Website Design, Strategy, Social Networking, SEO, Susan Pomeroy, Ph.D.

Do You Play Computer Games as Your Chief Mode of Procrastination?

by Susan Pomeroy

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When I wrote my MA thesis back in the late 80s, the brand-new computer lab in my department had just stocked with a handful of state-of-the-art Macintosh computers: grayish-colored plastic boxes sporting tiny black-and-white displays about six inches by eight inches, just big enough to see half a page of manuscript.

Each computer was equipped with a screensaver called “Stars.” This screensaver was nothing more than tiny moving points of light radiating out from the center of a dark screen… almost exactly like the displays on the U.S.S. Enterprise “Next Gen” just before the ship enters warp. On weekend mornings, when I was the first one to step into the pitch-dark lab and all the computers were running “Stars”… well, I felt like the world was hurtling into the future, and I was part of it. No screen-saver since has been quite so exciting.

Writing a thesis can be tedious work, though. Another student showed me something else I’d never seen before… a computer game called “Tiles.” It was a series of squares, alphabetical, I think. You had to slide the letters into alphabetical order by maneuvering them in careful sequence to take advantage of the one blank spot on the board.

And this is how, while learning the wondrous advantages of a computer over a typewriter for writing, I concurrently discovered the Procrastination Mode of computer use: playing basically boring games which offered just enough challenge to keep the mind off the problems at hand.

Over the years the games have gotten prettier and slightly more complex, though no less silly, repetitive or pointless. At any given moment, my procrastination aid of choice has been Tetris, Weltris, Solarian, Columns, Brickle, Qbert, Tritryst, Pegleg, Luxor, Bedazzled, Gooball, Jewel Quest….

And when I have a job I’m bored with, or intimidated by, or I’m depressed, upset or out of sorts, it’s SO tempting to play just one round. Just one! I promise!

Of course I’ve tried not playing during work hours. And not playing at all. This year I had a “Game-Free January.” Of course I then became addicted to global news, learned to use a new RSS reader, and spent over an hour a day keeping up with my favorite blogs. Another habit.

So what to do? Sure, I could deinstall my games. Forbid myself news. But then I ask myself, what fun would that be? I love the action, the color, the tests of skill and concentration. The mini-mental vacation. No games? I might as well be in a cubicle! No news? Isn’t feeling connected that the whole point of the Internet? I might as well cut off my hand to stop scratching an itch!

Denial isn’t really an option. The only thing that works for me is to be conscious. Of when I want to play, or read. Of  why, how much, what I’m really feeling, what I’m avoiding. It’s a juggling act: being mostly present, but allowing little bits of respite along the way.

How about you? How do you procrastinate, and more importantly, how do you stop procrastinating?

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