“Where had I been all these years? Instead of reading books, I should’ve been at video arcades perfecting my hand eye coordination and driving vehicles up the vertical side of mountains.”
Home from work, I grab my iPad and open a Scrabble-like game that ingeniously allows me to compose words with players half-around the world, or in this case, with my sister who lives in New York.
Of course, I can’t get any satisfaction by whining that she’s taking too long or demanding that the word she just put on the board does not exist in any language. She beats me no matter what I do. We usually compose one word a day. The app keeps score, never asks for a pencil or a napkin upon which to tally numbers. It has a built-in dictionary and referees all questionable words. Sometimes I don’t agree with its calls. The computer sanitizes the playing field. If I keep losing, I am the only one at fault.
I also have a second game in play with razzledazzle11 who lives in parts unknown and faithfully adds his or her word to the board on a daily basis. I don’t know if my opponent is male or female and have stopped trying to intuit some gender from the game board.
Once I contribute my daily word to both my sister’s and razzledazzle’s games, I push Scrabble or its app look-alike aside. This has been a warm-up to the real game, Super 7.
I discovered the app as a new user searching the Internet for top game apps. It looked simple enough, no terrain to cross, no monsters to dodge, no virtual worlds to build. (Did I also mention that the download was free?) All the game required was to connect numbers with a swipe of my finger, draw a line so they would add up to seven. Anything above seven produced a screen of angry skulls. Easy. A great pastime to avoid doing serious stuff like dishes or laundry. Super 7 begins with numbers slowly entering stage left and right, cascading from top and bubbling up from the bottom of the screen with a soothing melody playing in the background.
On first play I panicked, my breath quickened. Numbers rained in from all sides when my primordial brain and sense of survival kicked in. I realized that others may have their Mario Brothers, but I had Super 7. Here was a game that helped me to practice life lessons scaled down to their breathtaking simplicity: to relax when under assault, to allow the innate motion of things to play out before necessarily responding, to ensure that there are never too many variables in play at one time, and to understand that larger discs do not move on screen as quickly as smaller ones, and can often lead to angry skulls. As a person who loves metaphor, I read things into the game that probably their creators had never intended. But no matter. It worked for me. It was a great training for Project Management. Over and over again I returned to Super 7 to see if I could beat my high score and to enjoy a new-found cool in the world of shit happens.
Where had I been all these years? Instead of reading books, I should’ve been at video arcades perfecting my hand eye coordination and driving vehicles up the vertical side of mountains.
I do note, however, that my opponent is no longer a person, but a software routine. Chess master Gary Kasparov, who has been practicing with computers for many years, probably does a slow ho-hum right about here. But even as I exclaim hurray! after beating my last high score or when I don’t, what a pile of dukey, I realize that Super 7 can’t provide me with a real person. Of course, that’s not why I play the game and there are innumerable flesh and blood people in my life.
What concerns me is that with cities and the federal government constantly slashing budgets and making the social needs of people a diminishing return, our tax dollars are being invested less in the public space, and more in private worlds that let us create virtual realities and relationships. The public space also has allowed the Occupy Movement here in the United States to take hold.
Entertainments are wonderful and needed. Maybe they scale better than real life. But I think it’s important for us to hear and see each one another, to take in and rub shoulders with the entire person. To make our voices heard. Our encounters with ideas, music, and people are increasingly lacking context. So much floats around us and slips through our fingers. Here’s a pitch for the concrete. After all, I’m a child of cities. I think it’s important for children to have schools, parks, gymnasiums, and playgrounds. I think it is important for all of us to have common areas. Defend the public space.