Necessary Roughness is one of my summertime guilty pleasures. I went to high school with girls like Dani; the sets are as much fun for me as the stories. It's often puerile but just as often it's profound. Sometimes, like last night, it hits me right where I live.
A bit of backstory is required. I won a Kindle Fire several months ago. I have some books on it, but screen time is not the same as holding a book on my lap so I rarely use it as a literary aide. Instead, I have downloaded games... many games... far too many games.... and it has turned into a monumental time suck.... worse than Facebook.
I tried to play Words With Friends, but I don't always use the device in a wifi zone so that was a
short-lived experience. Solitaire and Free Cell are stalwart standbys, always ready in a pinch. But the real problem, the headache, the just one more game and then I'll start to make dinner, is contained in Word Drop.
It's simple, really. Letters in bubbles drop from the top of the screen. I create words and receive a score. If the bubbles cover too much of the screen the game is lost, the score is recorded, and I start again. I'm good at games like these, games that require an extensive vocabulary and an ability to spend hours rearranging consonants and vowels. It feels marginally more acceptable than Tetris, the last video game that captured me..... not my attention.... it captured me entirely.
Word Drop is doing the same thing now. TBG can watch talking heads and sports and I can keep him company on the couch, exchanging a word now and then if conversation is required, splitting my time between red and yellow and purple and blue and green letters and the pithy words of my sweetie. It makes me feel less of a sluggard as I sit with him on Douglas.
The problem is that I can't stop. I am certain that a chemical reaction is occurring in my brain that keeps me connected to the device. I can feel the muscles controlling my eyeballs straining and tiring and yet I go on. The phone rings and I ignore it. The pool beckons and still, I sit. It's a physical connection that I find nearly impossible to break.
It's a good thing that the Kindle Fire has a short battery life; I'd never get anything done if it didn't shut itself off every now and then, drained of energy and freeing me to live my life.
Big Cuter played Everquest.... or EverCrack as it was known in our house... the game that was stupid and evil and should not be played....the game that kept him from the dinner table until I insisted that he join us... the game in which he was a guild leader at 16 but which sucked that year entirely from his existence. He had on-line friends, it's true. We just wanted him to have some who took him out of the house, too.
I came to realize that he needed some lead time to leave his post. He agreed to come willingly if I alerted him in time. Last night he reminded me of the time I dragged him away and he lost hours of work and his fury knew no bounds... and that brings us back to the start of this post.
I took Amster's kids around town on Wednesday. Mr. 7 was otherwise occupied as Mr. 9 and I waited for him in the lobby, each of us on our own device until he came over to see what I was playing. Snuggling up nice and close (ahhhhhhhhh), Mr. 9 began to pick out words.... three letter words at first, but soon four and five and six letters were strung together and we were high fiving and feeling pretty smug.
I was ranked 99th in the world in that game that afternoon. Mr. 9 was impressed.... until I told him that in another version of the same game I was ranked 5th in the world.
Impressed doesn't begin to come close to the look on his face. Awe. Admiration. Stupefaction. Pride.
All I felt was ridiculous.
Another grown up in the room asked what it all meant. Mr. 9 said that I was better than all but four people in the whole world. My response was more accurate. "It means that 4 people wasted more time on this game than I did."
"Why aren't you higher? Can we try to make it so?"
No, honey, we can't, because I exited instead of saved that game and there's no way to get back into it. The score remains on the leaderboard, but it cannot be improved. When it happened, I screamed.... I cried... I felt awful for days.
We all sighed and that was that until I watched Necessary Roughness and saw the gamer character, a first-person-shooter champion, become frantic when, distracted, he was defeated. All that effort, lost. He had a seizure.
While I was never that obsessed, I came close. And when I shared my story, lost game and all, with Big Cuter that night on the phone, his glee knew no bounds.
How did it feel to have the shoe on the other foot? Did I have sympathy for the younger him, now that I'd felt that same pain? Did I enjoy my just desserts?
The answer was simple - no. I was embarrassed that I allowed pixels to make me sad. I was furious that I had invested so much time in such a meaningless pursuit. I rued the days I'd squandered and the emotions in which I'd wallowed over something so unimportant.
Perhaps this public confession will shame me into quitting..... once I move up from 99th to1st in this new game I've started, that is.