Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Happy Birthday, Scrabble!

Today, the popular word game Scrabble turns 60.

Scrabble is also known in many other names such as Literati, Alfapet, Funworder, Word for Word, Scramble, Skip-A-Cross and Spelofun. It is a game where, up to four players score points by forming words from individual lettered tiles on a board marked with a grid. It is a simple game with simple rules but it has been storming the world in the past six decades.

The game was first invented by architect Alfred Mosher. He did not get copyright approval until 1948 and changed its name from Lexiko to Scrabble. Now, the game is sold in 121 countries in 29 different language versions and one hundred million sets have been sold worldwide.
The game is available in many board versions that include, original Scrabble, Scramble Scrabble, Travel Scrabble, Pocket Scrabble, Junior Scrabble, My First Scrabble, Deluxe Scrabble, Dora Scrabble, and Simpsons Scrabble. It does not matter the version, the game definitely has charmed millions of players, which include many A-list fans such as US President elect Barack Obama.

The first world Scrabble championship was hosted in London in 1991, and has been held on alternate years ever since. I have the opportunity to participate in some much reduced scale competitions and I understand the thrill. Interestingly, the game attracts players of very varying profile making it difficult for one to stereotype a scrabble player.

One thing I have noted, not all good players have similar proficiency in English. Players are often preoccupied with the acceptability of the words rather than the meanings. And to settle arguments about which words are 'legal', an Official Scrabble Players Dictionary and Official Tournament and Club Word List have been published.

Even though I play the game competitively, I do not consider myself a lexophile. In fact, lovers of language (or lexophiles) may not be the best at this game. If you think that you will shine in Scrabble just because you are a good speller and have a huge vocabulary, you are in for some humiliation. Many top players in the world cannot even manage beyond a simple command of English. It is also common to find adults being bashed by much younger players. As strange as it may sound, Scrabble is a game of tactics, memory and luck.

In the era of Intenet, Scrabble too found its way in the cyberspace. The online version, known as 'Scrabulous' was highly popular in Facebook until it was removed in the middle of this year. The online game was seen as illegal by Hasbro, which owns the North American rights to the word game. They took the creators to court over copyright issues. However, on the 60th birthday of Scrabble, Hasbro decided to drop the lawsuit. The reasons are unknown.

The 60th birthday bash was looking a little bizarre in some parts of the world.

Scrabble enthusiasts have celebrated the game's 60th anniversary by playing in some of the planet's most extreme environments. The devotees were reported to have demonstrated their word power next to lions on the African savannah, underwater with sharks in the Bahamas, and while skydiving at 13,000ft.

Over in New Zealand, games were played in sub-zero temperatures atop Nuns Veil Peak by hikers and in Anglesey, two fans challenged each other to a match on a near-vertical rock face. If those were not crazy enough, a game was hosted in a Florida swamp involving an alligator and the host was planning to put the board on an alligator's back.

Scrabble is anything but an extreme sports. These parties obviously have gone way too far for a sedentary game. Nonetheless, these unusual celebrations only demonstrated the kind of enthusiasm in the Scrabble community. May the game continue to bring fun to all the word game lovers.

Happy birthday, Scrabble!

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