When Spencer Sleyon started playing a game on his phone, he never imagined that he’d like it so much that he’d become almost addicted to it. Spencer also didn’t imagine that the game would bring something into his life that was way more valuable than some new skills – and the Internet is raving about it.
Spencer is a 22-year-old aspiring rapper from Harlem, New York. Just like the other kids his age, Spencer never puts down his smartphone. But unlike his friends, who spend their time playing with the filters on Snapchat or the stories on Instagram, Spencer likes doing things on his phone that are a bit nerdier.
Spencer enjoys playing mobile games, but not just any mobile game. Spencer loves playing Words With Friends, which isn’t exactly surprising, considering he wants to have a career as a lyricist. For those of you that are only familiar with mobile games like Candy Crush, you might be wondering what Words With Friends is and why it’s so addicting.
Words With Friends is a game published by the social gaming company Zynga. It’s pretty much just like Scrabble. Players use random letters to build different words and they score points for each word they put on the board. But you don’t have to play against only a computer, you can play against other players all around the world in real time. Now that the game has been around for eight years, features appealing to younger audiences are being added.
Words With Friends recently added a “social dictionary” which allows players to use slang words on the board. Players can also compete against fictional characters like William Shakespeare. A Lightning Round has been added, as well, which tests players’ speed. Spencer was immediately hooked when he started playing the game about a year ago.
Spencer was used to playing against random people, but there was one person that he kept getting paired with: an 81-year-old woman from West Palm Beach, Florida, named Rosalind “Roz” Guttman. The two players formed a competitive relationship and began playing a lot of games with each other. Soon, it turned into something more.
Within the Words With Friends app is a feature that lets players message one another. Roz and Spencer began messaging each other to critique one another’s moves. Eventually, the pair’s bond turned into something more than a competitive relationship. Their conversations turned to talks about themselves and their lives. Considering they played more than 300 games together, they became friends. Soon enough, other people began hearing about them.
Spencer’s friends soon found out about their friendship after he started joking about it every time the game notified him that it was his turn to play. A lot of them thought their friendship was unusual, but they didn’t really give it much thought. Until one day, someone heard about the friendship and realized how truly special it was.
Amy Butler is the mother to one of Spencer’s friends. She’s also the pastor at the Riverside Church in Manhattan. One day, she heard Spencer talking about his gaming buddy, Roz. She was touched by their story, so she asked Spencer if she could talk about it in one of her sermons. He said yes, not realizing what was to come.
After Amy talked about Roz and Spencer in her sermon, she felt that there was more to their story that needed to be explored. So she decided to help bring their friendship to the next step. She bought plane tickets for Spencer and herself to visit Roz in Florida. She shared a photo of them on the plane on her Twitter account. They would soon see if their online friendship would transfer into real life.
The day after they landed in Florida, Spencer and Amy met up with Roz at a hotel near her retirement home. Spencer had no idea what to say, so he just opened his arms to hug Roz. She happily returned the love. It was a memorable moment that Amy was able to capture on film. She was in awe at the unlikely bond between the two.
“It was more beautiful than I could have ever imagined. There was no hint of awkwardness. It was like they were magnetically drawn to each other,” said Amy. Roz then treated Spencer to lunch and showed him around Palm Beach. Spencer decided to share their experience on Twitter. He never expected the reaction he would receive.
“So last summer I randomly met this 80 y/o woman on words with friends. We played 300+ games together and she actually ended up becoming a good friend of mine. Today I got to go to Florida and meet her in person,” shared Spencer on Twitter. It only took a few days for Spencer’s tweet to receive almost 25,000 retweets and more than a million likes. Their story obviously touched a lot of people.
“How absolutely wonderful. Making new friends is always great. Making friends with people of different age groups teaches us a lot,” wrote a Twitter user. “How many points is ‘crying’? This is so sweet,” said another. Even Zynga heard about their friendship and wrote on Twitter, as well.
Once Words With Friends saw Spencer’s tweet, they wrote, “We can’t get enough of this! Amazing. Thank you for sharing your story with us.” Even Roz shared her opinion of their meetup, but not on Twitter. She wrote Amy a letter thanking her for making it possible for the two to meet.
“I’m at a loss for words to describe today. Without question, it was one of the most memorable days of my life. I’m still basking in the glow of warmth and friendship. My only words at this moment are a humongous thank you. I love you both to the moon and back,” wrote Roz to Spencer and Amy.