I have been lecturing my adult son recently on how much time he spends playing video games. I don’t think he was listening, so next time I’ll wait until he takes his headset off.
I was going to really lay down the law. Tell him what a waste of time video games are, and how little you benefit intellectually. Plus, the activity provides absolutely no exercise. I was going to tell him all that, but I played golf all that day when I discovered the carts were 50 percent off.
I have an addiction, myself.
Not to golf
Not to nicotine
Not to prescription drugs
Not to Uncle Ralph’s Hard Lemonade
Not even to pickleball (But I am getting close, on this one)
I am addicted to SCRABBLE.
Not Words with Friends. I don’t like that game. It involves friends which is exactly what I am trying to avoid when I seclude myself in the basement every night for an hour. I also don’t mean the board game that is up in your hall closet wedged between your winter galoshes and the Monopoly game. And I’m not referring to the Scrabble game that you flung in your basement crawl space because you’re missing a J and a V.
I’m addicted to the Scrabble that I downloaded on my computer. Oh, it’s the same concept, only instead of playing your etymologically challenged uncle or your linguistically deficient neighbor, you are playing Noah Webster and someone I assume is his obsessive-compulsive sister, Merriam.
In this computer game, you can control the level of difficulty, but with a Master Degree in English, I’ll be darned if I’ll compete as a Novice or Beginner. Instead, I check off Expert, at which point the computer runs a program that has beaten all but 200 Scrabble players in America. I wonder who these people are and if their wives and children would like them to come up from the basement occasionally and take a shower.
Every time I play, I realize I’m in over my head. Just before writing this column, I was trounced by the computer. Here were some of the words that beat me:
I had never heard of these words. As I typed them, my spell check had a hissy fit. “No such words” it tells me by underlining them all in red. But apparently the two hundred people I mentioned probably use words like these as part of their everyday speech. These wordophiles must all live together in a commune, the perfect place for people who know the names of all 4,000 varieties of tree fungus, use them in conversation…and can spell them.
The reason this computer Scrabble is so addictive is that every time I make a word that’s worth more than 30 points, a nerdy little figure pops up on the screen and seduces me with adulation: GREAT JOB! EXCELLENT MOVE! I’m a sucker for this because my 43rd wedding anniversary is coming up and I’ve only heard GREAT JOB maybe six times during our marriage. I can’t remember ever hearing EXCELLENT MOVE! And I’m even counting our honeymoon.
My son is growing more and more concerned about my obsession. So much so that he promised me the other day that if I gave up SCRABBLE, he’d cut down on his video game playing.
“Just say the word, Dad,” he told me. “Just say the word and video games are history.”
The question is: What is the word? And how many points will I get?
– Dick Wolfsie spent his career sharing his humor, stories and video essays on television, radio and in newspapers. His columns appear weekly in The Paper of Montgomery County. E-mail Dick at Wolfsie@ aol.com.