The New York Times' video game video game is janky looking, not that intensive, and lacks payoff (you just blast pieces of text and images off the page)--but it is semi-addicting, and totally proves the point that writer Sam Anderson tries to make.
In this week's New York Times Magazine, Anderson explores the addictive nature of digital games like Angry Birds and details how he became a digital game addict. For Anderson, the gateway game was chess, which led to " horribly titled games like Bix and MiZoo. These led to better, more time-consuming games — Orbital, Bejeweled, Touch Physics, Anodia — which led to even better games: Peggle, Little Wings ..."
There's something funny and unnervingly relatable in the way Anderson writes about his addiction, and it's perhaps disturbing that the language could easily pass as a light-hearted substance abuse narrative (think of it as the G-version of Tom Bissell's 2010 tale of cocaine-addled immersion into Grand Theft Auto for The Guardian). The whole thing is worth a read if you've ever Drawn Something, pumped your fist after you've hypercubed a Bejeweled board, or chatted "booyah" to your "friend" after getting "aquarium" on a triple letter, triple word score. But it's Anderson's poetic and psychological description of Tetris which has us never looking at that game and ourselves the same way again:
Tetris was invented exactly when and where you would expect — in a Soviet computer lab in 1984 — and its game play reflects this origin. The enemy in Tetris is not some identifiable villain (Donkey Kong, Mike Tyson, Carmen Sandiego) but a faceless, ceaseless, reasonless force that threatens constantly to overwhelm you, a churning production of blocks against which your only defense is a repetitive, meaningless sorting. It is bureaucracy in pure form, busywork with no aim or end, impossible to avoid or escape. And the game’s final insult is that it annihilates free will. Despite its obvious futility, somehow we can’t make ourselves stop rotating blocks. Tetris, like all the stupid games it spawned, forces us to choose to punish ourselves.
Seriously, go on and read the whole thing. And blow up David Brooks (if you're into that sort of thing, you addict).