I stumbled upon something interesting during the week while playing a smart phone game called ‘Match the Dots’. The name itself is quite explanatory but basically you match as many of the same coloured dots in the given amount of moves or time to reach the next level. At first this was something I played while waiting for the train or avoiding awkward moments in elevators. Until I realised I would pick up my phone to play it while I was studying or finishing off paper work in my office. It had become an addiction. I would be diegetically immersed (Taylor) in this game at least a good 20-30 minutes each day. At the beginning of the course I had thought I was no-where close to being a gamer. But how about now? What is this constant wanting-to-play notion?
In ‘Match the Dots’ there are two rules you have to watch out for: the time (1:00min max.), and the number of moves allowed to reach the target number of dots before proceeding onto the next level. Some levels only take 30seconds to complete. Thinking that I’ll only spend 5minutes on this game, it isn’t till 30 levels later that 20minutes have passed and my tutorial sheet was still nowhere near completed. And because each level seemed so easy, whenever I fail a level, I would not exit the game till I surpassed it. It seemed like I couldn’t move on with my life till the level was completed. (But maybe because I’m OCD). This was when I realised how strong ‘immersion’ is and how easily it can pull you away from ‘real time’. Not to mention a waste of time. Because what did I get out of the game in the past 20minutes? My tutorial sheet answers? No.
I also noticed that the game was very repetitive. As I reached higher levels, I realised that each level looked super similar. Same pattern of dots, same amount of time to complete and the same number of ‘target’ dots to match before reaching the next level. There is only so much this game can provide. There is not much agency involved at all. Even though I could ‘freely’ decide which dots to connect and what colours I wanted to match, it all became very monotonous.
Weirdly enough I have an addiction to a very simple game. There aren’t avatars involved, or any sense of virtual life. But I think what makes it so addictive is the constant need to beat a higher score, to reach a higher level and to earn more stars to unlock even higher levels. Secretly I think it is also because I’m waiting to see if there are more tools to be discovered. If new coloured dots will emerge or if an additional tool can be unlocked. I guess I will just have to keep playing.