Monday, October 31, 2011

Tetris Temptations

Purple T block. Shift all the way to the left, drop down.

Green S block. Rotate, shift two steps left, drop down.

Dark blue J block. Rotate, drop down.

Light blue I block. Shift to store.

Yellow O block. Shift three steps right, drop down.

Another I block!


Fumbling, I hurriedly slammed my laptop shut and packed it.

I was late. Again.

For over a month now, I had been playing this Facebook game called Tetris Battle. It was simple - two players battling over a two-minute game of Tetris by sending lines to each other and scoring KOs.

As I grew more familiar to the game, what started as a midnight curiosity quickly sprouted into gnawing obsession. One aspect of this game made it particularly addictive - energy. For each game you played, you had to spend 5 Energy points which were recharged only at the rate of 1 per 5 minutes. Now if that's sending your brain into convulsions, each game requires 25 minutes of charging Energy. Hence, you were inclined to finish your Energy whenever possible so that it could charge while you were away. The games were a precious limited resource.

Evil. So, so evil.

Every morning, I would wake up and...

My energy! It's sitting there waiting for me!

Du-dung! My laptop came to life.

The game makes a very distinctive sound of rhythmic keyboard taps. Hence, my mum would know and suspect that I was playing games instead of, um, not playing games. The zombified look on my face didn't help, I guess.

Whenever she chided me or asked me to do something else, it would snap my focus and make me more prone to defeat. I couldn't help it - with the level of opposition I was facing, total concentration was needed.

It made me terribly annoyed at her, but yet there was nothing I could do. Only dumb kids quarreled with their parents over computer games.

So I did the next best thing. I started blasting songs from Youtube each time I played. Among my favourites were Hillsong's 'Holy, Holy, Holy', 'It Is Well With My Soul' and 'Hosanna', Ah, yes. Nothing like using Christian worship songs to fool your parents.

My best-ever record of Lines Sent.
Next, the inevitable occurred - I started seeing Tetris blocks everywhere. It was worst when I looked at people when talking to them. Without warning, multi-coloured blocks would drop down across their face, rotate quickly and fit into spaces. It was horrifying, as the person would just continue talking as though nothing was amiss. Many a time I wanted to grab his or her shoulders and scream, "What's wrong with you? CAN'T YOU FEEL TETRIS BLOCKS ON YOUR FACE?"

Sheesh. Maybe it was just me.

Some statistics to put things into perspective: Each Tetris Battle game lasts for 2 minutes. This excludes logging in, buying stuff from the shop, loading time while it searches for new opponents, and some way-too-long congratulatory screens that pop up after every game. So let's factor that in and assume each game to last 2 minutes and 10 seconds.

At the time of writing, I had played 1437 games. That totals up to 186,810 seconds. Which is 3113.5 minutes. Which is 51.9 hours. Which is 2 days, 3 hours and 54 minutes.

And that's not including the games I played on the fake account I created. What, a fake account you say? Let's leave that story for another day.

So wow...2 full days that could and should have been spent on something better. Like feeding the poor. Reading books. Exercising. Bonding with family members. Playing Restaurant City.

The craziest opponent I've ever encountered.
Oh wait, there was this other guy who did T-spins EVERY 2 SECONDS.
I'm not sure if that was just a nightmare or it really happened.

In case you're thinking that I lost my mind, I didn't. I was still a perfectly sane and rational person. That was the part of addiction that sucked most - you knew that it was a meaningless game, you knew exactly how dumb you were for throwing away your life, you knew what the right thing to do was, but yet you were utterly powerless to quit.

It was the same story over and over and over and over. If it was made into a movie, it would be the most boring movie ever. Play too much Tetris, suffer some consequence, vow to quit, get bored, play a little Tetris again, play too much Tetris. Rinse, wash and repeat. If I won, I wanted to play more since I was on a roll. If I lost, I wanted to play more to redeem myself. There was no other outcome.

Someone once told me that addiction is like boiling a live frog. The frog sits in cool water which slowly becomes lukewarm. As the water temperature slowly goes up, it becomes increasingly comfortable. It doesn't even notice that the water is being heated up, or is just too comfortable to care. Before you know it...stewed frog is served!

As I drove to my meeting in Bangsar, already 15 minutes late, I made a solemn oath to myself. No more. No more. I want no more of this. I'm smarter than this. It's false happiness being traded for lasting joy.

Tetris Battle, I'm done with you.

"We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition (and Tetris Battle?) when infinite joy is offered to us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at sea. We are far too easily pleased." - C.S Lewis

(Less than a week after this, the author comes out of Tetris Battle retirement, much to the delight of his adoring fans. However, he tries his best to not get carried away with maximising his energy and leveling up. After all, it's just a game right?)