Thank Grog It’s Firday!!!
There have been exhaustive studies done on how people’s real lives are often influenced by, and in some cases, become mirrors of their online worlds (kind of like pets resembling their masters, and vise-versa). It has been argued by scholars that unlike the proverbial chicken-before-the-egg argument, most of our online habits are simple reflections of other habits or personality characteristics that we possessed, long before the advent of the “interwebs.”
As the author of a book about TSTO, including a much-debated chapter or two on the addictive properties of TSTO in one’s life, I can claim to know a thing or three about the dangers of placing too much credence on blaming the vehicle (Tapped Out), and not the driver (the tapper).
Those inclined toward addiction in their everyday lives, are likely to show the same propensities when playing a game. Because TSTO is primarily a solitary game (we have to go out of our way to share our towns…or trust others to visit them…while being restricted to how many we can invite, by the social boundary makers that are the game programmers), it is easy to lose track or perspective in regards to our game habits. For that matter, it is often hard to figure out just when the game morphs into a “habit” and then into an “addiction,” and finally a symptom of a deeper illness.
We don’t usually hear from those who reach that final stage (they become very adept at masking their psychosis with professional degrees or political careers), so research is spotty at best. But, the volume of anecdotal evidence for the first stages is expansive, and well-documented (did I mention the book?).
However, as a public service, I think outlining my own descent into the final stages of TSTO addiction, while comparing it to other addictive habits that also reflect the same patterns in my life would be helpful to the Addicts community, and perhaps the greater body of mankind. Sacrifice in the name of research? You bet. It’s just me and Madame Curie.
As a baseline, it is important to note that I have never been diagnosed to have any addictive personality traits. I have been one who through my entire life, has been able to use almost all of the “sidelines of sin” (alcohol, tobacco, drugs, and sex) in a full state of moderation (except on that rare occasion when all four come to play at the same time…producing a haze of smoke and smiles that takes days from which to recover). But, I digress…
There are days when an alcoholic drink sounds good, or a rare situation when having a cigar with friends over a poker table is exactly what the doctor ordered (you have to meet my doctor), but I have never really been a “daily/I NEED THIS” kinda guy. Ever.
Which makes my now admitted addiction to TSTO all the more strange…and perhaps a window into the REAL triggers in my life that drive me from “casual and curious” into “compelled and obsessed.”
For me…the things in my life that become obsession, are derived from two distinct patterns and motivators; duty and full immersion. One, often becoming the chicken, the other becoming the egg, and not in an order that is easily discernible (even by an observant rooster).
My reason for starting TSTO has been well-established in the book, in blog posts, and even Addicts Live broadcasts. I started as a way to stay in touch with my grandsons, trying something that kept us in touch across the miles. Duty. Full immersion came quickly, as I realized it was something that was “always lurking” in the background (like having another wife). And the pleasure it gave, even briefly throughout the day, was worth the short bursts of diversion it required to take from my busy schedule (like having a girlfriend…*cue the rimshot..it’s a JOKE!).
For me…full immersion is pretty much how I learn anything new. It’s what drives my sense of business, art, music, and recreation…wanting to learn and become adept (mastering is not my strong suit) at anything new that piques my curiosity. My “man cave” is full of these bursts of interest. But, for the most part, they have remained small chapters, and not larger swatches of fabric in my “duty roster” of self-created responsibilities.
TSTO went off of the rails from pastime, to habit, to addiction, to duty when I started blogging about it…and the community of tappers that became part of the “I owe it to them,” inner story that played out for almost 4 years each day, becoming more than just “clicks in the stats.”
But, getting back to the “which came first” question, it doesn’t take a psychiatric study (or even an online poll) to figure out that the most important aspect of identifying my propensity for what some would call “addiction,” is really born out of a need to “see something through,” even at the expense of common sense, and losing the ability of being able to actually ENJOY what it is I am doing at the time. I’m NOT digressing…really.
I know that life is nothing more than a series of choices. We decide what we do, when we do it, almost every millisecond of the day. Our conscious and sub-conscious mind(s) work in a manner that allow us the freedom of choice in regards to our “free time,” while our subconscious “habit brain” keeps us doing the things that sustain us (breathing is good…knowing when a large animal is about to eat us…etc.). But when the lines get blurred…(picking up the padular device to tap, or checking the Google news feed habitually for the latest tweet-war, which can morph into the same habit these days), when your subconscious starts doing things without your conscious approval of choice…you know you are in trouble.
