When I was busy self-righteously telling Ubisoft to stop alienating woman gamers, I tossed off the line, "It's not all Peggle out our way." Indeed, at the time I wrote it, it was never all Peggle out my way -- I'd never actually played the game, but landed on it as a quick one-word, recognizable casual title that would allow the sentence to flow.
But shortly after that post, the Amazon AppStore had Peggle free for Android for 24 hours. Nataurally, I simply had to download it to my phone. A couple of weeks after that, Peggle Nights was something like $4 on Steam. I'm a big fan of putting my money where my mouth is when it comes to supporting any creative industry, and I thought I owed PopCap a few bucks for how much I'd been playing their mobile ports. And, well -- better not to ask how many hours I might have spent flinging virtual balls at orange pegs, over the last two months. It's not a number I'm willing to admit in public.
|I really, really hate this level. Flames... on the side of my face...|
Why do I do it? Why does the rat in Psych 101 keep pushing the lever in his cage?
At first, it was straight-up fun. PopCap knows what they're doing, and playing gave me juuuuuuuuust enough reward and satisfaction in return for an incremental increase in difficulty. The gentle learning curve and consistently encouraging tone made the game experience pleasurable in a very basic sort of way: I was solving simple problems and, as a reward, getting points, congratulations, and slightly more difficult problems.
Eventually, though, the pleasure started to wear thin. Instead wearing a thoughtful expression punctuated by the occasional grin of triumph, I became a picture of grim determination. The adventure mode in both games had to be completable, after all; Peggle is not designed for the hardcore crowd (however loosely we define that term) and if players significantly older, significantly younger, and generally less dextrous than I were the target audience (as they are), surely I, too, could find a way through the hell levels.
Eventually I did. And yet I still became unable to stop playing entirely. Because there are challenges to complete, trophies to earn, and records to break. The Ace scores can't all be impossible, right? And having earned 100% completion on two or three levels, surely I can manage it on at least half of the remainder...
|I've come quite close to 100% on this level more than once, but I use Renfield.|
The truth about myself that PopCap have laid bare before me is both a lovely and an ugly one: if you give me a challenge, I will assume it can be beaten and I will keep going until that challenge lies defeated at my feet.
On the one hand, this is an invaluable attribute in my career, or in the learning of new skills. I assume that I can update my web-design knowledge to include HTML5, and so it will be done. I assumed I could find some measure of success as a blogger and as a writer, and lo, each month I meet some new milestone I didn't know awaited me -- and I continue to enjoy doing so! But on the other hand... sometimes you really do need to know when to fold 'em. There were classes in college I failed rather than withdrew from; relationships I watched wither (or explode) rather than pull out of.
A game doesn't need hundreds of hours of my life, even the casual hours waiting for a train or waiting for my turn in the bathroom, just because it presents a challenge. Challenges will always outnumber me. But making US government work, ending world hunger, and getting international relations sorted are challenges that will always lie well beyond my scope. So I keep filling my attention with challenges I can actually resolve.
1 million point challenge -- I am coming for you. After that, though, I think I'll take on the challenge of exploring other pastures.
(And of writing a more difficult piece I'm avoiding by meditating on Peggle.)