Finally some feel-good news from 2017
Ever since the internet allowed people to reach out to others they’ve never met before, we’ve been warned about letting strangers to close. People have been drawn in by scammers who convince them to send their hard-earned money to them before they completely disappear. Adults use chatrooms to seek out under-aged victims. Online bullying has led to devastating real-world consequences. Thankfully, not every online meeting ends in tragedy. Some are extremely endearing.
On Dec. 1, 22-year-old aspiring rapper Spencer Sleyon who raps under the moniker Half Empty flew to West Palm Beach, Florida to meet his long-time gaming buddy. He traveled 1,000 miles to meet an octogenarian that he considers to be his best friend.
Words With Friends is a Scrabble-like word game where anyone from around the world can match up with someone and square off. There are about 6.7 million active users per day, but most of the players will never meet their matches in person.
When Spencer started playing the game, he searched for available players. He randomly came across 81-year-old Rosalind “Roz” Guttman, and he played her “every day for five months.” In addition to having fun making words, he said that they would talk about world events, politics, and even some personal things.
One day, Spencer decided that he would give the game a break for a while to focus on making big changes in his life, and he asked Roz what she thought about him moving to New York City to pursue his dreams. She told him to “always reach for the stars.”
Meeting in Real Life
Spencer is originally from Silver Spring, MD, but he moved to Harlem just a few months ago to start producing albums. In Harlem, Spencer reconnected with a high school friend named Hannah who is the daughter of Pastor Amy Butler of Riverside Church in Manhattan.
“One night, [Hannah and Spencer] started a conversation about who their best friends were, and Spencer said, ‘My best friend is an 80-year-old white woman who lives in a retirement community in Florida,’ and I said, ‘What?’” Pastor Amy told The Root.
The Pastor was so intrigued by Spencer’s story that she asked him if he would help her find Roz. Amy tracked Roz down using Spencer’s help and asked her if she would like to meet Spencer in person. She happily obliged.
Pastor Amy brought Spencer down to Florida and facilitated the meeting of the former gaming friends.
“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,” Spencer wrote on Twitter. He met her at the retirement community in which she resides.
It turns out that Roz really liked Spencer’s rather obscene Words With Friends username (F**KFACEFILTH). She thought that it was “masterful alliteration.” Spencer was totally candid about why he thinks this story has gone viral. “The fact that I’m a young black male and this is an old white woman—a lot of people enjoyed the fact that we were able to get so close, especially given the tension in the country,” he explained.
News of Spencer and Roz’s unlikely friendship even reached the higher-ups behind Words With Friends. “Since launching eight years ago, Words With Friends is an incredible platform for connection. Spencer and Roz’s story is a wonderful illustration of how powerful games can be in bringing people together across generations and geographies,” Zynga’s CEO Frank Gibeau said.
Of their 324 games, Spencer has won 210 of them. It’s not about the numbers, though. It’s about the bonds that people can make if they give friendship a chance. “Whatever people want to take from this story and however it makes them feel, I’m just glad and Rosalind and I can bring that to people,” Spencer explained.
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