The Scrabble rule change doesn’t affect anyone who already knows how to play

Scrabble Champion shirt
Scrabble Champion shirt

The recent announcement from Mattel concerning CHANGING THE SCRABBLE RULESET TO ALLOW FOR PROPER NAMES AND OTHER BLASPHEMY is really not that big a deal.

First, some perspective.  How exactly is the game being modified?

  • Celebrity names and other proper nouns will now be allowed.  What comprises the proper spelling of specific proper names will be left to the discretion of the players at the time the play is made.  In some families, for example, the name “Micheal” may be the proper way to spell the name “Michael” – to them, that would be an acceptable play.
  • Players will be able to spell words backwards on the game board, reading from right-to-left or bottom-to-top instead of the traditional directions.  Web Watch kinda likes this idea.
  • Players will now be able to play words that aren’t connected to any other words on the board.  Web Watch is not such a fan of this.
  • The rules are only being applied to a special edition of the game being released in Britain – the traditional game and its rules are not being modified at all.

In the big picture, this is no different from any of the various Monopoly versions that have been released over the years.  Like Monopoly City Edition, the core Monopoly game has not changed, and you can still play Monopoly using the traditional rules you’ve grown up with or with the new City rules.  With the revised Scrabble game, you could ignore the new rules that Mattel came up with and play Scrabble the way you’re used to doing.

Scrabble fans around the world seem united in their overall hatred for these proposed changes.  And when it comes to the fascinating world of competitive Scrabble tournaments, these changes won’t even matter as they won’t be taken into consideration at the tourament level.  Scrabble enthusiasts pride themselves on their knowledge of arcane words, and when money is on the line, those players can get downright snippy – if they weren’t already riled up over whether to use the English or British word list, throwing in allowed proper names would be asking for a real fight.  (Heck, these are the same people who bickered over the phrasing in the official Scrabble tournament rules that led to “it’s unethical” to be changed to “it is considered cheating”. And you expect them to accept proper nouns or spelling words backwards as allowable plays?  Trust us – it ain’t going to happen…)

Now if the letter count in the Scrabble Grab Bag is different – with two X’s, for example – then we’ll be talking a different story.  That would be changing the physical makeup of the game, and that would be just plain wrong.  At that point, why not remake Scrabble Jr instead of touching the original product?

But Mattel hasn’t said that they’re making any other changes to the core game.  So Web Watch has to ask, “what’s the big deal”? 

It’s simple – if you don’t want to play with the new rules… then don’t.