Tuesday, November 4, 2014

The Game

Do you remember that episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, entitled "The Game"? How Commander Riker was introduced to an electronic game that rewarded the player with pleasant sensations when a goal in the game was reached?

Remember how Wesley Crusher discovered that the game was detrimental to the crew of the Enterprise and how he resisted the game to save the day?

Yeah, that.

Resistance is futile. You will play the game.
My wife doesn't care for computer games, for the most part. She doesn't think that time should be wasted in non-productive activities for any prolonged period of time. In the past, she has limited the time that any family member spends on a game. If we find ourselves lost in front of a screen, she has been good at bringing us back to the real world.

It was my eldest daughter who first started playing the game, and dear daughter number two was quick to follow suit. It seemed like a harmless game, where the player manages time and resources to reach goals and gain levels. The kids download and play many games, but generally move on after a couple of days.

My wife saw the game, saw the girls engaged, and for the first time since the early days of Angry Birds, downloaded the game onto her own device. That was more than two weeks ago.

I've lost my wife.

Two days after she started playing the game and after seeing all three of my girls engrossed in their screens, I decided to download the free app onto my iPad to see what all the fuss was about.

The game is called Hay Day.

In the game, you inherit a farm and build it up. You grow crops, raise chickens, cows, sheep, and other barnyard animals. You build ovens, grills, weaving equipment. You clear land, you trade produce, you grow.

And you suck the day away.

I played the game for six days. I amassed a pile of wealth. I gained 21 levels. And I stopped writing, stopped drinking beer, for Christ's sake! (Okay, I drank beer, but wouldn't take the time to make notes for Beer O'Clock reviews.)

I saw what the game was doing to my family, to our personal productivity. I was good at keeping my crops growing, my livestock fed, and my property expanding. Only, none of it was real: the grass in my back yard was growing long and the leaves that had fallen from my trees was not being raked up. Laundry was piling up. Chores were falling by the wayside.

Six days into Hay Day, I found myself worrying about feeding the chickens when I was away from the game. I wondered if my pies were baked, if my food orders were ready. I would dream about farm life.

And so, with more than 25,000 coins and 24 diamonds accumulated, with a steam ship filled with crates of produce, I deleted the game from my iPad. I gave it all up. I let my farm disappear into the digital bits that make up the Web.

I have been trying to convince my wife and kids to do the same, to let them know that life is passing them by, to no avail.

I need a Wesley Crusher and a Data.

1 comment:

  1. WOW. Thanks for sharing this wake-up call. Feeling the same about how much time suckage is happening in front of a screen when real life is passing us all by. Time to unplug for a bit!