I Go On My Phone
The one app I *actually* can't live without
Welcome to Deep Dives, a bi-monthly subsection of TMI! Here, I dive deeper into my thoughts about a topic that doesn’t fit in the weekly newsletter.
*NOTE*: Today’s Deep Dive is, as usual, too long for email, so be sure to click “View entire message” to see the whole thing.
Today, we’re going to be deep diving into my personal phone usage habits. (No, you cannot see my weekly Screen Time hours, so don’t even ask.)
The topic of discussion here is the ONE iPhone app I Literally Cannot Live Without™.
Why, you ask? Because I use this app to go to sleep every single night. It’s the only thing that I know for sure will make me get fully drowsy to the point where I can actually doze off. And I know what you’re thinking — is it a meditation app? Soothing sounds? White noise?
Wordscapes is basically a combination of a crossword puzzle and word search — you have a word bank with the letters used in all the words, and then have to guess them to fill in a crossword-shaped puzzle.
Yes, that’s right. Words are putting me to sleep2.
I first found out about this game when I saw a coworker playing it back in maybe…2018? I think? She asked for some help figuring out a word, and I was instantly like “WHAT IS THIS APP??” because I had to get it.
I play it so often before bed that my brain now has a complete Pavlovian response to launching the app. Within 10 minutes of trying to play it at any normal time during the day, my body starts reacting as though the room has a carbon monoxide leak (great for planes, though!).
I’ve been playing this game for years, every single night.
And here’s the thing: the crossword puzzle/word search vibe has been absolutely fine. It was enough! Plenty! But in recent months, they’ve started beefing the game up. It took me an embarrassing amount of time just to figure out what’s been going on — partially because it’s not explained, at all, and partially because every time I launch this app I’m on the verge of a vegetative state.
I both love and loathe all the new features. It’s become so convoluted, and yet — I feel like I have a better understanding of this app and how it functions than I do of the American medical system.
So, now I’m going to explain the details of an app that only 800 people follow on Twitter.
Daily Coin Crossword
Every day, there is a new crossword available that you can do for a chance to earn pictures of animals and coins.
You do this by properly guessing the word that a little butterfly is sitting in (he’ll move from one to the next), which sometimes means deciphering the entire puzzle before you can know for certain which word you need for those spaces (like, is it RAT or RUT?).
I do not know what the animal pictures are for. I have a “collection”. I can tap on them to look at them more closely. It’s like earning access to National Geographic. Which I guess is nice, except I could probably also just…go online and look at animals, if I wanted?
The coins you can earn are more useful — they give you an opportunity to buy hints (100 coins each), which you sometimes need when the words have a lot of U’s or when you’re in a liminal space between sleep and consciousness and trying to remember how to spell CROCUS.
They also recently introduced an additional feature where if you watch an ad for a game I’m convinced does not exist called Royal Match, you can get an additional 75 coins per daily game. So…sure. I’ll watch this little king drown or burn or get acid spilled on him for 60 seconds. Whatever.
Once a week, you can earn butterflies for — you guessed it — a collection.
Passing approximately 5 levels successfully will net you one random small butterfly (or, if you have the weird bird animal boost, one round of it doing some task — more on that later). Two small butterflies of the same type merge into a medium. Two mediums merge in to a large.
Once you’ve gotten a large size butterfly, the game immediately prompts you to give it a name. I have absolutely no idea why. At this point, I am one millisecond away from falling asleep, and a game is asking me to generate a name and type it in.
I often forget these exist, to be honest. The butterfly games are only on Tuesdays, and I get maybe one, two butterflies a week if I’m lucky?
But every so often, I am alert enough to actually get a glance at the names I’ve chosen, and —
Can you tell I’m ASLEEP??
I honestly do not know why I need this game so badly.
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HEY, another collection option!!
For some reason, Wordscapes thinks I want tons of pictures of animals. Except these aren’t real photos, they’re cartoon drawings that you can use for your profile picture.