If the popular research is correct, and it takes 21 days to form a new habit, we would all be in pretty good shape. Most people, especially in this age of instant gratification and short attention spans (how many are still reading this post?) don’t have the mental and physical acuity to sustain anything that long. We binge-watch ( a season of 12 episodes being about max), we multitask (listening to podcasts while we drive, work, or tap), and follow that latest politics in blasts of 144 characters. We don’t have TIME to get addicted!!
But, this is where the brilliance of TSTO and the programmers of the game come in.
Remember back in the FIRST few levels? No? There is a reason for that.
Almost all of my “sinful firsts” are etched indelibly in my mind. My first beer. My first cigarette. My first drug(s) of choice (after all, I was a touring musician), my first kiss (and several other sexual benchmarks). All resulting in moderated flirtation, and casual use (making the distinction about practicing with others and alone). Thankfully (for both me and those who partook in the same activities), there were large gaps between my “firsts” and my “many” for almost all of the things that COULD have become habit in my life.
But, the evil wizards at EA, understood that the brain can be tricked EAsily (sorry, bad habit), into thinking it has been 21 days, when in fact it may only have been a handful of hours. It’s like the weird way in which cattle, birds and other animals are set to react to the Total Eclipse next month. They will witness a “false” 24-hour cycle of sunset/night/sunrise, that is said to make them want to sleep, then eat, as the sun does its thing.
During the opening levels of TSTO, we are rewarded for “doing the next thing,” and being able to “rush” through the levels with a widening opportunity for reward (more stuff…free currency…simple concepts, followed by more complex concepts), that we might experienced during “21 Days,” in as little as 21 hours of tapping.
One weekend, with my wife gone to visit her sister, and the weather being too crappy outside to golf…and I was hooked. Like almost no other thing in my life. I admit, that I have been tapping…often when I don’t really even FEEL like tapping…for what will be FIVE YEARS in October. Holyfreakinshirt.
Thank all that is holy that they didn’t serve up a small dose of heroin or crack cocaine with each level update that first weekend.
And now…with the advent of the “Five/Six Week Super Events,” we find ourselves in the same position as getting hooked on Game of Thrones…or Orphan Black..or any of the other shows that have crossed over from being “entertainment” to commitment. Come on, admit it. You’re no different! I’m going to watch…even though the plot lines have become ridiculous. Why? DUTY!!!! I have watched this far…I HAVE TO SEE IT THROUGH TO THE END!!
It’s who I am.
So…while I can have an occasional cigarette or cigar, or a “happy brownie” or “vroom shroom” in the right circumstance…I know it would take as many as 21 FULL DAYS…REAL DAYS… with the game deleted off of my phone to stop tapping. The bastids!
And, worse…I know I won’t do it.
I am too invested in my town…and what I have built…and the simple fact that to give up now, I might miss “the best update ever” (which I’m SURE is just around the corner!!). And there are now so many “connected dots” of persuasion (readers, friends, neighbors and Buyijja supporters) that DUTY is now in full-blown, take-over mode.
One full weekend of immersion…a sense of duty for “why”…and BOOM! I’m addicted.
Don’t believe me? I’ve picked up my phone four times in the time it has taken me to write this. Four times in 90 minutes. Four. And while I convinced myself that I was actually checking “business email,” the fact that I ALSO dropped over to “my Springfield” in order to pop the last balloons I needed to get enough Pride Points to finally get the last prize (a building I didn’t even care to get), while making sure that I was almost done with my Monorail tasks, and my “Where’s Maggie?” donut opportunities…should speak volumes as to the actual condition of my dedicated addiction.
In fact…writing this post has me so wound up, that I may stop and have a drink…and a cigar…and a…well…we’ll stop there. After all…I’m not addicted to anything else, except for TSTO. Right?
OK. On to “Wedding Week.” I have some finishing touches on the shed…the patio furniture is being delivered Saturday…and half of New Jersey arrives here in Oregon on Tuesday. It’s going to be mayhem…and fun…and wall to wall activity.
But through it all…I will find time to tap. Because, there will likely be another major update next week…right?
Maybe they’ll finally give us Bleeding Gums and the Jazz Hole.