Thursday, February 3, 2011
Scrabble as Metaphor
I have been playing SCRABBLE online for about 18 months now, and admit that I am a total junkie. It has been fun, maddening, and oddly enough, a great learning experience in a Zen kind of way.
The truth of the matter is, I'm not very good. My vocabulary is good, not great, and my ability to see words from a jumble of letters is definitely lacking. But on I play, usually with people I know or want to get to know, and interestingly enough, I have gotten to know a lot about myself and others, particularly men.
One man I played with (and dated) kept winning and winning and winning with fantastic words I had never heard of. When I finally asked him if he had an amazing vocabulary or was it possible he cheated, he confessed (unembarassedly) that, of course, he used online tools to help him figure out words; that everyone did it, didn't I know? (Scrabble Helper = Viagra?) That I had to ask before he would tell me something like that, that the playing field had never been level from the beginning, was a great indicator of the non-Scrabble relationship.
Another man I played with (and dated - hmm, is there a pattern here?) was honest from the beginning about his desire to win, about his joy in playing with an equal partner, loved talking through his difficulties in the game and had no issue naming a problem he was having. He was like that in person, too - honest with his feelings (even if I didn't like them), comfortable stating his position.
One woman I played with, so gentle in regular life and so fierce a competitor online, was incredibly generous with her skill, pointing out plays (after she had won, of course) giving me tips, and continuing to play with me in spite of the fact that I did not give her stiff competition. I had already suspected she was a mensch; Scrabble proved it so. But in addition, it taught me that the rather one-dimensional picture I had of her was missing so much, and that engaging with someone in a different activity from our normal relationship let me in to a whole new aspect, deepening our relationship.
And then there's me. I have come to see in Scrabble that I often play impulsively, that the desire to make a play overcomes my ability to think through carefully, that once I latch on to a play that seems good, I stop looking at alternatives. I have also seen that if I give it time (one of the great joys of online Scrabble where there is little pressure to make your move), I can see things differently, that new words form where none had previously existed.
I don't think I'll ever be a very good Scrabble player, and recent games on a real board have proven that perhaps I have even gotten worse as my knowledge and experience have grown. But it sure has taught me a lot, and perhaps is my new relationship litmus test!