Thursday, July 21, 2011

All I Need to Know I Learned from Video Games

Back in the year 1989 my older brother (of the young and nerdy brainy type) wanted a Nintendo Entertainment System. My parents--sure that only bad could come of such a device--vowed that they would never purchase one for us children.  However, my crafty brother found the loophole in that statement and called a sibling meeting.

If Mom and Dad wouldn't buy us one then we would pool our collective resources and buy our own!  He started a revolution.

Over the course of weeks and months we saved our money--waiting to reach that magic number of One Hundred Dollars.  I was only 7 at the time and while I think at one point I had $15 in the pot--I pulled some of it out for some other fickle desire and in the end I made a grand contribution of $5 towards our NES. 

And boy did we love those Super Mario Brothers.  But y'know, just one game gets boring after a while.

At Christmas that year Mom shocked and surprised us all (though technically still standing by her declaration of not buying a "Nintendo" for us) by buying us a game for our Nintendo. . . TETRIS.  "It makes you use your brain." Mom said, and no one complained. 

As it turns out, the principles I learned playing TETRIS at seven years old give great perspective on how to deal with life having kids. 

 In TETRIS you work with random pieces trying to fit them into holes to make nice smooth lines (Which then clear up to leave more free space for you to work in.)  Level one you try and work quickly and eventually get into a nice stride until you complete the level.

When you hit level two suddenly the bricks are coming significantly faster.  Bricks start landing not quite where you want them to jumbling up your clean slate a little bit.  Maybe you stack up a bunch to one side in an unorganized pile just to give yourself a minute to think.  Then you get back into stride--a little bit faster of a stride than before.  You clear out the bricks in the middle and then clean up the mess on the side. and maybe--just maybe--you feel so confident in that level that you might even push the "down arrow" to make the bricks fall even faster.  Until you hit level three, of course, and the panic sweeps over you again.  But don't worry--pretty soon you'll hit your stride again, and you'll be ready for level four

And so it is that playing TETRIS is a lot like having kids.  When each new one comes along you're sure you'll never be able to keep up with all the demands of that "level".  The laundry itself is just building up too fast--you stack it off to the side of the laundry room hoping to get to it later--once the baby's taking a nap and the other kids settle down for a snack.  But then you realize that your six year old is now big enough to get his own drink of milk --and one for his brother too for that matter-- and so it's not quite as difficult at that speed of life as you thought.  So you think sure. . . bring on level four!

This metaphor is just one that's been on my mind lately after a discussion with a friend who just had her third baby.  So don't get any ideas--I'm not planning on having to visit to Dr. Mario any time soon.

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