Acrophobia: The Fear of Acronyms

By Casey Lynn
Contributing Writer, [GAS]

In the late nineties, I was obsessed with the online game Acrophobia, produced by Berkeley Systems, the same guys who put together You Don’t Know Jack. It’s a simple idea for a game: given a seven letter acronymn, you come up with what the letters stand for. Usually there’s a category to give you a little guidance. For example, given the category “I didn’t go to work today because…” and the acronymn “SHIRV,” your answer might be “Still hungover – I’m regretting vodka.” The answers of everyone playing are displayed, and you vote for your favorite one. Whoever gets the most votes wins the round. And yes, there’s an incentive to actually vote for the best ones – everyone who votes for the winning acro also gets a point.

The game was very popular at the time, but abandoned shortly after the dot-com crash. It was revived briefly a few years ago by, but then also abandoned. Despite pleas by fans, the game hasn’t come back in an official capacity.

There have, however, been several independent ventures over the years. I’ve tried many of them, and usually found it to be a pointless endeavor since the game is dependent on having a group of players, and usually none of the new versions of the game got popular enough to reach a certain threshold of playability. If you go to play and the game is constantly empty, you give up after a while.

The first independent version that I found to be somewhat successful was AcroChallenge. It’s not much to look at – very reminiscent of the old school days of Acro, when it was played in IRC before Berkeley put it into a flashy interface. It also requires a download (which means, for example, that I can’t play it right now while I’m on a school computer). However, it does have a steady stream of players, and the website is very community-oriented, with detailed profiles (mine tells me that my highest scoring Acro to date is “Fish insist upon water”), a forum, and even teams of players with their own websites. However, AcroChallenge is really lacking in flash, which is one of the things that made the Berkeley version so appealing.

All that said, I’ve been waiting for years now for a comparable version of this game to emerge, and finally I’ve found it. For me, this is like finding the holy grail of time wasting (in a good way). The game is acroBabble, a graphical version of Acrophobia. It’s not quite as flashy as the original, but it’s close. There’s audio (a nice, British-accented voice telling you just what to do each round), and graphics, and a nice chat interface. And there’s also enough players so that at almost any time, you can find a room to play in (the exception, I’ve found, is early in the mornings). There’s no download required, it plays right in your browser, and you don’t even have to register (you can sign in using an AIM screenname through Open ID).

Unfortunately, the acroBabble website isn’t quite as community friendly as AcroChallenge – the forums are fairly dead and there aren’t any user profiles. Though you can go to the front page and see the highest score for the day. As I write this, the top one is “His enemies were eventually RIP” for the category “Chuck Norris Facts.”

So if you need a short break during the day, stop by and play a round or two. I should probably include a warning that the “unrated” rooms should probably be called the “win by making your acro as filthy as possible” rooms. Luckily there are “clean” rooms, too. You’ll find me under the handle “madgirl,” and I’m no longer afraid of acronyms.

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