April 27, 2020 TECHNOLOGY

The Games People Play

Jeffrey Allen and Ashley Hallene

Over the years, we’ve heard numerous suggestions about what goes first as people age. We’ve heard just as many suggestions about what you have to use to avoid losing it. Here, we focus on one of those suggestions—the brain.

For the purpose of this article, we’ve chosen to accept, arguendo, the claim that if you don’t use your brain, you’ll likely ultimately suffer a loss of intellectual capacity. Most of us have a sufficiently finite intellectual capacity that we’d prefer to avoid that outcome entirely, to postpone that eventuality as long as possible, or to at least mitigate the loss.

Let’s explore some of the ways you can use your smartphone, tablet, or computer to put your brain to work, even if you have retired from practice and no longer find yourself in intellectual battles with judges or opposing counsel.

A Play on Words

Since most people carry their phones with them all the time, we focus here on using your phone to exercise your brain. We note that some of the features on smartphones have become sufficiently well-disguised that mastering the hidden features may, by itself, achieve the desired end. But since we were asked to focus on games we like that facilitate this end, we’ll exclude that fact from our discussion.

Because of a predisposition to use Apple iPhones and iPads, we’ve referenced the App Store throughout this article. For those of you using Android phones and tablets, most of the games referenced in this article have iterations in the Google Play store as well.

Because one of the two of us (Jeffrey) has been a senior for a long time; has been accused of playing games for many, many years; and (at least arguably) has managed to avoid, or at least postpone, the loss of his marbles, we’ve decided to let him talk about the games he particularly likes to play on his phone. No, he does not do prank calls!

For many years, chess was the game of choice. It offered endless opportunities to play against the computer—yes, your phone is a computer—and the game could continue from time to time for however long it took. Every once in a while, Jeff still returns to it, but other games have taken over as favorites.

After chess, the computerized version of Scrabble ascended to the role as favorite. Again, it offered endless opportunities to play against the computer anywhere, anytime.

Scrabble evolved into Words With Friends. Words With Friends is strongly reminiscent of Scrabble but has made some changes to the rules (likely to avoid copyright infringement and royalty obligations). It took some getting used to, but the different point allocations, different board layout, and slightly different rules make the game that much more challenging.

The nice thing about Words With Friends is that you have the option of playing against the computer or against human opponents. There appears to be an almost endless supply of opponents, and you can have multiple games going on at the same time. That allows you to play as often as you like, and you don’t have to necessarily wait for your opponent to move. Most players respond at least once a day—some more, some less.

As players join the party from all over the world, you can usually find an opponent playing at almost any time of the day or night. If you can’t, you have the option of starting games and making opening moves or playing against the computer.

Boggle Your Mind

After discovering Words With Friends, I encountered Boggle. Boggle gives you a square with 16 letters in it, and you have a set amount of time, normally two minutes, to see how many words you can form with the letters. To form a word, the letters must be touching on one side with the letter immediately preceding and immediately following in the word.

You can get a number of other word games, many of which have similar features. The basic styles of games I’ve found and played include the word-search style. You get a rectangle with columns and rows of letters; for instance, 10 in each row and 10 in each column. You play the game by racing the clock to locate words in each rectangle hidden in the collection of letters. The words may run horizontally, vertically, or diagonally and sometimes use the same letters. But you must identify only words with contiguous letters.

Another form of word game gives you a diagram that looks something like a crossword puzzle layout and has a small number of letters; four, five, or six are common. You play the game by trying to form words from the letters that will fill up the blanks in the diagram.

I particularly like the word games. Lawyers are generally wordsmiths, and the games provide an intellectual challenge. You can play them on and off as much as you want. And in some, you can play the computer, while in others you get to choose between the computer and human opponents.

Almost all of the word games cost nothing to download from the App Store; you can find many of them by searching for “word.” Many have in-app purchases and will sell you power-up features that can make the game easier or help you get higher scores. Those purchases come under the heading of optional. You can continue to play the game without purchasing any of the available options.

