Online word game goes from diversion to eternity


Janet's World

April 04, 2010|By Janet Gilbert | Special to The Baltimore Sun

Sometimes I just have to take a break from the incredible stress that comes from my job as a weekly humor columnist.

Often, I'll play a quick game of "Text Twist" on the computer. The object of this free online game is to beat the clock by rearranging random letters to create as many words as you can, so you proceed to the next level and amass points. Some of you may prefer backgammon, or FreeCell, or setting up house with The Sims, but I'll bet you've got some sort of diversion bookmarked. It's a healthful mini-vacation from work, and it's definitely better for you than repeated refills of your coffee cup and handfuls of M&Ms.

Or so I thought, until I got sucked into the Text Twist Time Portal.

It happened several months ago, and I conveniently forgot about it, probably much the way victims of alien abductions repress their encounters. But one day, while unwinding in the similarly time-sucking world of Facebook, I happened upon the status of the son of a friend of mine who reported that he "played one game of Text Twist for nearly three hours, and scored 260,250" with the help of some friends in his dorm at Virginia Tech. He even captured a screen shot verifying his astounding score. Suddenly, my trip through the Text Twist Time Portal came back to me.

Of course, I had witnessed similar out-of-body gaming scenarios with my children, but I really didn't comprehend what was going on at the time. In fact, before my Text Twist Time Portal trip, I would grow impatient with my children when they would not respond to my announcement that dinner was ready because they were in the middle of a game. Their vague utterances, such as "Right" or "I've got to get to a save point," would annoy me, and cause me to say something totally inappropriate, like, "It's only a game. Just quit."

Little did I know I was just uselessly addressing the shells of their former selves, for they had temporarily teleported to the alternate gaming universe to compete on an entirely different, more competitive level.

The best way I can describe my Text Twist Time Portal trip is that it's like one moment I was physically there, uncomfortably hunched over my computer keyboard in my home office, and the next I was gone, to an exciting yet remarkably relaxing place where there is no hunger or thirst or pain; where time is suspended until you really, really have to use the restroom.

Here's how it happened. I decided to take a little break from my work one afternoon, around 3:30 p.m. My column was going nowhere as, some may argue, it is right now. I clicked on my Text Twist bookmark and started a new game.

That magical day, my fingers flew over the keyboard as I tapped out rare words like bleb and mensch, slag and eluent. I performed coolly and flawlessly under pressure on level after level. The computer screen glowed with encouragement, or perhaps it just seemed brighter in my rapidly darkening office.

My daughter and her friends stopped in, and were stunned by my jaw-dropping score as well as my ability to ignore the irritating beeps that warn you when you've only got 10 seconds left on a level. They joined in, shouting words at me, and I seemed able to type at the speed of their thoughts. Suddenly, without warning, we were all sucked into the Text Twist Time Portal. We forgot about the dog. We forgot about dinner. We even forgot about health care reform.

Several hours later, my husband pulled into the driveway, walked in the front door and said, "Hey, what are you all doing in the pitch dark?" I believe I said "Right" or maybe "I've got to get to a save point." I don't know. I only knew that I really, really had to use the restroom.

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