Debilitating Disease Begins With a ‘Mole’

When it comes to video games, I am–like the dude from “A Beautiful Mind”–of two minds. I loved Atari games when I was a kid (Pitfall, Adventure, Activision’s brilliant Skiing), but the video game thing did not follow me to adulthood, as it did with many friends I have.

Little G, who is approaching 6, has never partaken in video games, unlike many of his peers. This week, he will log some 10 or so hours on the couch, next to The Missus as they read the third installment of the Harry Potter series. If he choses books over video games for life, well, I’d be an even prouder poppa than I currently am.

The modern video game is a work of art and object of wonder, and potentially a colossal time-eater. So I stay away.

I see my fellow commuters on the train, tapping away at games on their smarphones or tablets and, well, it strikes me as sort of pathetic. I mean, you are free to do what you want to kill time on the train, whether it’s the dude I see each evening, getting off on my stop and depositing two slain Bud tall boys in the trash, or sleeping, or consuming dead-tree media, as I do. It’s really no one’s business, as long as you’re not bugging your fellow commuters.

But c’mon–grown-ups zapping evil robots or breaking bricks or driving tiny racecars or partaking in other such fantasy folly on the train? It strikes me as silly.

So it is with great ambivalence that I am forced to admit that I’ve become addicted to a game on my Blackberry, and one with, regrettably, fuzzy little cartoon characters involved.

It is Word Mole. In my defense, it is 100% mental floss–you are charged with making words out of a table full of letters, awarded for large words with tricky letters, Scrabble-style, and racing against the clock. In the latter rounds, you need to assemble huge amounts of points in the alloted time, often with a shrinking pool of vowels, which are pretty essential when it comes to word-building. It’s challenging. It gets the brain moving. It kills time with frightening efficiency.

I started playing about a month ago, when, if I remember correctly, my NY Times never showed up one morn and I had 45 minutes to kill on the train, and fatefully ventured into the “Games” folder on the Crackberry. Back then, my games lasted five minutes before I was knocked out. These days, as I’ve gotten better, it’s more like 15.

After ever five or so boards are cleared, the game gives way to a bit of interstitial silliness–the user attempts to gather up peppers and other produce, along with occasional diamonds or gold or other shiny baubles, that pop up on the screen. On principle, I do not take part in this bonus round, instead using the 20 or so seconds to rest my brain and my thumbs, and tell myself I’m not playing some silly kid game. Plus, you really don’t get enough points from the peppers and pumpkins to make your score spike.

Last week, the Blackberry died. I had a pang of fright when thinking that, A., I’d be without a Blackberry (and Word Mole!) for a few days, and B., a potential new Blackberry might not have the game. (Really, why does a company-issued smartphone have games on it?)

I.T. called late in the wek with my new Torch. I immediately scrolled to the Games section, and breathed an audible sigh of relief when I saw my beloved Word Mole.

And, better still, the screen is larger on the Torch, facilitating game play.

Now my games are even longer.

Curious to see how long it takes for Word Mole addiction to give way to Word Mole boredom, and my attentions turn back to more traditional media.

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2 Responses to Debilitating Disease Begins With a ‘Mole’

  1. Emily says:

    I saw a guy on the train playing some Scrabble-type game on his iPad. I was observing him just long enough to see him play the word “titty.” Wonder if that is a permitted word in Word Mole, haha.

  2. TJ says:

    Sometimes in the early rounds, when it’s too easy, I try to come up with only dirty words. It’s interesting to see which ones the game recognizes and which are classified as Word Not Found.

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