I remember my grandma playing solitaire. I can still see her hands, marked with age spots and arthritis, shuffling the cards, setting them up, seven across. When I was young, I couldn’t figure out what she was doing; I didn’t recognize the pattern. I soon learned.
Solitaire was a great escape. It helped me pass the time when I was stuck inside my elementary school classroom on rainy days. Later, I played solitaire at home, sitting cross-legged on the floor, in front of our coffee table, listening to a cassette on my walkman, and losing myself in the red-black-red-black pattern. The “King, Queen, Jack pattern” were so much easier to figure out than my trigonometry formulas.
When I got my first laptop, solitaire was there waiting for me. It was my reward. I’d make deals with myself. Write two pages, and I could play a game. But, solitaire was addicting. If one game didn’t go well, I’d convince myself I deserved another try.
Later still, my husband purchased a Nintendo DS. I’m not a video game person, but I was introduced to Sudoku. Soon, I was the one playing with that DS. Sudoku was great the summer I had my wisdom teeth removed. When the pain awakened me from sleep, and I didn’t want to disturb my snoring husband, I’d come downstairs, take my pain pills, and play Sudoku. The pain was too intense for me to concentrate on reading, and I’m a voracious reader. But something about Sudoku worked to pass the time. As an added bonus, I felt like I was doing something much more educational than mindlessly flipping channels, watching commercials for products I was never going to order.
Now, it’s Bejeweled that has me hooked, and on another device - my husband’s iPhone. I am, in no way, a high-tech person. I recognize the value and convenience these items provide us but that doesn’t mean I want one for myself. Bejeweled is the only thing I do on a regular basis on that iPhone. There’s something about the pretty colored stones, falling into place. The question of what level can I get to today? How can I line up these different colors in the best combinations?
What is it about these games? Why are they so addictive? Why do they keep us coming back for more?
For me, I think there’s a certain order they provide. Everything goes in its place; there are patterns to be found. And right now, my life feels so out-of-balance, so lacking order, that these games give me some sort of escape. So many aspects of my life are beyond my control right now. I feel as if I’m strapped on some roller coaster. I can’t stop it, can’t see what twist or turn lies ahead. All I can do is hang on, ride it out, and scream.
With these games, I have the option of starting again. I know I can do better. I just got off to a bad start. It doesn’t work that way in life. A bad day at work must be worked through. A sleepless night with my toddler son ready to party at 3 a.m. must be dealt with, awake. There are no do-overs.
Or, maybe it’s because with these games we understand the coveted result. We know the outcome our attention and strategies are to yield. In life, we progress young to old not always sure what to do, where each decision will lead us, or what the outcome should look like.