Story

GridWordz is a game based on an old Victorian parlour game modernised for the 21st century.

When I was a child in the 60’s I used to stay with a friend, Randolph, whose parents were wonderfully eccentric and ‘old fashioned’ in their character, attitude, dress and demeanour. Randolph’s mother was an ex-ballerina from the Royal Ballet and his father was a retired naval officer with the most magnificent beard. Their house and their style of living was quintessentially ‘British 19th Century’.

Lots of reading ‘worthy’ books, meritorious discussion, parlour games and cerebral challenges were the norm around the dinner table. There was no TV in the house and switching the radio on in the kitchen was only for the BBC world news, Radio 4 plays and the shipping forecast!

Randolph and I used to play, modify and invent many games, changing the gameplay and the rules to suit our own brand of weirdness and competitiveness. We used to play a word game using bits of paper, but similar to other word games before the home computer age it involved lots of dictionary look-ups, arguments and cheating! Being able to sneakily rub out a letter and put it somewhere else helped enormously. Of course, this wasn’t cricket, very ‘un-British’, but we were always very competitive! Our version of Go is still the most strategically difficult game I have ever played.

I never thought about the word game that we used to play as kids until fifteen years later. I was a computer programmer working for a multi-national and I was asked to check out a screen handler that we had just bought in to use for our systems development projects, I thought I would write a playable version of our old word game in my own time to test the new software’s capability.

So I designed and constructed a word game based on the game Randolph and I used to play. I released it to the development teams via our tiny Games library so that they could play it at lunchtimes. This was in the day when Asteroids and Snake were like visions of the future! So it was quite popular. Anyway, that was it. Shortly after that, I left that company and I guess the code was trashed with everything else as the second computer age came in with colour screens, graphic-laden ‘shoot ’em up’ games and candy store thinking taking over the ‘games world’.

Recently, prompted by my disappointment at not being able to find a competitive word game in the App stores that did not rely on a huge slice of luck I decided to get the old word game out of the dark cupboard and give it one more chance to shine as an App.

Using technology has allowed us to have as many or as few starting words as possible, control the difficulty of the starting words, automatically score the words, set a time limit for entering letters, have a more formal game board, stop myself or ‘another Randolph’ from cheating ….. well the list goes on and the result today is GridWordz!

It has been on a long journey from a Victorian dining table to your smartphone. I dearly hope you like it.

Herbert A Jarndyce

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