Some disturbing news concerning the game Scrabble was released today. Matel, the toy company who holds rights to Scrabble in the UK, has announced that they will be releasing a new form of the game in which proper nouns will count for points (there has been no news as to whether Hasbro, the toy company who holds rights to Scrabble in the US, will release a similar game). Those are the names of people, places, and things, that up until this time have been considered cheating by the more serious scrabble players. This causes some concern for me, and I will tell you why, but first let me confess something:
I am horrible at Scrabble. No, really, considering how much I read, what I attend grad school for, and the scores I received on my SATs and GREs, you’d really think my apparently impressive vocabulary would hold me in good steed when it comes to a word-based game such as Scrabble. Not so, my friends. Though it’s taken me many years to admit to this, I’ve finally made my peace with the fact. Now on the rare occasions I play, I resign myself to the knowledge that even the 9-year-old I’m playing against will probably beat me.
Why am I telling you this? So you won’t think the following rant comes from a die hard Scrabble lover who just can’t imagine imposing upon the sanctity of the game rules.
Now, back to why a Scrabble rule change is horrifying. Basically, Matel is saying that the current “younger generation” they’re trying to reach is too dumb to play Scrabble, so they’re making the rules easier. Oh, you can pretty it up by likening it to an updated version of Trivial Pursuit that has references to pop culture from J.T.T. (Jonathan Taylor Thomas to those who don’t get that reference) to Beyonce, but we all know the original Trivial Pursuit is the best, the hardest, and has the most equal playing field, and so is the now-old version of Scrabble.
Also, both articles I could find on this tragedy – one from the BBC and one from the NY Daily News – neglected to mention that in the globalized communities we find ourselves in, ALMOST ANYTHING can be argued as a proper name. There are names from languages other than English that do use silent Qs, Ps, Xs, Ys, and Zs (probably)! Even as I realize these new rules will probably make the chances of me actually winning a game all the more greater, I still can’t endorse a change as apparently ill-conceived and not thoroughly thought out as this one.
Last, but not least, if you haven’t already figured out that you can change the rules on your own when you play Scrabble with someone to include proper nouns, and thus enjoy the already existing game of Scrabble, then maybe you shouldn’t bother in the first place.