By Georgia Garvey, RedEye
11:21 AM CST, January 3, 2012
Alec Baldwin said it got him kicked off a plane.
John Mayer called it "the new Twitter."
Both celebs are obviously fans of Words With Friends, but neither can boast the game hooked them up with the love of their life, like Megan Lawless and Jasper Jasperse can.
The game, a Scrabble-like contest for smartphones (and smart people), allows friends, family and strangers to compete to see who can construct the best words. Players get points for playing different letters and can chat during the game. The app caught fire and is now hugely popular.
According to app data compiler Distimo, Words With Friends was the fifth-most-downloaded app for iPads and the fourth-most paid app downloaded for iPhones in the U.S. in October. And app tracker AppData said Words With Friends has 14.9 million monthly active users and 6.7 million daily users. Celebs like Lindsay Lohan and basketball star Paul Pierce aren't immune to the game's charms, either.
Now it's made a love match.
"This is the first [marriage] we know of," said Paul Bettner, VP and General Manager of Zynga With Friends, the studio that makes Words With Friends. "I think that's an awesome story."
What, exactly, is the story?
Lawless, 32 and an Uptown resident, was playing Words With Friends in 2009 with only one person, a friend who left for Thanksgiving vacation.
"She was out of town and not playing as quickly as I wanted her to," Lawless said, so "I hit random opponent."
Jasperse, 31, was the user on the other end of that random match.
They slowly began chatting – with a "hi" and a "hello" their first simple exchanges. On Jasperse's birthday, they started talking a little more, eventually emailing and Skyping.
After a few months, they decided to take the plunge and meet. They were soon engaged and got married a year later in July of 2011.
Jasperse, who moved from the Netherlands to live with Lawless, said their relationship seems hasty to some, but that's not the case at all.
"Most people think, when we tell the story, that we right away started a very intimate conversation," he said, but the opposite was true. "It very gradually built up to finally meeting each other … At one point, I spoke to Megan more than anybody else around me."
As for the couple's friends, some get it and others don't. Lawless had some trouble explaining to her 75-year-old dad the intricacies of apps and smartphones.
"I think he still doesn't quite understand how we met," she said. And though she had some reservations about filling people in, she said most have just told them the story is cool. "I guess I thought people would think it was really geeky or weird."
How could it be geeky when celebrity and cool-kid extraordinaire Alec Baldwin tweeted in December that he'd been kicked off a flight for being so addicted to Words With Friends that he wouldn't stop playing on the plane?
The event turned into a bit of a cultural sensation, with Baldwin even appearing on "SNL" as the "pilot" of the plane, offering up reasons why the offense was minor. The fracas floored Bettner, who said he immediately called his brother, who created the app with him.
"'Did you hear that?'" he remembers asking. Alec Baldwin "'just said Words With Friends on 'Saturday Night Live!"
It was a surreal moment to see the game hit its tipping point, Bettner said.
"I'm extremely blessed."
ggarvey@Tribune.com | @gcgarvey
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