F&$king Spellirium!

WARNING: Swears and general ribaldry

It’s really frustrating when you make a word in a game, and it’s not recognized by the game’s dictionary. It’s the worst when the word is a perfectly natural English word like “PUCE”, but a game like Jumbline doesn’t accept it. (Hear that, Jumbline devs? Ahem. AHEM.)

But in other situations, you punch in words like “bazooms” with a childish grin on your face, and when the game doesn’t recognize it, you click your tongue in mock outrage.


How DARE they rob me of 150 points for BAZOOMS! It’s in the Oxford!

Triple Word Score for “BLEEP”

The Official Scrabble Players’ Dictionary prides itself on being the most complete and fair collection of words suitable for tournament play, but it ran up against some controversy when a player complained about the listing of non-capitalized “jew” as a verb, with the accompanying definition “to bargain with – an offensive term”. The Jewish Defamation League got involved, and the next version of the OSPD removed the offending word, along with a big list of other words for good measure, including (but not limited to):

  • boobie
  • cunt
  • faggoty
  • the almighty fuck
  • fubar
  • hebe
  • jesuit (i’m really not sure why? Unless there’s a pejorative verb form, as with “jew” … ?)
  • nookie
  • poo
  • wetback

The Seattle SCRABBLE┬« Club has a complete list of expurgated words in case you’re up for a giggle or gasp.

I Friggin' Love Ponycorns T-Shirt

(Of note, the word “frigging” was de-expurgated in OSPD 4, which is as good a reason as any to get it printed on a T-shirt.)

When the neutered list was released, the players revolted, many of them upset at not having been consulted. There were threats of event boycotting and … rioting? i dunno. What do Scrabble players do when they’re enraged? Spell “GRR”?

Revenge of the Nerds

If the 80’s are to be believed, retribution begins with underwear theft.

Caving to the pressure, the Scrabbleati released an unexpurgated Official Tournament and Club Word List.

Somebody Set Us Up the F-Bomb

All this to say, i’m at a point now where i’m considering the word list for Spellirium, and whether or not it should contain naughties. As i’ve said before, the game is not necessarily for kids, so we can take “WILL SOMEONE CONSIDER THE CHILDREN??” handily out of the equation.

The difference between Spellirium and Scrabble is that while you have the option to spell various words in Scrabble, Spellirium may actually require you to spell certain words. For example, you may come to a point in the game where you meet a character who won’t let you pass unless you’ve spelled every word beginning with “Q”. i think this makes a big difference in deciding whether or not to include certain words on the list. When the word list is all up in your bidness, i don’t want to force a player to spell a word he is uncomfortable spelling.


Spell “nookie”. DO IT!!!

Degrees of Depravity

We can sort the expurgated words into these general categories:

  1. Swears
  2. Euphemisms for swears
  3. Racist/Prejudiced terms
  4. Puerile words for body functions/parts (impolite words that mostly kids would use)
  5. Crass words for body functions (impolite words that mostly adults would use)

So we could go a number of different ways with Spellirium. We could include these words, and complaints be damned. We could, as some have suggested, give the player an optional switch to flip that’s off by default – when you turn it on, you get the complete word list. And the “complete” word list could be everything but swears and racism, everything but racism, or even plain old everything … (but i have a gut feeling that of any of the words on the list, most people are most likely to take most offense at the racist/prejudiced stuff).


What do YOU think? Should we include a content switch? Should we include all the naughty words, or just some of them?

[poll id=”9″]

When you answer, imagine yourself playing Spellirium, making one of these words, and reacting when the game does (or doesn’t) acknowledge it. And imagine your reaction if the game required you to make one or all of the words on the list.

Thanks, everyone!


11 thoughts on “F&$king Spellirium!

  1. Ken

    Is there a reason you can’t include the whole list in the scrabble-ish portions, and use a restricted list in portions that require you to spell certain words?

    1. Ryan Henson Creighton

      What’s a “Scrabble-ish portion”? In Spellirium, you have a big blank dictionary that fills out as you make words. You can filter the dictionary by letter and word length. You have a “% Complete” rating to show you your progress. A game challenge might involve a character saying “You can’t come into the mine unless you’re 20% complete on your ‘B’ words!” And the ‘B’ word list may contain BAZOOMS.

  2. Sasha B

    The decision about the level of crassness really comes back to your brand/IP. What are the values you want people to have top of mind for Spellirum? How important are these words to the game experience you want your target audience to have? Will they help or harm your user’s view of your brand?

    In previous posts you identified the game as being for lady gamers, not for dudes who like word games. While yes, some of us lady gamers do get the giggles off ‘lil dirty words like the dude gamers do, I’m not sure the target market for Spellirium will really care if they are there or not.

    But, keep in mind that incorporating those words could blacklist the game from some portals/publishers. So if you do decide to include in your main game, you will definitely want to set up the database to easily remove those words if required to expand your distribution.

    My 2-cents. :)

  3. dendritejungle

    My answer varies strongly depending on whether the words would be required. I don’t think ANY of the “iffy” words should be required – but I would definitely want the OPTION to spell any but the racist ones.

  4. Graham Jans

    I think there are specifics of the mechanic that I’d need to know before I could answer this.

    Basically it depends on just how forced the player is to spell a word. If the game says, “Spell 20% of the B words!” and there are 30,000 B words in your list, I could easily meet that goal without ever touching a swearword. However, if it’s like, “Now spell ‘shit’!”, and I don’t have the option not to, well, that’s put me into an uncomfortable position.

    Of course, it’s a smooth gradient between these two extremes, and where that line of discomfort is exactly I can’t say, nor where your mechanic falls.

    And there’s kind of the other side too, which is in the first case (30,000 B words), it would be reasonable to include the swears because I could easily ignore and/or never see them, but in the second (single word) case, it would be reasonable to exclude them, because I would probably never realize there were certain words it wasn’t showing me.

    And then of course, there’s a gradient in between, and I can’t say which specific scenario applies to you…

    1. Ryan Henson Creighton

      There’s a bit of a grind to Spellirium. There’s one section where you have to spell ‘shit’ – and nothing but ‘shit’ – for about two hours straight. We’re still tweaking it to find the fun.

  5. Russ

    Others have already covered this sentiment but here goes: I don’t want to be forced, EVER, to *have* to spell cunt, but I do appreciate the option of being able to if I choose (and I cant think of any other c words at that moment, and I’m feeling slightly naughty, etc). This way the decision/power stays with me at all times.

  6. UnSub

    Run two versions: the ‘clean’ version and the HARDCORE UNRATED BLACK LABEL one. See which is more popular and which generates the most page hits. ;-)

    1. Ryan Henson Creighton

      A/B testing is really hard to do (or to draw significant conclusions from) when you’re rocking 5 hits a day on your site, mostly from spiders.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.