A.J. Walker


Words with Bots

I've been playing Words with Friends with… well, with friends, for years now. There's only a couple of people I play with regularly now, which is good - when I used to play more people it could eat into a lot of time. Now I just slot it in every now and again.

Last week something odd happened when someone I didn't now invited me to play. I know it always asks you to '
play with someone new' and gives you 'coins' if you start a match with someone that way. So I thought maybe it was someone winning a few coins for playing a match with me. Anyways I beat her easy enough and wondered if she'd play again afterwards, but no. Instead a few minutes later another 'woman' invited me to play. The timing could not be a coincidence; no new people had invited me to play for many months so to get two consecutive like that was clearly wonky. I suspected bots.

I went back to the one I'd just beaten and saw on her profile she played in multiple languages (six or so), not just English and American English. And so did the new invitee. I smelled a rat. Since then I've declined all these games, as they keep coming.

I like the game. I like challenging friends not a bloody computer. So why does the App do this? And why suddenly now? I'm assuming it's to collect more ad money. If I'm playing more games then I'm seeing more adverts. But who knows, perhaps there is some other more nefarious reason for this uncalled for activity. Or perhaps it has something to do with the recent hack of Zynga from Pakistan?

Interestingly all these new players have attractive women avatars with professional looking shots–apart from one; which had a cat. Their algorithms aren't working if they thought I'd go for a cat! There doesn't seem to be a setting to turn off these bots. And I haven't seen anything from the software maker, Zynga, on their use. All in all; very poor.

So far the bots who have invited me to play were:

  • Holly Rose
  • Emma Radcliff
  • Gaby Spiers (the cat)
  • Alexa Dimitrov
  • Tara McClusky

If you play Words with Friends keep an eye out for these characters. You may find you're playing them too.
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