The Needles

The Needles
Keeping It Casual

Andy Chalk | 25 Mar 2008 17:00
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I remember vividly my first experience with casual games. Tycho at Penny Arcade was spouting off about something called Bejeweled; the specifics of his effusive praise escape me, but I recall him implying it would have a crack-like impact upon the lives of anyone who dared sample its fruit. Curious as to what could inspire such heated verbosity in the normally taciturn Mr. Brahe, I nipped on over to see what these PopCap folks had on offer.

He turned out to be right in a pretty big way. As a life experience, it was like nothing so much as my discovery of pornography years earlier, which is to say it was profoundly altering and not necessarily in a good way. I won't say I became an instant adherent to the casual-gaming lifestyle - as I pointed out earlier, I am not a sissy - but I will admit that in the days and weeks that followed, there was bejeweling. Much bejeweling.

And now the credit card is in my hand.

Several hours later, I find myself staring at the monitor, my eyes bleary, my mouse hand cramped, my finger twitching involuntarily. I have a hazy memory of buying Dynomite. Bioshock lies forgotten. I begin to realize that I desperately need to go to the bathroom. I glance at the clock; I have to be up for work in four hours.

I'd love to know who decided this was "casual." Nothing about this is casual in any sense of the word. I can deathmatch all day long with a smile on my face, but 20 minutes of "all-ages fun" has me flying into rages that would be the envy of Homeric gods. I scream at the game with language that would make old women cry. If these God-damned dinosaurs were real animals I'd be arrested for nailing their bloody hides to the trees outside my house as an example to any other smart-ass videogame anthropomorphs who might think to ridicule my inability to line up three red balls before the timer hits zero.

I haven't seen this kind of life-leeching, costumed malevolence since Brewmeister Smith stood ready to unleash Elsinore Beer on the unsuspecting hosers of the world. It's not even fun; it's just an obsessive-compulsive reaction to a bunch of exploding, colored shit flying around a screen populated by stupid dinosaurs who yell at me incoherently every time something big blows up - which, I will note, happens a lot - or I somehow earn one of the game's bonuses which are so myriad that it's impossible to remember them all, much less comprehend how or why they're awarded.

I am no longer worried about my hardcore gamer cred. Instead, my concern has turned to my long-term sanity. I destroyed Myst in a single 24-hour period. Eye of the Beholder 2 fell to me long before GameFAQs was even conceived. The Master Levels for Doom were too easy, and Baldur's Gate 2 was too short. I possess not just the skillz, but a deeply held moral imperative to defeat, firmly and decisively, every game I play. Yet here I am, taken to the limits of my endurance by this herd of idiot dinosaurs and their garish eggs.

I hate the dinosaurs. I can't leave them alone.

I need help.

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