The game Alec Baldwin couldn't stop playing


SMALL PRINT:THE AEROPLANE doors were closed but there was a delay on the runway, so actor Alec Baldwin continued playing Words With Friends on his smartphone despite the fact that all mobile devices were supposed to have been switched off. His actions got him thrown off an American Airlines flight from New York to Los Angeles on Tuesday and had many people asking: “What is Words With Friends?”

To anyone who has played this cult game, which is similar to Scrabble, it would have been no surprise to hear that Baldwin had locked himself into the aircraft’s toilet so that he could continue playing the game while waiting for take-off.

Since its debut two years ago, Words With Friends has been among the most downloaded smartphone apps and has built up a huge following.

Baldwin’s spokesman, Matthew Hiltzik, speaking about the aircraft incident, said: “Alec loves Words With Friends so much that he was willing to leave a plane for it.”

Words With Friends is a multiplayer word game typically played on a phone. Players receive a random assortment of letters on tiles and use them to form words on grid. The game is played against other online users over the phone.

Players can take as long as they like over their word choices, meaning that some games go on for weeks.

The phone app sends a ping alert telling players when when it’s their turn to play.

People get so involved in Words With Friends that it has been labelled “the crystal meth of language games”.

The game’s maker, Zynga, immediately pressed the Baldwin incident into service as a marketing tool. The company started a Twitter campaign, #letAlecPlay, and released an “official statement”, a Words With Friends game board that spelt out “A Baldwin 1, American Air O”.

The Words With Friends community rushed to Baldwin’s defence. While some people said that you do need to switch off your mobile device when asked to do so on an aircraft, no one was surprised by Baldwin’s commitment to the Words With Friends cause.

Brian Boyd

Puppets of the class war?

‘LIBERAL Hollywood depicting a successful businessman as evil? That’s not new!” said Fox News presenter Eric Bolling, complaining about the villain of the new Muppets movie, Tex Richman. “We’re teaching our kids class warfare. Where are we: communist China?” asked Bolling.

“I just wish liberals could leave little kids alone,” added fellow host Andrea Tantaros.

It’s not the first time that kids’ entertainment has been branded leftie propaganda.

In 2005, innocent, asexual Spongebob Squarepants was accused of promoting homosexuality, apparently because he holds hands with his best friend, a starfish named Patrick. A Spongebob video was “potentially brainwashing kids”, Paul Batura, a spokesman for Focus on Family said.

Elsewhere, Happy Feetcame under fire for its environmental message and for supposedly promoting a “gay lifestyle”. James Dobson, also of Focus on Family, complained that it subliminally criticised the religious right too.

More recently, Happy Feet Twohas been criticised for supposedly promoting homosexuality, apparently because one tiny krill, voiced by Brad Pitt, says to his best friend: “No hanky-panky.”

Political antagonism is a feature of US media, but pundits should remember that a penguin is sometimes just a penguin.

Joe Griffin