Free my addiction

By the

February 8, 2001

Hi, my name is Rachel, and I am an addict. I guess it all started years ago when my family purchased a computer featuring something new, something exciting, something revolutionary … Windows Version 3.0. Sure, Microsoft Word came in handy and the Calculator was tr?s convenient, but they were nothing compared to what was awaiting me. What set my pulse racing and kept me up at night, not allowing me to go to bed without one more fix? The answer … FreeCell.

By now, it’s gotten so bad that I can’t even turn my computer on without engaging in my dark passion. I click on the Start button, choose Accessories, then Games and finally I gleefully snap my finger down on the mouse button to select the option underneath the hovering arrow. A brilliant green expanse stretches across my screen and I pull down the Game menu, select New Game and get swept away. Sometimes I’m good and I can control it; I tell myself that I’m only going to play three games and actually manage to stop after the third. Other times, however, I’m not so lucky. I get so wrapped up in the game that I’m lulled into some sort of hypnotic trance.

The game may have been designed for only a single player, but when I get into the FreeCell zone, it’s as if I’ve entered into full-scale battle. For those unfamiliar with the game, the basic premise is somewhat similar to solitaire except for one beautiful catch … every game is winnable. So when I make a mistake and the grey box pops up, mocking me with the message, “Sorry, you lose,” I get a little testy. I realize that I could have won the game but didn’t; offering a little euphemism instead of just a stark message of defeat would go a long way. Then, the computer makes its fatal mistake of offering me a rematch. “Do you want to play again?” Of course I do; no machine is going to outsmart me twice in a row! Thus the vicious cycle is perpetuated.

I’m not a complete loony when it comes to my vice. I’m actually very systematic about my playing, even going so far as to develop rules for myself concerning the game.

Rule #1: When one wins a game, one must always play another game immediately. (A streak might have been hit, and there’s no sense wasting a perfectly good cache of luck!)

Rule #2: One must always switch off the “Same Game” option, never playing the same deal twice in a row.

Rule #3: There is no “only one game” or “only two games” when it comes to FreeCell. If one chooses to invest one’s time in the playing of FreeCell, one had better be willing to make a commitment to at least three games.

(Okay, I’ll admit it, reading these rules makes even me thing that I’m neurotic, but a little structure can be good sometimes.)

In the grand scheme of things, I suppose an obsession with FreeCell is relatively harmless. There are definitely worse things to be addicted to (heroin comes to mind, for example), but I am troubled nonetheless. I don’t consciously try to put off my work; I’m actually not that big of a procrastinator compared to the average college student. So, it’s very frustrating to sit down in front of a computer with an outline for a soon-to-be-typed paper in one hand and a list of pending Internet research in the other, only to look up at the clock half an hour later and realize that I have yet to get anything done.

I don’t want to give up on FreeCell cold turkey, and I’m definitely not looking for some other fixation to take its place. Rather, my hope is that someday I’ll be able spend an hour at my keyboard and actually get a full 60 minutes worth of work done. Until that time comes though, I’ll just have to take things one day at a time.

As for today, things are looking up. After all, isn’t the first step admitting you have a problem?

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