In some cases, you have to sit through advertisements if you choose not to opt up to the ad-free version. You can, however, avoid that by simply closing the game and reopening it. When you close it, it will save your work and your place.

Not a Word Nerd?

While I prefer the word games, some of you classify yourselves as numbers people. Numbers people get games as well. The most commonly used of that genre appears to be Sudoku. If you’re not familiar with the game, the objective is to fill a 9 x 9 grid with digits so that each row, each column, and each of the 9 x 9 grids in the master grid contains all digits from 1-9. Technically, Sudoku comes under the heading of a puzzle rather than a game.

You can choose among many iterations of Sudoku. The easiest way to find them is to search “Sudoku” in the App store. If you search the term “number games,” you’ll get Sudoku and other number-based games.

Speaking of puzzles, you can find a boatload of them in the App Store. Puzzles that range from number or word usage to figures that challenge your ability to use spatial reasoning (think of the game Tetris, which, by the way, remains available, in addition to the traditional jigsaw puzzle in digital form). Go to the App Store and search for “puzzle” to find a large selection. If you want Tetris, just search for that game by name.

In addition to these games and puzzles, you can find a number of games specifically designed to work different parts of your brain and keep you using it so as to not lose it. If you go to the App Store and search for “brain games,” you’ll find some of those already discussed as well as others specifically designed for brain training.

One of the best in this genre is Lumosity. While the basic Lumosity doesn’t cost anything to download, to get all its features, you need to subscribe to Lumosity for a fee. That subscription unlocks numerous exercises designed to train your brain. You can read about the science behind the app at lumosity.com. You can get Lumosity on your mobile devices as well as your computer.

I’ve found the Lumosity package interesting and like it. We think it has proven its value sufficiently to justify the cost of the subscription. A one-year subscription costs $99.95 for a family plan or $59.95 for an individual plan; a two-year subscription costs $149.95 for a family plan or $89.95 for an individual plan. A family plan gives you five subscriptions.

If you have lots of time and want to challenge your organizational and strategic skills, you can play any one of a number of building simulation games. These come in a class of their own and give you the opportunity of starting from scratch and building a city or an amusement park or even an empire. Examples of this class of games include Forge of Empires; Civilization; Megopolis: Big Town Tycoon; Township: Farm & City; and SimCity BuildIt. Search for “building games” to find them.

Sports/Arcade Fans, Unite!

For those into sports, search for “sports games” in the App Store to find Madden NFL, FIFA Soccer, MLB Tap Sports Baseball, NBA Live Mobile Basketball, and others. Most of these do a pretty good job, but Madden NFL stands out.

Those of us over 60 were introduced to computer games by basic arcade games. Most of those come under the heading of “shoot ’em ups” like Galaxy or Asteroids. Others included Pac-Man, Super Mario, and Frogger, to name a few. Amazingly, you can get many of these games, including all those we just listed, in digital form. For those of you who jumped in early, they even have updated versions of the granddaddy of all arcade games: Pong.

In addition to the old standards, they still make new arcade games, shoot ’em ups, and the like. Angry Birds represents perhaps the best and most popular example of the recent vintage of such games. The success of Angry Birds propelled several versions, became a cultural phenomenon, and led to its own movie.

I enjoy a good shoot ’em up every once in a while. If you want to see a selection of those available games, look for “shooting games” in the App Store.



Jeffrey Allen and Ashley Hallene

JEFFREY ALLEN is the principal at Graves & Allen in Oakland, Calif., where he has practiced since 1973. He’s active in the ABA, the California State Bar Association, and the Alameda County Bar Association.


ASHLEY HALLENE is a petroleum landman at Macpherson Energy in Bakersfield, Calif. She practices oil and gas law, title examination, due diligence, acquisitions, and oil and gas leasing. She frequently speaks in technology CLEs.