25 January 2010

I am not a video game person. I enjoyed Atari Pac Man, Frogger and Jungle Hunt at a friend’s house as a wee one. I played, off and on, Zelda and Super Mario Brothers from the time my sister purchased them and a Nintendo player things sometime in the 80s until this year, when the Nintendo finally broke, but I never made significant progress. Never rescued any princesses.

Academic Considerations

While I was in Memphis for the AIGA conference last fall, I walked into the lobby of the Marriott and observed some men watching a football game on a big television. It was only much later that I realized that there was no football game, they were playing one of those newfangled 3D video games that look so alarmingly realistic. I’ve seen talks about the design of Rock Band but have never had any impulse to play it (I don’t do karaoke either — though I was a singer and guitarist in a real band for many years). Basically, I’m a flaming Luddite when it comes to the enormous, ubiquitous world of the modern video game (or is that gaming?) industry. And I’m ok with that.


I do, however, occasionally latch on to simple little games on my iPhone or desktop computer. I went through a Tetris phase, and Bejeweled, and something called Super Nisqually then Scrabulous (when it was still cool), and proper Scrabble, and Bananagrams on Facebook, then back to Bejeweled — this time, the Blitz version you play on your phone against your Facebook friends.


Each game is just a minute, so it’s low-commitment. Of course, I find it impossible to play fewer than 8 million gazillion games in a row, so the time-commitment does tend to add up. Luckily, it’s not a total waste of time. I’ve decided that playing Bejeweled Blitz on the iPhone against my Facebook friends is a wonderful experience, equivalent to a certain type of meditation, and full of hidden wisdom and lessons. Here is what I have learned:

  • To succeed, you must maintain a zen-like mono-focus. Just Bejeweled, nothing else. Be mindful only of Bejeweled.
  • Sometimes you have to look past the pretty shiny things to the bigger picture.
  • You must ignore physical urges, do not scratch your nose or brush your hair back. Push through the pain. Focus.
  • Always look ahead. Don’t wait for or watch the results of your last action, always look to your next action.
  • Use strategy, but don’t get bogged down by using strategy. Sometimes it’s better to just jump right in with what you know, take the opportunities you see before you… they could lead to something.
  • Just because something’s scary (the man’s voice, the crashing sounds) doesn’t mean you should be scared. Look at it as exciting, not scary. Be empowered.
  • Allah will provide. There are always jewels that will match somewhere on the board, even if you think there are not. Look in unusual places (i.e., around the edges, especially at the top).
  • Competition can be fun, if you don’t get too caught up in it.
  • Looking at lots of shiny jewels and thumbnail pictures of your Facebook friends right before bed might make you have some strange dreams.
  • Sometimes, you have to cut your loses and restart. You’re only wasting part of a minute to finish an unpromising game, but so what! Be selfish. Restart if you want to. Keep up the excitement level in your life.
  • You can pack a lot in a small area if you design it well. I’m perfectly happy with this user interface on my phone.
  • Aesthetics are important to the overall experience. I really really like looking at shiny sparkling jewels.
  • Somehow, in the intervening years between when I last saw them (high school) and today, my high-school friends have become preposterously skilled at Bejeweled. Although I don’t know what they’ve done with their lives (that they didn’t post on Facebook) I’ve got to respect them for that.
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