Do you read this newsletter every week? Do you value the labor that goes into it? Have you become a paid subscriber? Think about it! Many of the people who read this newsletter the most are people who haven’t gone over to paid — and I get it, I really do, I’m constantly saying I’m going to pay for things and take weeks to actually do it. But maybe today is your day.
I've been hunting for a way to explain how I feeling and I'm so relieved to read it this morning..."You feel passive in the flow of your own damn life — and frustrated that you can’t muster the strength to redirect it." This world is pretty hostile to folks who need rest before figuring out what their next steps are, and rather demands that in the depths of exhaustion or depression they also take the steps needed to ameliorate their exhaustion or depression. I feel trapped by my own inertia.
I don't have anything specific to say other than to state how much I enjoyed reading this and how thoughtful and insightful it was.
I love this piece so much. “It me,” as the kids say (or do they actually even say that?). In struggling with depression and Covid-induced malaise, I’ve been wasting my days with mindless apps and games, when what I love and what actually feeds me is right next to me on my bedside table (a book), or in the next room (my child). Thanks for helping me feel seen and giving me a little bit of impetus to get up and do something else today.
I don't play any online games but my ability to turn off my content blocker and lose an enormous amount of time, peace of mind, and attention to life to Twitter scrolling is just boggling. I hate it so much yet there I am. (This is why I need to go places where there's no cell service for days as a time. I wish everyone had that option.)
This all reminded me of my relationship with getting news/reporting/content via Patreon, substack and newsletters generally vs. scrolling Facebook or Twitter for content. It feels much much more fulfilling to get an email I've actually asked to receive, where I'm mostly not being sold to, and I got to choose to receive it. And, like Wordle, it has an end.
“Again: it doesn’t alleviate the feeling of burnout; it matches its temperature” is such a great description. I’ve had my challenges with games like this — Threes is my current one, I’ve used Factorio in this way, and let’s pour one out for good ol’ Snood. The worst is when a game like this pairs with revenge bedtime procrastination. Thanks for writing this.
I quit Candy Crush when I felt like the new twists they were introducing every few levels to change things up were getting stupid and manipulative, but what I really liked to do when I played was play the same speed rounds over and over, for more and more points. I’m struggling to express how but that did feel like an ok part of my life for a while.
On Wordle, I’ve come to the realization that I don’t want to get it in two. That’s a lucky guess. I’d rather chip away at it a letter at a time, doing it as a puzzle, and get it in five.
You've described EXACTLY how I feel whenever I download Candy Crush or one of its sister games. I can't stop playing. I play incessantly for a few days until I hit level 250 or so, then in a moment of strength and self-loathing I delete the app. Playing always seems to correlate with times when I'm feeling down or overloaded, and it just piles on more low feelings. I recently resisted the temptation to download it again, and instead tried a jigsaw puzzle app on my iPad. I really don't have a place to leave an unfinished jigsaw up for days, so it's kind of a replacement. Not really the same though. I resisted trying Wordle until just this week, but I love it! I've always enjoyed word games, and the logic puzzle aspect of it also appeals to me. Thanks for this excellent post today!
Anne, this column perfectly explains my Saturday (yesterday). I spent most of the day playing word games/jeopardy even as I knew there were more worthwhile ways to spend my time—reading, drawing. It is snowy and frigid here so going outside is unappealing even though I knew that would also be a better way to spend time. I felt inert and frustrated and wished to be in warmer climes—I lived in South Florida for many years and was reminiscing about how easy it is to be active there all the time. My fear of omicron kept me from heading out to a museum or some such thing. Maybe it was a case of cabin fever. But reading this article today was nice to be reminded that I’m not alone in that feeling (and, also, some days are okay to do next to nothing but play games on your phone)
Unrelated to Candy Crush (I've never played, though what you wrote about it pretty much encapsulates all the reasons why it's never seemed even a little appealing to me), but related to Kung Pao cauliflower -- have you tried the Trader Joe's frozen bagged tempura cauliflower that comes with little pouches of "Kung Pao" sauce? It's so good. It's one of the things I keep in my freezer for times when I'm not motivated to cook and would really rather have some semi-crappy takeout, but throwing that the oven, and putting some rice in the rice cooker, and then chopping up an onion and some mushrooms and maybe some greens if I have them around, sauteing them, and then tossing the sauce (plus some extra condiments, as adding more veggies requires more sauce) and the finished cauliflowers in makes _such_ a satisfying meal (plus at least two leftover meals) that feels just enough like a homemade meal but also like crappy takeout.
I no longer have candy crush or its kin on my phone, and I hope I never fall into the sort of funk you describe so eloquently here that might tempt me to install it again. However, its numbing properties were one of my few saviors when I was pregnant and suffering from HG - so bad in my first tri that I lost 12 pounds and was eventually hospitalized. I wanted to basically stay unconscious for those 9 months, and playing candy crush was the closest I could get to that when I couldn’t get my body to sleep anymore.
i have never played candy crush, but i love this line: "naming the rot"... i certainly have many,mnay rots in my life and will commence naming them. i do however LOVE wordle so so so so much! great piece. thank you, as always.
I've realized that my Candy Crush issue is that I've hit a "streak," giving me 30 minutes of unlimited lives per day. I use it before bed, getting sucked further in until I've stayed up too late trying to achieve more unlimited lives. If I miss a day, I have to play again for a week before I get my 30 minutes back, so it's forcing me to come back into the game. This article has convinced me it's time to quit for good, to find something else to do with my hands while I'm listening to a book or a podcast, knitting, cooking, playing with my baby, not numbly swiping and swiping and swiping away.
And I stinking love Wordle. Thank you for showing this to be an alternative that's more restorative and engaging.
I’m currently reading Jane McGonigal’s book Reality is Broken (I think it’s from 2011) in which she talks about these very concepts about gaming; she’s got a couple other books like Super Better and another one coming out who’s title escapes me. I’ve been familiar with her work on gaming for a long time but (as with many of my interests) haven’t actually read the work yet! The author/researcher recently tweeted about finally recovering from Covid-induced asnomia and talked about how in 2010 (I think) she had created a game that theorized a pandemic quite similar to ours, and that’s what her next book is about. It’s really interesting work and I think you might be interested, Anne Helen! (And other commenters)
Reading this I thought about how many things about the pandemic have been worse for me as a parent but how it also gives me a handful of small child games to play. They're soothing repetitive social (but cooperative) often have a nice tactile or sensory component to them. There are definitely days on the floor playing with blocks and listening to music that I'm playing for me and not for them.
Thanks so much for this! Every evening for the past month I’ve been so frustrated with myself because I keep playing these games for hours on end even though I know they’re mind numbing rather than truly relaxing. And I forget that they’re designed to keep you hooked into endlessly playing just one more round. I just looked at my screen time for the past month and…wow. App deleted.