Obsession: Video Pinball

You're gonna want to either get comfortable or move on, because I'm fixin' to write about 700 words on video pinball. Seriously.

Let me give you a sample month from the past year. Let's call it November: bus bus bus bus bus bus (lotsa rain) taxi aeroplane. wait. aeroplane. passport control (wait). Train "metro" "metro" "metro" train "metro" train train "metro" train aeroplane passport control (wait). customs (wait). aeroplane taxi bus bus bus REALLY BORING MEETING I TOTALLY DIDN'T HAVE TO BE IN bus bus bus bus (this fucking rain!) taxi aeroplane taxi subway subway subway subway subway subway subway subway taxi subway subway taxi aeroplane taxi bus bus bus.

You expect me to read a book throughout all of that? You think four episodes apiece of This American Life and Radiolab are gonna hold me? No way. I play pinball. It's called The Deep.

The idea is that you're a treasure-hunter in a submarine. You pop open treasure chests, hunt sharks, try to get the ball in these tiny little chutes. A Russian-accented "computer" "chick", who warns you not to flirt with her, periodically announces that "you have got the mission". You get an extra life at $5 million and at $10 million, but not at $15 million. I've never gotten to $20 million. And I've been trying for two years, give or take. I got to 19,967,472 on April 10 ("metro"), and I almost didn't survive the near miss. Yes, I suck at video games.

Did you catch that? two years. That's also three iPhones: a 3G, a 3GS and a 4. I've downloaded a bazillion apps: travel apps, restaurant recommendation apps, money management apps, alternative browsers, location-based games, fake fireplaces, guitar tuners, levels (like, three different levels), the entire catalogue of American historical documents including the Constitution and the Patriot Act. I delete, reinstall, get sick of, come back to, promise to never use again, and just ignore. But I always come back to The Deep. Every week. Some weeks every day. Just trying to get to 20 million to see if I get another life. There's a global scoreboard dominated by some guy (I assume) named Kman (see). His lowest score is a bit over $US619 million. I cannot even comprehend how he (see above) got there.

In Japan, there's a cultural concept called "michi" that everyone is encouraged to pursue. It's something that really stuck with me from my time living there as a kid. Michi means path. It's something you do throughout your entire life, constantly honing your skills, but never truly mastering. Because what is mastery, really? Like John Wayne said about being a gunfighter in True Grit, ‘there's always somebody faster than you.'

But, like I said, that's not the point of the michi; it's about always having something to work on, to constantly improve at. It's something to get lost in, that gives you perspective and calm when you screw up at work. Or do really well at work. Or piss off your girlfriend or get a new girlfriend or regret a drunk night or make a wonderful dinner. It's a constant, steady place where your worth is determined by your diligence, not by your talent or charming smile or luck.

Some people practice flower arrangement (don't scoff, it's badass: Ikebana. Look it up.), some sit patiently brushing away at calligraphy. Some do Judo or Aikido or Kyudo, and, in fact, the -do suffix on those martial arts' names is the same character as michi. It's a path, and the destination is not mentioned.

It looks like video pinball is one of my michis for the moment. Weird. I have other hobbies, sure, but none of them is in my pocket at all times, no matter where I am. Some day I will get to $20 million, and regardless of whether I get an extra life there, I will wonder if you get another submarine at 25 million, 30 million, 35 million... Or, for that matter, once you clear 2,147,483,647, the current global high score. By some guy named "Pwned :)". Indeed. Good thing it's not about that.

Original art by guest artist Chuck Anderson. See Chuck's work at www.nopattern.com and follow him on Twitter.

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