August 8, 2008
So I caved in recently and got a CrackBerry. It was the evening calls to team members in New York that did it – I didn’t want to make transatlantic calls from my personal mobile so signed up for the corporate electronic handcuffs. I swore to myself that I wouldn’t spend personal time checking and sending emails – it’s important to me that I use my commute time for reading. And guess what, I managed to refrain from compulsive email checking.
But I fell victim to a far more pernicious compulsion: BrickBreaker. BrickBreaker is part of the BlackBerry’s base set of applications, so everyone has it. It’s a variant on Atari’s 1976 classic Breakout. I’ve avoided video games for years, and haven’t really played them since I was a student, since I know I can get fixated. So I haven’t installed them on PCs, and I’ve stayed away from my kids’ Xboxes and PSPs. But BrickBreaker is pernicious because it’s always there – you can play on the train, or in a boring meeting. Since many who carry a CrackBerry are IT management types, they’ll have grown up playing classic Atari games like Space Invaders, Asteroids, Breakout, Pacman. So they’ll be especially vulnerable to a bout of BrickBreaker dependency.
Evidence of chronic BrickBreaker addiction is widespread. Plazmic, the creators of the game, have forums that carry detailed discussion, including the BrickBreaker basics primer – obviously written by a hopeless addict. The Plazmic forums also have Philip Bennett’s Diary of a BrickBreaker, which could be a case study in compulsive behaviour. Over on BlackBerry’s own BrickBreaker forum you can download a PDF detailing the layouts of all the levels, and the locations of the power pills: brickbreaker_v4.2_screenlayouts.pdf.
All addicts eventually have a moment of clarity, when they realise the wastefullness and folly of their habit, and resolve to break it. Mine came at the sandwich bar in our canteen. The lady behind the sandwich bar is used to seeing me with a book as I queue, and asked me why I wasn’t reading. I admitted I was playing BrickBreaker, and that I was hooked. That was the turning point…