warning: This short memoir may trigger repressed memories of your own)
(Apologies in advance for co-oping the idea of 12-step programs. No offense is intended to those dealing with real problems by my remarks)
OK, that out of the way let's talk
Scott: My name is Scott and I'm a tetrisholic. A Tetristerrestrial if you will.
Audience in the room with chairs in a circle: Hi, Scott
Scott: I have a problem. It's time for me to face it head on. I'm tired of waking up with dreams of tetris pieces falling down and the realization that I've been, for minutes or hours I don't know, setting them straight. I'm tired of making analogies – some aloud, many in my own mind - to tetris when I help someone pack a car ("This is like playing tetris). I'm tired of getting excited about stories like this when it's mentioned that the Japanese game shows play human chess and thinking, though only for a minute, that I should watch those shows just to get my tetris fix.
I'm, well, just tired of tetris and its power over me.
Moderator: You're in the right place, Scott.
Scott: Am I? Do others here have this problem? This is my first time here, you know.
Scott nods, somehow placated by this: Can I make a confession?
Moderator: You're in the right place for that.
Scott: I used to play Tetris for hours a day while in college. I'd sit with my roommate and play it for hours. It was very calming and soothing. I even participated in tetris tournaments at my college and at a game store and, well, won a trophy.
In college some try other things – drugs, booze – but my main experimental fun was with tetris. Sure, I tried other things (columns, for example) and those were also fun but it wasn't the same.
After college Tetris and I didn't see each other for a while as the tetris game belonged to a roommate. I thought maybe without the presence of Tetris in my house I'd be able to get past it.
And it did… for a while. Whole weeks would go by without me thinking of tetris but eventually I'd walk by an arcade or see someone playing it and the next thing I knew I'd be playing it again.
I tried seeing other people, er, games. I bought columns and lately I've played puzzle games like jewel quest 2 and Rainbow Web and Luxor but they are, to me, poor substitutes for tetris, the god of all games, as evidenced that Entertainment Weekly recently named it the best or most important game ever. I'm a crack whore for tetris, with tetris being crack in this analogy and, ok, bad analogy due to the lack of sex in my life.
What's that? Too much information? Ok, sorry…. Where was I? Did I mention that those games are like methadone, good stuff but no replacement for the real thing? Wait, why are more people frowning? I've gone too far and offended some of you?....
Moderator: We need to wrap this up, Scott. What brought you here today? Well, I've not played Tetris in years. I've fought off buying Playstations and WII and other game systems because I know I'm weak (hey, first step is admitting you have a problem, right) and that if I got the system I'd likely buy a new tetris game and then you'd never see me for days at a time. So I thought maybe I was over this.
And then.. it happened. You know how they say a drunk without drinking is a dry drunk. Well, I guess I was just a dry tetrisholic.
But then last Saturday I was working with a guy who had lots of games for his playstation and after playing a few games he mentioned he had a Tetris Game. I think it was called Tetris mania and it had the classic tetris, and the vs game but the one that brought it all back was a puzzle mode. It set the player up at a high level with a particular puzzle to solve.
And I was reminded of how I used to play it, namely I'd set it a nearly impossible level and then play it repeatedly until I won. Sometimes that took days or weeks. While others would play shoot 'em up games (I never got into those, partially because of my pacifist leanings, probably) I'd be playing puzzle games but mostly columns and Tetris. That was back when I would have the tetris dreams.
Anyway we played Tetris for at least two hours and I was seriously thinking I needed to go buy play station or some system so I could get this puzzle game and play it until I won.
I had a therapist once. She was the one who later pronounced me graduated because I was more self-aware and doing more work for myself then she could ever do, like going out to coffeehouses to read when depressed, fighting the impulse to stay home alone when down because that could only lead to a dark downward cycle. Which is one of the reasons I didn't mind so much that I can't use my modem at home lately due to my evil computer – what with Father's day and my dead father I've known that being around people is what I truly needed.
Where was I? Oh, right, see, this is why I called my college newspaper column "Butki's Babbles…"
Moderator clears his throat while others look at their watches.
Scott: Right, so let me wrap up. Anyway this therapist said the biggest problem I had, besides being too hard on myself, was that I spent too much of the day thinking. Isn't that the craziest thing? I said, "How can thinking too much be a bad thing?" but she suggested maybe there was a connection between my then insomnia and worrying about work and my depression and the fact that I went from reading and writing for fun to writing as a journalist to going home and reading writing all night on the Internet. Where was the chance, the time, for the brain to just relax? The answer: There wasn't any and so the first chance the brain had to go over what had happened during the day came at night. It got to the point where I didn't want to close my eyes because I knew what was coming: thoughts about what I did wrong that day, what might go wrong the next day, etc. This led to a downward spiral way of thinking.
"Isn't there anything you can do that turns your brain off?"
Well, I play puzzle games, I told her. She encouraged me to do more of that. So I'd play more puzzle games but not tetris because I was, frankly, afraid if I started playing tetris I might never go to sleep.
It was around then that I started playing backgammon (which has always been my favorite board game) online. The good news is this was fun and relaxing and I can play it well with my brain turned off. The bad news is I'd do terribly sometimes because my mind wasn't on the game and the worse news is I'd get so relaxed I became known for falling asleep mid-game. This would be ok if I was playing the computer but I was playing international backgammon tournaments so more than once I'd wake up to the sound of someone from, say, Australia making a sound effect (one was a cow mooing) to get me to waken up so I could finish the game. Being awakened by a cow while on the second floor of a house at midnight is one weird experience, let me tell you. Plus I realized I was playing better when half awake then when fully awake. I'm still not sure what that means.
At some point, though, I decided it was time to get serious and improve on my game. I wrote about them some over here when I participated a/sbutki.newsvine.com/_news/2008/03/29/1398073-reporting-live-from-the-pittsburgh-backgammon-tournament">in person in a backgammon tournament.
The good news is I came back from them more educated about the game. The bad news is backgammon is no longer a game I can play with my brain turned off.
Which brings us back – yes, I see looking at your watches – to tetris. I think it may be time to return to the puzzle god I worship, Tetris, and resume playing that once a day to turn my mind off.
I'm thinking maybe, to quote that sappy song. "I can't fight these feelings."
So I ask you, do you think I'm making a mistake? Do I sound like I have enough self-control to resume dancing with the
devil Tetris gods or should I keep fighting these urges I have?
Moderator: Sorry, Scott, we don't take questions here. And what kind of weird ass speech was that? It was like you were speaking as if for a memoir piece or something? Get your weird ass outta here.
Scott (looking at his ass to see what's so weird about it) leaves, mumbling, "Lots of help you guys were," but not before giving one member the secret tetris handshake.
8 to 8:20 Sunday morning