Monday, September 13, 2010

Kicking the Demon Frog

Amongst the people who know me very, very well, it is common knowledge that I am a fool for Zuma's Revenge.  ZR is a devilish seduction of unsuspecting souls and I, alas, was easy prey for the snare of The Frog.

Perhaps I should elucidate, just a tad ... pole.  Zuma's Revenge is a computer game devised by a company called PopCap.  They are cool people.  I adore them and their games.  See?  Hooked I was ... am on the PopCap mystique.  I wrote a blog post about what they and their Zuma insanity taught me.

There were truly valuable lessons in there.  For a time.

A long, long time.

When I shared my adoration with a nice guy who works in PR at PopCap, he sent me a package of Zuma stuff, including a mouse pad which I wore out (playing Zuma's Revenge, of course) and a VooDoll -- a useful tool for VooDolling your adversaries.  I have yet to stick a pin in it, but the moment could come.  It could.  Tread carefully, my adversaries.

But here's where it all got sticky for me and the frog.  I have always been TERRIBLE AT GAMES/SPORTS.  Starting with softball when I was a youngster with a penchant for ducking at the most inopportune times and proceeding through checkers, volleyball, crazy 8s, tennis, matrimonial bridge (one game; maybe two or three), matrimonial golf (over in 10 seconds or less), matrimonial racquetball (terminated too quickly to quantify), I have been just awful.  This, I believe, was partly insecurity about a certain lack of coordination and a lot of psychological bs, but what's past is past, and in the past I was pretty bad.

But not, it turned out, at Zuma's Revenge.  At Zuma's Revenge I am killer excellent.  I have beaten all the Adventures, twice.  Many of them more than ten times.  The early ones multiple, multiple times. (They're so easy.  I can just drift.) I subdued the Challenges, every one.  I crushed six Tiki Bosses without mercy.  And because the game provides a fresh batch of challenges at every playing, I lingered, still, playing it over and over.  And over again.

I had strategy.  I had (believe it or not) skills!!!  Kids, I had GAME. For once in my life I was in the enviable position of saying "Step right up, sucker.  And watch me beat this thing senseless."

So there was that.  And then there was The Flow.

According to Wikipedia, the concept of flow was discovered/invented by a guy named Csíkszentmihályi.  (Pronounced "Uhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.")

Here's the info: "According to Csíkszentmihályi, flow is completely focused motivation. It is a single-minded immersion and represents perhaps the ultimate in harnessing the emotions in the service of performing and learning."

Here's a complete list of the attributes of the flow state:

  1. Clear goals (expectations and rules are discernible and goals are attainable and align appropriately with one's skill set and abilities). Moreover, the challenge level and skill level should both be high.
  2. Concentrating, a high degree of concentration on a limited field of attention (a person engaged in the activity will have the opportunity to focus and to delve deeply into it).
  3. A loss of the feeling of self-consciousness, the merging of action and awareness.
  4. Distorted sense of time, one's subjective experience of time is altered.
  5. Direct and immediate feedback (successes and failures in the course of the activity are apparent, so that behavior can be adjusted as needed).
  6. Balance between ability level and challenge (the activity is neither too easy nor too difficult).
  7. A sense of personal control over the situation or activity.
  8. The activity is intrinsically rewarding, so there is an effortlessness of action.
  9. A lack of awareness of bodily needs (to the extent that one can reach a point of great hunger or fatigue without realizing it)
  10. People become absorbed in their activity, and focus of awareness is narrowed down to the activity itself, action awareness merging."
Here's a complete list of the attributes of Zuma Flow as experienced by me: 1-10 of the above.  (Csíkszentmihályi neglected to mention the ability of the flow stater to go three to five days without peeing, but he was no doubt just being more delicate about the level of concentration achieved than I.)

And finally, alas, there's the matter of addiction.  If I like something or if I find it comforting or mood enhancing in any way, I like it in virtually unlimited quantities.  I know there must be folks who can "try heroin" a couple of times and go back to being nuclear physicists.  Me? I'm just lucky my upbringing and my lack of opportunity kept me out of smack's way.

So I was hooked on Frog.

Fortunately it didn't cost me $250,000 a year to feed this habit.  I got it for Christmas.  For me it was free.

But a moment did arrive when I realized -- dazed, dizzy, rendered practically paralyzed by neck pain, and suffering from mild uremic poisoning, I'm sure -- that I had spent another four hours attaining a couple of levels and making the Tiki Boss hug his teddy bear and whine.

I knew then that Froggy and I had to say goodbye.

It wasn't going to be enough to just step away from the game.  As long as it lingered in the applications folder, croaking my name, I was in its thrall.  It was time for Cold Turkey.  It was time to Put The Frog In The Trash Folder.   And Erase The Trash.

This was forever.

I did it.  I didn't cry.  Though I thought about it.  I braced my shoulders.  Hit the appropriate keys. And I walked away.  Into a fresh new world where I could probably get hooked on ... blogging or something.

Regrets?  I've had a few, but then again too few to complain about.  When I think of Froggy and his vacant, cheerful demeanor, his ability to look happy, even while suffering fatal defeat and being kicked back to the start of the level, I'm just glad for the time -- hours and hours, days and days of time -- we shared.

I say softly -- to myself now, because he is gone and I'm alone, with only family, friends and the cat for company --  "It's okay, my brave Frog.  It's time we both moved on."

And remember:

We'll always have Level 54.


  1. A most excellent post. Effortlessly hilarious. A gift in itself. And all the more rewarding now upon second read-thru with entirely new text.

    I feel your pride, pain and suffering as you've worked and reworded your way through level 54. But look at it this way: lose a Frog, gain a Blog. May the cosmic connection be with you.

    (oh yes, and "dincid" -- word verification? past tense for . .. who knows, he dinsay)

  2. Ann is not kidding about how much she played Zuma.

    She played it morning, noon and night. Sometimes as late as 2:00 am. She played it while cooking. She played it instead of talking to me.

    And I loved her for it.

    Now what should I get her for next Christmas? Maybe a pony.


  3. Wow, a very brave act! Goodbye Frog!

  4. Yeah, Maura. I was brave. But I'm getting a PONY for Christmas. At last!!!!