Sunday, December 02, 2007

Free rice

Procrastination doesn't get any better than this. You play a game (check), the game is about words (check), you learn while doing it (check) and it's all for charity (check). is a great idea. You play a game and earn rice that will then be donated to people in need, via the UN World Food Programme. The site is funded by advertisers.

And the words. I like words. I have a list of words I especially like and my alternative definitions of them. I'm a nerd.

I have learned new ones while playing this. The game has 50 levels, from very easy to extremely difficult, so anyone can play. And increase their vocabulary (I like the word vocabulary, my alternative definition is that it is a large spanner that has a loop at the other end, and it is inch-sized so you can fix old Fords with it) while playing.

Your starting level is set at the beginning automatically, with the first 4 questions, so there's no frustration to go through easy levels for those who are more advanced. This feature alone would qualify this as the game of the year. The game goes on indeterminately, and every time you get a word correct, 20 grains of rice are added to your total, and donated to WFP. If you get three in a row correct, you go up a level, if you get a word wrong, you go down a level. This keeps it challenging all the time. The method is essentially the same as in experiments where our sensitivity or best performance is investigated. It's called adaptive testing, I think.

So, you start with quiet, assistant, achieve and icing. At level 5 you get traitor and distinguish, at level 10 words like wriggle, footnote and endure. These are all great words, but it gets better. Level 15 greets you with emaciated, stalwart and glitz, which are great apart from glitz which I don't like. Compliant, adorn, salve at level 20 lead to level 25, where longitudinal, esteem, cumbersome, insurgence and procure set the pace. Laud, expedient, piscine, volpine, vacuous, tantamount, ligature, tatty, moribund, sumptuous, bedaub, pallid, staunch, assuage, and coalesce get you through to the goldmine of great words at level 40.

Perambulate, unctuous, tintinnabulation, excoriate, turbid, cervine, effulgence, unguent, soporific, prognostication, sapiential, pithy, equivocate, perfidious, odium, assiduous, parsimonious, conflagration, edentate, expectorate, precipitant, attenuate, foist, pernicious and expiate all rock, and from here it gets very hard. Propitious, bromide, sartorial, acclivity, catamount, tumescent, lignify, eructate are words you encounter at level 45 and you need to get all the way to the end, to level 50 to be greeted with compendious, paludal, scrofulous and objurgate.

I've managed to get to 48 under my own steam, and then once I cheated a bit just to get to see what words there will be at the very top. But I still play, I still learn new words, and whenever the question and answer are both equally incomprehensible, I turn to the Free Dictionary.