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Computer Traumas


It has happened! Computer games have started to control my life on and off the screen. No complicated games like Age of Empires, just the simple one of Tetris. You know the one, where different shaped and colored bricks fall out of the sky and you have to arrange them in nice lines at the bottom? Hopefully with the end result of all colors matching in straight lines so that they can be removed and point gained.

Crazy really, it first happened many years ago when I had this stupid bet that I could get more points than the next guy. What that really means is that, "I am going to be up all night playing this game and will be totally incapable of staying awake in the office tomorrow, unless of course I play the game in the office as well". Thatís what computer games do to us. We become machines where food and sleep are secondary items to all else. Just keep on playing.............till you drop.

I managed to get through that episode with only a slight increase in my weight and a damaged back from not having moved anything else except my two fingers for a sustained period of time. The latest episode though has created havoc with my life in more ways than one and I am getting seriously worried about it.

I had been playing that game in the evening for around three hours and had then gone to bed early for a dreamless and normal sleep. All okay and expected you say? Well, the sleep was but when I drove to the office the next day things started to happen that rapidly woke me up to the danger that I was in. There I was in my blue car approaching the traffic lights when all of a sudden I swerved into the other lane thus ending up stopped neatly behind this other blue car. Behind me, confused and irritated drivers with green and red cars tooted their horns angrily wandering what this maniac was doing. But I? I was happy in that I had managed to get the colors arranged and all I needed was another blue car and then we could have a full line................oh, no, what is happening to me? I sat there for a while shivering as it dawned on me that I had entered the game itself, it had taken me over.........I was a brick!

Yeah, and that was not all. I found myself one afternoon staring inanely at a house wall and following the line of bricks along trying to sort out in my mind which pattern was best and which was not. And at my desk I found that I had arranged all files and papers in a neat pattern according to color and size having totally disregarded any format associated with the importance of in-going, outgoing, urgency, etc. Extremely worrying to say the least!

I have withdrawn from playing Tetris and other games of that sort hoping that I will stop having these off the screen episodes in real life. In the hope that I can return to a normal existence without having off-the-screen battles. Do other people suffer from this or is it just me?

The other game that I played to have a break from Tetris was "Prairie Dog". One of those annoying games where you have a choice of guns and dogs keep on appearing on the screen. Aim and fire being the next step. Bang, Bang, Bang, another dog bites the dust. Yes, I know, pathetic really, but great fun. Volume up full, there I would be furiously firing at any movement, reloading and starting again and the dogs would make a strangled sound as I hit them. But once again I one day realized that all was not well with me, as I used to sit on my balcony and take imaginary potshots at cars as they appeared on the road. Or in a busy street I would say "bang, bang" and pretend that I had cleared a path for myself through the crowds.

I played that other game Age of Empires many times to. Love that game as it takes s kill and thought as well as two fingers and rapid movement and I became extremely proficient at it as time went by. My computer often struggled to cope with the size of my army and the enemies that I faced. I would sit there for hours on end, maneuvering, shifting, attacking and withdrawing till the sun started to come up on the horizon. It would be then that I would force myself away and climb into bed only to resurface two hours later, make a large urn of coffee and re-attack with a vengeance. Although this game never caused me to start charging at other cars on the highways or lobbing screwed up notes at others in the office it did cause me to take a good look at myself. What would happen if suddenly I started to do this sort of thing in real life? If I started to make deals with my neighbors to attack next door offices or ping elastic bands at the mail delivery boy? Iíve stopped playing games now and have become a serious and boring "been there, done that and cured myself" type of person. I do have long and empty hours where I feel the urge to take up where I left off and I get extremely jealous when others talk about games or I see others playing them but I resist. I think it must be like smoking where one never loses the urge to light up and take a draw Ė just the one! No, No, I cannot! I now sit there and lecture others on the dangers of playing games and that they should stop before it is too late. And they? They just nod politely and then disappear to talk amongst themselves............."must be and ex-player", whisper, whisper, whisper.

Ieuan Dolby, from Scotland is an Engineering Officer in the Merchant Navy. He has been travelling the world for 15yrs on an endless tour of cultural diversification. Currently based in Singapore he writes various articles for magazines and newspapers and is working on a marine glossary.


ieuandolby@lycos.com

Ieuan Dolby