I have a secret vice. It involves technology and many hours of semi-mindless diversion. I’m not much of a television watcher or a video gamer, though I have nothing against others who enjoy these forms of entertainment. Personally, I’d rather read or socialize than watch television or play games on screens.
Here’s my confession: I recently discovered online scrabble and I think I’m addicted. As a writer, I spend a lot of time writing books and articles or researching. I love words and the way they can be manipulated to make a point. I love the creative aspect of building a thesis or a story by stringing words together to make an impact. I love the pictures that can be created with words and the rhythm they can produce.
Playing scrabble doesn’t do any of these things. It’s more like putting together a puzzle of letters. I must also admit that through my penchant for the game, I have learned an array of new words, but haven’t even bothered looking them up. Words like KA, QI, QAT, ZA mean nothing to me other than the points they garner. The biggest thrill is to use all your letters in one go (a bingo), which earns you fifty bonus points.
You can “befriend” a player and find each other for future games. You can also chat with your anonymous opponents on a message board. We congratulate each other for a game well-played or for an awesome word. I learn many interesting things from these North American players. For instance, a woman told me that her son, who was in the army reserve, was called in to fight the dangerous fire raging in Southeast Oregon and she was playing scrabble to distract herself from her worries.
One gentleman from Arizona, who I became scrabble “friends” with, is almost thirty years older than me and a whiz at the game. He told me he’s been playing for about seventy years. I enjoy the competition and his clever, cheerful banter. He also told me that Canadian players are always polite.
Then there are the sore losers. Some players quit half-way through because they have no hope of catching up. The gracious ones continue playing right until the end even though they are getting creamed. One time, someone was pummeling me and about three quarters of the way in, my computer crashed. I'm sure my opponent thought I quit because I was losing.
The problem with this game, as with many computer, video, television, and various other electronic diversions, is that once you start playing you can completely lose track of time. One evening I finally stopped at 2:30 a.m. after having been at it for several hours. How could I whittle away so much time? Not only was I losing precious sleep, but I would start the next day in a woozy fog. The worst thing was that this kept happening. Instead of reading before going to bed, I found myself playing scrabble until my head dropped onto the keyboard.
As a freelance writer, I can’t afford to waste a lot of time. During my waking hours I should be working on assignments or seeking them out. And when I’m not working, I should be doing something active rather than sitting in front of the computer playing games. But alas, after spending a few hours at my work station (which happens to be in my kitchen), instead of using my break to tackle the dishes or other domestic chores that have accumulated, I make myself a cup of coffee and launch into a game of scrabble.
I’m starting to understand how my kids can spend hours playing video games. For years, I’ve been at them to leave the screens and be more physically active. But understanding it doesn’t make it all right. I think it’s time to restrict my scrabble time and muster up some self discipline and become more physically active myself (does housework count?). If I can’t practice what I preach, I have no right to criticize anyone else for their electronic obsessions. It's time to at least limit my scrabble madness.
By writing about this, I thought I might convince myself to cut back on my online scrabble obsession. But now I just want to play more! I’m afraid that my self-imposed scrabble moratorium will have to start tomorrow, or the day after...