls, before bed and even if she wakes up in middle of the night and sees it’s her turn to play against one of her friends.
Kemalyan is not alone. Cell phone users have taken mobile access to the next level and are filling free time by playing games by themselves, against friends or against a sea of random gamers looking to compete. A February survey by PopCap games (creators of so-called mega-hits like “Bejeweled” and “Plants vs. Zombies”) found that the mobile phone is now the primary gaming device of choice, leaving personal computers and gaming consoles in the dust.
“Words with Friends” and “Angry Birds” are two games making Lodi cell phones beep and buzz and sing from morning to night. It’s safe to bet that if someone is fiddling with their phone at the salon, in the supermarket line, at work or in their cars, they’re playing a game.
“Angry Birds” is a solo game, where the player uses a slingshot to launch birds at pigs in various structures. The object is to destroy all of the pigs before you can move to the next level.
“I like ‘Angry Birds’ because you get to knock stuff down and it’s fun,” said Kody Bowerman, 14.
Bowerman attends Lodi High School, where he and other students admit that mobile gaming has become popular. At school, some students play games against each other on phones and on their iPods. There is still a no-phone policy on campus, but students say that doesn’t keep them from scoring in class.
Gamers agree, the more you play, the more you want to play. Kemalyan gets excited to spell words like “quixotic,” “excoriate” and “plethora” on her game board. She says the cinching of her vice is the anticipation, the strategizing, the salivation over the possibility of a triple-scoring word.
Her personal epic moment was earning 102 points in a single play. The word “jail” — usually just a score of 14 — scored her big points when she landed a triple letter and triple word bonus.
The world of mobile gaming has changed her in ways she never imagined. She used to scorn and scoff at cell phone gamers. Now, she’s become one of them.
“I’m thoroughly taken in, and must eat my painstakingly swapped, shuffled, tiled and scored words,” Kemalyan said.