Nov 16, 2012

An Open Letter to the Makers of Bejeweled 3


Dear PopCap Games,


Last Christmas I purchased Bejeweled 3. According to the label, this family-friendly video game was perfect for my six-year-old daughter! In an attempt to improve her fine motor skills and dispute her teacher’s claim that she was unable to count by groups, I showed my little angel how to use the controller to move the jewels into vertical or horizontal rows of three. I stood in front of the TV, pointing and saying, “See, honey? Here are two pink triangles next to each other. Do you see another pink triangle you could move to line up with them?” She ended up throwing down the controller and screaming, “I hate this stupid game!” Poor dear.

During our second session, I was proud to hear her squeal, “I leveled!” I mean, what parent doesn’t long to hear their kid spout gaming lingo? I fantasized about a time when I might sit her in front of the TV for hours so I could get shit done, the game’s soothing music in the background. But my child’s enthusiasm was short-lived, and after a few more half-assed attempts she declared, “This game is stupid and boring and I hate it!” Whatever. Go fuck up some more math homework.


My husband and I began to play after the little quitter went to bed. Instead of dialog from Law & Order reruns, our home resounded with cries of “Four” or “Cube!” (I finally asked him to stop yelling at me, as I’m a bit tightly wound and easily startled.) He, a gaming veteran, soon shunned the Classic game in favor of the Lightening round. And after I’d had enough of the “No More Moves” bullshit, which always came out of nowhere and yanked me from my Zen-like focus on colors and shapes, I joined him in the speedier version.


I sucked, but I persevered. I’m no quitter. No, I’m competitive, so I spent each evening drinking and trying to match my husband’s high score. We’d take turns. As I played, tense and twitching and cursing like a sailor, he’d glance up occasionally and say, “Nice game, baby,”—his way of reminding me I was not a threat. Passive-aggressive asshole.


That voiceover that sounds like some creepy dude about to jizz in his pants (“Good. Awesome! Excellent! Extraordinary! Yes, yes, yes!”)? Annoying. If I need to hear how awesome I am, I’ll hang out with my girlfriends and complain about my hair or my weight so they’ll tell me I’m beautiful and validate my many fine qualities. And that fucking background music that speeds up as time runs out? If I need a reminder that failure is imminent, I’ll call my mom! So the first thing I do when I sit down to play Bejeweled is mute that bitch.


Next, I check my husband’s high score, 559,650, and compare it to my own, 511,500—an anomalous personal victory, the product of a night of heavy drinking and determination. I’ve been chasing that high for a while now, and I’m sick of the empty praise and glowy things and explosions. What I need is more goddamn time! But I swear the more we play (we’re Diamond Blasters, for fuck’s sake!), the harder it is to accumulate time.


Well played, PopCap. That was your plan all along, wasn’t it? Get us hooked, lull us into believing we have mad skills, and then subtly change the game. You’re no better than a drug dealing motherfucker who cuts his product so his clients need more, more, more to get the same high. You should be ashamed. Think of the kids who naively buy into your scheme and can’t get enough.


Frankly, I think my family overreacted to my Bejeweled habit. If my daughter was that hungry, she could reach the refrigerator and the pantry—hell, she could walk a few blocks to the bodega and use her piggy bank money to buy something to eat. And my husband, well, let’s just say my decision to game instead of joining him in bed was an exercise of my sexual agency. (I don’t know what that means, but I’ve read it a lot lately.)


Once I started playing Bejeweled in front of the small human, however, she was all, “Mommy, you’re playing MY GAME.” Her interest was renewed, of course, because she’s not really into sharing. And it turns out she can play without my help, so my fantasy has become reality. I can take a nap clean the house in the time it takes her to get to Level 6! So my torrid affair with Bejeweled may be over (for now), but my child’s is just beginning. I eagerly anticipate great strides in her math prowess, because it’s all about educating the kids, right? Thanks, PopCap!

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