The real reason time occasionally goes missing

I have a problem with computer games.

My problem has nothing to do with the games being violent; there are violent games I enjoy, and I’m not about to go out and actually take a sawed-off shotgun to someone just because a character in a game does it. It also has nothing to do with the marketing strategies behind various games; sure, there are some of those I don’t like, but the games I actually play are generally open-source or otherwise (legally) freely available.

No, it’s the very practical problem of time. You can argue about whether that’s also a moral issue, depending on your views of what a person should and shouldn’t spend his or her time doing, though for my part I don’t think computer games are inherently wrong. My problem, however, simply boils down to games sucking away more time than I intended from the things I need to or ought to be doing.

The sprawling epic adventure games, the first-person shooter games, the real-time strategy games, and a bunch of other kinds are all fine. Those, I don’t spend much time on, because I don’t start playing them in the first place unless I know I’ve got a couple of hours free.

No, my problem is with the short games. You know, the games that take only a few minutes per play–puzzle games, especially. The problem with those is that I’ll sit down at the computer, think “I’ll just play a quick game or two and then get to work,” and then twenty-odd games later realize that I’ve been at it for two hours and not actually done the work I meant to do.

I’ve learned that I have to delete games like that from my computer if I’m to have any hope of getting any work done. No more solitaire, no more “Minesweeper,” no more “Othello,” that sort of thing. (There’s a “Worms” clone that’s kind of borderline; I keep uninstalling and re-installing that one.)

Browser-based games are a problem, though, because I can’t delete them. I can avoid going to their host sites, but that sometimes takes more willpower than I can muster.

That was the problem today. I came across a reference to a game called “2048” and went to check it out. (For the sake of any of you who may have a work ethic, I won’t provide a link.) Turns out it’s a simple puzzle game that involves trying to pair up numbered tiles that appear in a 4×4 grid. It’s not quite “Tetris,” but it tickles my brain’s reward centers in some of the same ways.

About four hours after I first checked the game out, I glanced at a clock and noticed I’d been playing it for four hours straight without so much as pausing for a sip of water. So I closed my browser, stood up, and spent a good fifteen minutes pacing around my apartment trying to teach my eyes to see things that were more than two feet from them once more. Since then I haven’t played any more “2048”; it’s only been six hours, but so far, so good.

My name is Andy, and apparently I have a problem with computer games.

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