games vs reality

Wired article about folks who play addictive games and have trouble coming back into the real world. They get “stuck” and see the world in terms of the game.

“I was driving down Venice Boulevard,” recalled her husband, Dan Kitchens, “and Kozy reached over and grabbed the steering wheel and for a moment was trying to yank it to the right…. (Then) she let go, but kept staring out her window, and then looked back at me kind of stunned and said, ‘Sorry. I thought we could pick up that mailbox we just passed.'”

News flash! Immersive games are immersive!

I think this sort of thing happens with any activity that requires you to FOCUS REALLY HARD (that’s a point made in the article) and games are just particularly good at doing that. I’m not a big game player (I have terrible, terrible hand-eye coordination and my reaction time is measured in minutes) so I don’t usually run into this kind of thing. I have run into it in other ways, though:

  • I played a lot of Infocom games (Zork et al) as a kid (yeah, I’m from that gamer generation). After ten or twelve or fifteen hours in the game everything I did away from the game was accompanied by clearly articulated verb/noun sentence fragments in my head (“enter kitchen. open fridge. take juice. close fridge. take glass. open juice.”)
  • Once a few years back I was in the local overpriced organic grocery store (Food Hole, we call it) and the attractive twenty-something food bagger was taking kind of a long time to put my food in the bags. And he seemed to be turning every item over and over again in his hands. I looked at him. He looked back at me in despair. “I am trying to pack your bags in tetris,” he explained. “Please help me.”
  • When I was writing the Perl book I spent weeks working on the chapters on regular expressions. I had absolutely terrifying dreams of getting lost in complicated mazes with something chasing me and the only way to get out was to work out particularly complex regexes. Agh. (I really fear for the mental health of the guy who wrote Mastering Regular Expressions).

And then there’s the syndrome of wishing real life was more geeky. There’s the universal Undo requested in the article, of course. And how many times have I pointed the TiVo remote at something and three-thumbs-downed at it. Or even just mimed the remote-pointing and made the noises (“bonk bonk bonk.”)

OK, new year’s resolution #10: be less of a geek.