Squabble over plan to make Scrabble less of a struggle for the young

‘Gen Z people don’t quite like the competitive nature,’ said Gyles Brandreth

Emma Guinness
Tuesday 09 April 2024 13:48 BST
Replica of King's coronation crown made using hundreds of Scrabble pieces

Controversial changes to make Scrabble easier for Gen Z have been light-heartedly compared to “potty training.”

The comment by broadcaster and ex MP Gyles Brandreth, President of the Association of British Scrabble Players, came after a new, simpler version of the game was announced.

The makers, Mattel, have produced Scrabble Together, which involves a second side of the board to make it “more accessible anyone who finds word games intimidating.”

Mr Brandreth said research by Mattel had shown “Gen Z people don’t quite like the competitive nature” of the traditional version which older people like him “thrive on.”

He was challenged by BBC Radio 4 Today host Nick Robinson who protested “losing is how you learn - I learned Scrabble when my mum constantly beat me.”

Mr Brandreth, 76, rejected the criticism and told a chuckling Mr Robinson: “You go to lavatory now but you were once successfully potty trained.”

Mr Brandreth continued: “The point is you have got to begin somewhere. The idea is to encourage people who feel Scrabble is a bit daunting.”

People from Gen Z – adults younger than 27– “want a game where you can simply enjoy words and language, being together, having fun and creating words,” said Mr Brandreth. Adding they were from a “more casual generation.”

According to Mattel, the new game is “designed with inclusivity and collaboration in mind” and is suitable for players aged eight and up.

It involves the use of simpler words to create a family-friendly game that’s less “intimidating” for people who don’t like the competitiveness of traditional word games.

The new incarnation sees players compete to be the first to finish a series of 20 challenges instead of relying on the points-based system from the original game that requires using high value letter tiles by creating increasing complex words.

Points in Scrabble Together are lost when a player fails to complete a “goal card” or if they use up all of their “helper cards” - which lend a helping hand if someone gets stuck.

Some of the goal cards in the new Scrabble involve challenges like “play[ing] a three-letter word” or “play[ing] a word that touches the edge of the board” - so players do have the option of increasing its complexity.

But as the original Scrabble relied on a complex vocabulary leading players to victory, many fans have been left with seriously ruffled feathers.

Some have slammed Scrabble Together for dumbing down word games in a world where people are reading less than ever before.

Others have gone as far as to dub it “Woke Scrabble”.

One X user wrote: “Scrabble dumbs down as people become less able to spell.”

A second added: “But... But... The whole point of Scrabble is to win - and win *big* by knowing lots of the really obscure words and completely crushing your opponent.”

A third, meanwhile, said there was no need to change the game in the first place.

They wrote: “Look, we have all been getting on fine with #scrabble thank you very much.”

News of the so-called “Woke Scrabble” comes after a 2023 survey from the National Literacy Trust found that less than half of those aged eight to 18 read for enjoyment in their spare time.

This marks a significant decrease from from 58 per cent back in just 2016.

Mattel vice president Ray Adler said of the 75-year-old game: “Scrabble has truly stood the test of time as one of the most popular board games in history, and we want to ensure the game continues to be inclusive for all players.”

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