I have this thing with games.
For many simple games, especially word games, there is a pretty straightforward strategy to follow to play a “perfect” game. Scrabble is a particularly good example. The simplest strategy is to play the best word you can, which is easily quantifiable by points. Refinements are obvious: try to save high scoring letters for bonus squares, try to make the board worse for your opponent.
Once you’ve figured the basics out, the most effective way to improve your game is to expand your vocabulary. At first, this seems like a pretty “human” endeavor. However, anyone who’s played Scrabble online or competitively is probably familiar with the nonsense Scrabble words you have to memorize to play effectively. Especially important are the ones that help you use Q, X, and Z, and 2 letter words that let you attach to another word: qi, za, qats, mbaqanga. Your spell-checker doesn’t have those words, and your dictionary probably doesn’t either. You will never use them in a sentence, and you probably won’t ever encounter anyone else using them either – unless you’re playing or talking about Scrabble.
Memorizing and searching through lists of arbitrary, otherwise meaningless items isn’t something humans are very good at. Performing precise calculations isn’t something humans are very good at either. They are, however, tasks that computers are particularly good at.
This drives me crazy.
I’ve been programming for most of my life, so for many games, coding something that can play is more interesting than actually playing myself. I’ve written bots for Scrabble, Boggle, Sudoku, Poker, and all manner of word/card/number games – many for money.
Recently, a friend introduced me to a word game on Second Life called Lexis. Lexis is basically 10 rounds of single-word Scrabble. You get 7 letters, and 7 spots to place them in, with the familiar bonus tiles: double word, triple word, double letter, triple letter. Your word must start in the left-most spot, so there is no strategy in how you place the word. The only thing to do is choose the highest-scoring word, taking into account the bonus squares, and input it as fast as possible.
Definitely a game for computers.
With a cash prize.
On one machine, the jackpot was over L$10,000 – which is about USD$35.