Wednesday, April 07, 2010

G is for Germany

ames have always been an intergral part of American life, and the list, as it generally reads, hasn't changes a whole lot over the years.  Monopoly, Yahtzee!, Scrabble, Chutes and Ladders, Clue, and Pictionary are titles that one would find in a closet in a post-World War II house in Levittown and that they will find in the closet at a Miami condo tomorrow.  Part of the reason that they continue to be relevant and enduring is that they have been the same for all that time.  The rules by which your grandparents played are pretty much similar to the rules by which your kids are playing today.  Small changes have happened for sure, and there have been themes and special editions numbering in the hundreds.  Maybe even the thousands.  There is, however, about to be a pretty major change in one of these iconic games that is going to rock a lot of people's worlds.
     So G is for Germany, and from the beginning of time incarnate until this coming June, it was not a word you could use in Scrabble, because it was a proper noun.  Same for Greg or Gumout or General Mills, which is impressive because you don't usually have enough letters in your tray to make that up, although I suppose you could build off the word "general" or something, although that is a proper noun when you are addressing someone.
     But I digress.  The point of this whole deal, Company, is that this is a major change in one of the most basic rules in Scrabble.  This would be the equivalent of baseball allowing you to catch the ball at home plate in a glove, then turn and throw it out into the field and start running the bases.  Huge.  Until now, you could not use proper names for the most part - only words contained on a Collins dictionary.  You know, the Scrabble dictionary.  Other than that, words were verboten, which probably also couldn't be used except in Germany, which is a word you can use now because proper nouns are going to be allowed.
     The reason for this change, as one could imagine, is ultimately money.  The folks at Mattel - when they weren't busy looking for Barbie jobs that she hasn't had yet ("Hey, let's make her a sanitation worker!  How about Truck Driver Barbie, have we used that one yet?  Guys love hot librarians, maybe we can make a hot librarian Barbie and boys will buy it!  She can look like Renee Russo from Major League!") - decided that a change in the rules would "introduce an element of popular culture into the game" and "enable younger fans and families to get involved."  Which means get people who probably weren't going to buy Scrabble to plunk down the money at their friendly big box retailer to buy it.  Whih means more money for Mattel.  Which means they can produce that Nepalese Sherpa Barbie they've been itching to put out.
     I will give some credit the folks at Mattel (United Nations Special Envoy to Tajikistan Barbie, YAY!) because they have taken pains to not alienate their core Scrabble audience.  The Scrabble purists as it were.  They will still offer versions of the game with the original, stodgy, less hip and socially relevant super cool new rules, for all those squares over in Squaretown who want to have to find a word to use the combination "L,L,T,Q,N,O" and still get a triple word score.  Sorry Scrabble purists, you can't use that "T" at the beginning of "take" to use former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott's last name, because you don't believe in proper nouns, and that's about as proper as they come.
     Personally, I like this new rule change, but I also think it's kind of stupid.  I like the rule change because it makes the game more open and accessible and certainly easier, and let's be honest, we are rapidly becoming a stupid, borderline illiterate society that can only deal in pop culture references, so it will keep Scrabble relevent and popular for years to come.  The reason that I think its stupid is because, well, you didn't really need a rule change to start using proper nouns.  Last time I checked, there wasn't a Scrabble referee in every home who hovers over the board and enforces rules with an iron fist.  You don't go to Scrabble jail if you put "Zoe" on the board to use up your "Z" tile.  Seems to me that since the beginning of time, I could go down to the friendly local Goodwill (which you could always use in Scrabble by the way because it can be used as an improper noun) and pick up a used Scrabble set, and as long as the people I am playing with are willing to allow proper nouns, then "BOOM!" - proper nouns it is.  You don't need the Scrabble folks to tell you it's okay.  They aren't Big Brother watching you through a little camera and recording your every move. 
     But anyway, smart move Mattel (Insurance Claims Adjuster Barbie!) Scrabble Division, or whomever decided upon this.  It's a smart move that shows you are ready to accept changes in the world around you and that you don't take yourself too seriously, even if it was an idea hatched in a marketing meeting where you discussed sagging sales.  It doesn't matter.  It's good.  G is for Germany.  Put that in your Scrabble dictionary.

1 comment:

Jesica david said...
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