Life is not all fun and games, which doesn’t mean it can’t sometimes be fun and games.
I thought of that line while sitting and playing Solitaire on my iPad.
Come to think of it, I thought of that second sentence, as well.
All work and no play makes Johnny a dull boy. These days, I am at my most relaxed and creative when noodling around on Solitaire. Or Word Cookies. Or Mahjong. Or Wordle.
To see me playing these things might be to think I am just burning time instead of doing something more important. And sure, there are times when I could be doing something more value-added to life, but a simple little game is just the thing a busy brain needs to unwind. Or maybe, like that initial cup of coffee, it’s the gentle wake-up those neurons need first thing.
Consider this more along the lines of meditation, for I am no “gamer.” My skill at video games began and ended with the ability to operate a joystick and a single button simultaneously. Once video games developed beyond that in the mid-1980s, I’d hit my limit. My son figured out long ago that I was a useless invite to compete in anything on his Xbox. I’d feel more comfortable in a cockpit.
“Mundane” games, as they’re called, are enjoying their own popularity, or so says my go-to tech reporter, David Pogue from CBS “Sunday Morning.” Last weekend, he did a segment on simple games whose main goals are to do satisfying things like power-washing vehicles or unpacking and putting things away.
It’s all about the opportunity to decompress for a few minutes and enjoy a little bit of achievement in a make-believe world when the demands of the real world grow more complicated by the nanosecond.
Chances are strong that, if you are a more “mature” user of digital devices, you probably have a simple game or two that tests little more than the amount of time you want to spend on it.
Mahjong Titan is one of those for me. I discovered it in “Apple Arcade,” and while playable on my phone, it’s a game these older eyes can see far better on the iPad. The game is little more than puzzles of stacked tiles in which the goal is to match tiles and clear the board. If you can beat the time allotted and solve the board without shuffling tiles, all the better.
Other go-to games are almost occupational therapy. Word Cookies gives me up to eight letters at a time to arrange into a pre-set number of words. It gets progressively harder as you get higher, and I’m now at a level where I don’t even recognize some of these words.
Wordle, which took the world by storm a year ago, gives you six chances to guess a five-letter word of the day. The game, created as a diversion during the pandemic, was bought a year ago by The New York Times. According to my stat sheet, I’ve played 359 times with a 98 percent win rate.
My “guess distribution” includes 14 correct guesses taking up the maximum six turns; 88 within five guesses; 149 within four; 83 within three guesses; 18 within two; and — the holiest of grails for this game — one time when I guessed the word correctly on the first shot. I may never win the lottery, but I have experienced the unbridled joy of hitting my Wordle on the first shot.
I “share” my daily Wordle in a message group with my wife, her mother, her aunt and my daughter. We call each other’s daily submission “proof of life.”
But for sheer mental downtime, there’s nothing like getting out the iPad for some old-fashioned Solitaire. It was the first card game I learned. My grandmother taught me when she would babysit. I would play for an hour or two at her dining room table.
I don’t invest that amount of time now, but it’s a favorite diversion when I want to think about the day ahead, wind down at night or just fool around with some thoughts in my head without actively thinking about them. I’m half paying attention to the game and half paying attention to what’s going through my head. Somehow, it adds up to a whole lot of contemplative recharging.
Every brain needs downtime. It’s how we refocus, tap into creativity, develop ideas and words worth pursuing. In a world crowded with stimuli and demands for attention, it’s the things that don’t shout at us where we seek simple amusement and accomplishment.
There lies a refuge, a quiet cove, a place to pull in and rest until we’re ready to answer the bell once more.
Contact editor John Nagy at (910) 693-2507 or john@thepilot.
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