Confessions of a Geezer Gamer

By Joe Darby

Okay, my friends, I will be truthful with you all. If I was a teenage boy in this year of Our Lord 2018, I would definitely be addicted to video games.

Mother would no doubt be on me constantly to get out and play some ball or ride my bike or something. Just the kinds of things that I did in fact do a lot when I was in fact a teenager.

I’d probably be pale and wan and my eyes would be strained from endless hours peering at the computer screen. Yeah, it almost certainly woud be like that.

Why do I say so, you may well ask. (Then again you may not want to ask, hoping I was writing about a different topic this week.) But I’ll tell you, as I said above, the truth. I can’t seem to sit down and check my emails without starting a few games of Free Cell, that solitaire-like card game that is so easily accessible on all computers these days.

I’ve gotten pretty good at it, and it does give an addictive adrenaline rush when I complete a game in less than say, three minutes. I don’t really know how all those brain chemical reactions work, but I’ve heard about endorphins and my brain is probably pumping out endorphins like crazy when I finish a really good game. So I’ll usually play anywhere from three to six or seven games after I check my emails. (Endorphins feel really good, you know.)

Then, if I don’t have pressing business, I’ll play about three games of computer Minesweeper, another quick and easy game, in which you have to disarm about 30 hidden mines before they blow up your ship. That’s a lot of fun too. The tension grows as I narrow the deadly mines down to about three or four, because you tend to save the trickiest mines for the last.

Even if I blow up — and I only succeed about half of the time or less — it’s still been fun. No real harm done. I can walk away from those explosions without needing Mary to call 911.

Finally, I’ve recently started playing a form of mahjong. That’s an ancient Chinese game adapted for computers in which you have to pair tiles or blocks of a similar design, clicking on them to remove them from the board. Mahjong games are usually timed and if you don’t remove all of them before time runs out you lose. For some reason that causes more tension than Minesweeper. Sometimes, when I have only a minute or so left, and there are still two or three dozen blocks left — some are hard to get to, you see — I really start to get nervous.

If I do get them all, I let out a big sigh of relief. If I fail, well I simply fail, and it feels like it. Regular readers know that I love to read and a good question would be, why don’t I forego the tension and the time wasted playing such games when I could be getting into a really good book about, say, a great World War II battle.

It’s a question I ask myself all the time. And I can’t really give a good answer. Except to say it’s probably those doggoned endorphins that my brain keeps pumping out when I’m ahead of the game.

I don’t spend hours a day on the games, like some youngsters do, and I don’t spend money on buying video games. So maybe I’m not really addicted, right? But, hey, I’m going to end this column now. I want to go see if I can beat my best score on mahjong.