Thankful for Yahtzee

by Abbye Meyer | 11/23/98 6:00am

With Thanksgiving just a couple of days away, I've been trying to decide what to give thanks for this year. Sure I look forward to seeing my family and friends this weekend and appreciate having them around, but the things I am really thankful for are much smaller.

In fact, I think I am most grateful to Yahtzee. Though generally not a big fan of computer games, I have found a constant source of entertainment, an outlet for competitive and negative feelings and an easy way to procrastinate and relax in this simple little game on my computer screen.

Basically, Yahtzee is just my favorite thing in the whole world right now. Even if others don't appreciate its wonder and marvel at its perfection, I still take pride in those triple-Yahtzee games and almost shake with joy when reaching scores over 500.

The game has become a kind of lifestyle as I have found myself trying to convert everyone I know to Yahtzeeism. It's beginning to seep into the computers in my hall and hopefully will extend to dorms everywhere.

Perhaps developing a dangerous addiction, I find myself wasting up to a couple of hours a day in front of my little laptop, rolling the fake dice and striving to defeat the evil computer personality (who often gets really fortunate and probably quite unlikely number combinations, provoking it to proclaim its superiority and celebrate the success of "artificial intelligence").

So obviously, this whole computer aspect makes the game a little different from the old manual game with its cute little red cup for shaking the dice and handwritten score keepers. Yahtzee may not be as personal this new technological way, but at least there's no dealing with slow competitors, drying pens and difficult addition.

Plus, Yahtzee has helped me develop a whole new relationship with my computer -- though not as close as the one my roommate has formed with her Jeopardy-playing iMac who named itself Yolanda -- and has helped me learn to appreciate the simpler things in life.

And as I think about it, appreciating those little things is what Thanksgiving has come to mean to me.

After about second grade the whole Pilgrim story just doesn't have that same mysterious, sacred effect anymore, especially when realizing the first Thanksgiving sure isn't considered a symbol of happiness, sharing and friendship to a lot of people.

Likewise, giving thanks for real, serious things -- unlike Yahtzee -- is a nice idea, but for most families I know, that never happens. The only time I ever saw a true giving thanks on Thanksgiving was on that horrible "Mad About You" when Jamie ended up throwing the turkey out the window -- not a very positive holiday get-together.

So then I used to think Thanksgiving was more about seeing family members and just enjoying each other's company. But the meal is never that exciting and actually kind of anticlimactic since Thanksgiving doesn't include any after-dinner gift exchange. Plus, when big families get together like that, some horrible, tense situation is always bound to surface.

So if the celebration of family is also out, there's not much left to the traditional Thanksgiving ritual. And the same can be said, it seems, for a lot of the traditional holidays. Thus, I've decided to personalize mine, to give them a little tweak where necessary and make them something new and modern that actually has some meaning.

Traditions may be nice in some instances, but once they lose all meaning they can make things even worse. When Frank Costanza (of "Seinfeld," of course) found the Christmas traditions too stressful and distracting, he transformed his December celebration into his own creation, Festivus. Replacing the traditional tree, Frank bought a pole; and replacing the happy dinner and gift exchange, he directed the "Airing of Grievances" and the "Feats of Strength" rituals.

We clearly don't have to be as strange and extreme as the Costanza family (especially after seeing what it did to George), but Festivus can teach us all a lesson: instead of letting the traditional holiday stresses get us down, we can just change the holidays.

Frank's traditions may be a little harsh and upsetting, but I'm pretty sure a Yahtzee tournament would make Thanksgiving an ideal celebration.

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