These are collected like the butterflies — about every 5 games you earn a portrait. It’s a constant random roll of what picture you’ll get, and therefore you get the same ones over and over 3000 times when you just need one red panda to complete the entire set and get the secret image I’ve never been able to see because I can’t finish the stupid collection.
Anyway basically the entire time I’ve played my portrait has been that pissed off looking red-eyed freckled snake with the checkmark under it and I have absolutely no intention of changing it. So they can award me all the stupid portraits they want, but it’s me and the snake forever.
The homepage originally looked like this:
And then one day I was shocked to arrive and see — an animal in place of my cute little brilliance sun.
Each animal has some type of boost that it provides. For example, this elephant will give me hearts and binoculars (currently needed to collect portraits — because that’s the day of the week we’re on).
Each one takes a certain amount of time to complete a task like eating, dancing, playing or drinking (pictured), and once that’s done, you get the prizes. It’s sort of like a weird Tamagotchi-esque thing, except they don’t die (phew).
Look at all the animals I have here in my *COLLECTION*!!
These things are earned by getting hearts (top left corner — you get them either from the animals completing tasks or successfully completing a level) and using them to open eggs where you get a random animal, and you will not be surprised to learn that it’s ridiculously hard to get any of the good ones.
Like, didn’t Fortnight get in trouble for this shit? This is loot crate BS!
It’s hard to complain when I’ve literally never spent a dime on this app other than to pay to remove ads 5 years ago. I know you can buy coins and bees. And boy, are they trying to sell me bees. Constant bee onslaught.
The bees (I’m assuming they’re supposed to be “Spelling Bees,” har har har lol) give you hints to words and coin per letter of the properly guessed word. If you have any bees stored up, when you start a level, they immediately fly out and drop their coins into the letter boxes.
As I mentioned earlier, coins = hints. This is the Wordscapes circle of life.
Sometimes you get bees from the daily gift out of the present box, which is always exciting.
Oh wait. I didn’t mention the…
Every day, there’s a little present you get for free. There are three box options: yellow, red, and green. I often pick the green one because it’s, well, green, duh, and I swear they know because it almost always has the worst prize (15 coins).
The prize options consist of: hints (lightbulbs), coins (15 or 30), bullseyes (pick a square to uncover) and rockets (a whole bunch of letters revealed).
Anyway the game is out to get me. Probably because I’m not buying bees.
The point of the Weekly Tournament (the stars) is to get crowns for your portrait.
This is what my snake looks like currently.
For this, you compete on a leaderboard, and if you finish in the top 50 or so, you get 10 star coins; 20 if you’re further up. Every 20 star coins warrants a bigger crown. The star coins are only earned by successfully passing levels during the tournament (or animal boosts). Easy, right?
Anyway I am fine with this. I’m not really trying to compete, but hey — I’ll take a new crown. Here’s what I’m not fine with — on Friday - Sunday, they add a timer at the top of the puzzle. Completing it in under 3 minutes warrants extra star coins. I do not need this stress!! I am trying to go to sleep!
Every time they ask for feedback I ask them to take the timer out, but they do not.
I’ve gotten better at ignoring it, though. I know I’m on my phone but I am at least trying to fall asleep.
What is a Word?
One last thing.
Sometimes I find random screenshots I’ve taken in my photo album from when the game won’t accept a word that I think it should be taking.
We’re gonna do COUCHED but not CHODE, huh? Okay.
You know how people say that there’s a version of them that like buys things online at night, and then they don’t find out until the package arrives? Well, this is my most important nighttime activity: taking screenshots of Wordscapes and not finding them until I’m randomly scrolling through my photos.
So yeah — around 11:45 PM every night, I’m turning out the lights, cranking up this app, and trying to figure out words until I can’t think straight anymore.
Also, with all my complaining and confusion — I know it sounds like I maybe hate this game, but I absolutely do not. I can’t get enough of it.
Anyone else obsessed with random terrible iPhone games?
This is not sponsored content. I just have a problem.
I believe I may have Extreme Writer Syndrome™.