The popular game Scrabble is experiencing a comeback. Online gaming has helped with that, as has worldwide Scrabble clubs and tournaments. Read about three popular sites, and get started finding your own words.
By Deborah Lambeth
A new appreciation for Scrabble is sweeping the country, and the world. It used to be that families sat at the kitchen table to play the game and took however long they needed to make a word. With the advent of the computer, though, playing Scrabble has taken on a new meaning. Now, there are tournaments all over the world. Scrabble clubs are popping up everywhere. People of all ages are learning new words, tackling ‘the sevens’ (bingos where a player uses all of his tiles in one turn), buying the latest edition of the scrabble dictionary, etc. There is even a Scrabble newspaper you receive when you join the National Scrabble Association.
So, with the resurgence of this game, where is a place to practice? Go online and you’ll find several sites. Some sites are pay sites. However, there are plenty that are free, where players match wits with people of all types of rankings. Probably the pioneer of Scrabble sites was Networdz, which was started by Tina Andrews. Her vision was to have a Scrabble site where people from all over the world could play, socialize, and be part of a wholesome community. Although Tina died several years ago, the site is still operating.
Another site, the Internet Scrabble Club is a friendly site, as well. ISC was created several years ago with somewhat of the same intention of Networdz. However, ISC is somewhat more advanced than Networdz. For example, in all scrabble games, there has to be a dictionary. In online scrabble play, it is referred to as the TWL or OWL dictionary (the word list or official word list.) The dictionary is updated every 3 – 5 years. Some site owners find it difficult to upgrade the dictionary. Consequently, when a word that might be considered a legal word from the updated dictionary is played on an older site, the word may be rejected as an invalid word.
The most recent addition to the Scrabble site scene is Scrabbulous. This is a fabulous online version of the game. Initially, there were some kinks in getting started, in that there was some confusion over the copyright and permission from Hasbro regarding the creation of the site. With Scrabbulous, there are several options regarding playing the game. You can play with another person (there are over 20 lobbies you can go into to find a player), you can play with a ‘robot’ which is like an imaginary partner, or you can play solo.
Another site, Zyzzyva (zi-z-vah), is a good site for individual study. The site is not set up for one-on-one play. It is set up, however, to be a tool from which to learn new words, see what words can be made from a group of letters, as well as check a word to see if it is legal. Michael Thelan, the creator of the site, wanted to set up an individual study program, and this is the outgrowth of his idea.
The drawback to all of these sites is that while playing online can improve your skills, there is no substitute for playing with someone live and in person. On some of these game sites, the computer will keep track of the time, figure the score, check the word, and then replenish your rack with new tiles. On some, the time can be adjusted. So there really isn’t anything a player ‘has’ to do―the computer takes care of it all. In a live game, both players have 25 minutes each.
In playing live, rated Scrabble, a word is placed on the board, the player announces the score for the word, and this number is written on a score sheet to keep a running tally of word scores. Each player has their own score sheet, but as a ‘checks/balances’, each player records their score as well as the score of their opponent. At this point, the opposing player has the option to challenge a word or allow the word. Facebook too has the game, which has made it even more popular. On online Scrabble, the game can be set up so that the computer determines whether a word played is a viable word. Having a computer determine whether a word is good or not really takes out the competitiveness of the game.
While there are drawbacks, online Scrabble gaming can help improve scores and strategy. New words and strategy can be learned from playing higher-rated players. Thus, when playing live, some of the strategies and words learned from playing online with other people can be of great help.
Scrabble is a great game. There is evidence to show that playing word games helps keep a person’s mind sharp, and therefore, memory loss, Alzheimer’s, and dementia are held at bay because of the ‘exercising of the mind’. I don’t know about you, but I’m fighting aging every step of the way… even if it is by trying to figure out how to use a q, z, x, j, or k on a triple score spot for the most possible points!