Monday, April 09, 2007

Life according to Chuzzle

I’ve played a lot of Chuzzle lately. There are these fuzzy, little creatures that require alignment with two identical friends to pop the furry bodies. Then their eyes swoosh into the little beaker on the side until it fills up and I get to move up a level.

It was one of the games that came on the computer we bought Mom for her birthday. At first I thought it was rather lame – I just liked watching the little chuzzles blink and watch the cursor move. I am now obsessed with chuzzles – I think about them a lot, and play whenever I find the time. It’s oddly soothing to drag the rows around so that the chuzzles pop. Sometime in the hours I spend playing the game, I noted some lessons for life.

The board is always full. It’s not like Tetris or Dr. Mario (which I played for hours on a flight from Chicago to London). I can pop as many chuzzles as fast as I can, but more always appear. There’s always a problem to solve. Some little fuzzy creature needs to move up or down or left or right to find his friends. Luckily if I'm in casual mode, the little guys give me hints. The chuzzle that wants to move – if given enough time between the previous action – will roll his eyes at me. If I miss that obnoxious cue, it will give a little wiggle several seconds later. I find that comforting as I sit in my desk and stare at the colors. If I can’t figure out what to do next, there will be a hint. I played one game in expert mode and missed the little eye rolls and wiggles very much. I’m all about support systems.

Given that I’m overwhelmed with the sheer amount of work lately, I like knowing that despite a constant onslaught of chuzzles, there’s always incremental progress to be made. That if I get stuck, something will happen to show me what to try. And sometimes, I’ll move a blue chuzzle to line up with two others and a cascade effect occurs so that chuzzles are popping all over the place while “Combo!” and “Super!” appear on the screen to applaud my accidental efforts. I’m always surprised when it happens, frankly. I’m focused on a single line of the creatures – I had no idea that moving that particular row would align so many little guys.

Likewise, sometimes there are big chuzzles, taking up the space for 4 normal creatures and causing two rows fail to move independently. There are also little silver locks that clank around some chuzzles when the game moves far enough along. Mom hates those locks – they make her terribly unhappy. They ensure that the chuzzle they contain is stationary – the constraint makes the game more challenging, certainly, but it’s not impossible.

I’ve found that my strategy – so as not to stress myself out while playing a silly game – is to focus on what I can do. If I’m obsessed with getting rid of a the big or locked chuzzle, I tend not to move at all, growing sad at the thought that I can’t help the creature who is somehow different than the rest. Yet if I just play – move what I can, wait for cues when I don’t see matches – the locks and big chuzzles end up solved without much effort. Excessive focus on the problems, I decided as I was miserable over the thought of using some patients for a project that won’t help them, limits my ability to solve them. I should just do what I can and hope that things work out in the end. Not that planning isn’t valuable and important, but at some point I should start to consider the step directly in front of me, do the best I can, and not worry about what happens later so exhaustingly much.

That’s come into play with some of what I’m writing. If I work on the chapters that please me, eventually they start to form sections. Then the sections connect. Then there’s some semblance of a rough story. The same thing happened with the chapter I so wanted to write, then was terrified when my abstract was accepted. I started writing the sections I understood while using figures located in my dissertation. Then I made my way through easy methods, working up to those that are more technically intense. I read and highlighted and read some more. And I now have a document that I think is smart, descriptive and will certainly be helpful in my own research. I like to think that my instructions and demonstrations on a sample dataset will be helpful to some textbook owners. It’s a one step at a time thing, somehow made meaningful by little chuzzles.

If you hold your mouse over a chuzzle for too long, it begins to glare. Then it meeps and shakes the cursor to a different spot on the screen. I’m bothered when the chuzzles grow angry at me. It was kind of funny at first, but now I find that I apologize when they meep at me, and quickly move my mouse if I notice them glaring. I talked to Dawn today about refusing work that was overly demanding or time-consuming when it offered little reward. She did it – sent an email and firmly set boundaries. While I was impressed, I winced at the thought of doing the same. I find time to do the work if people ask. Ken requested a moment’s help this morning and I spent 30 minutes trying to find him data, though he told me to go back to what I was doing. I’m so eager for people (and chuzzles) to like me, that I get nervous and distracted from the true priorities.

I remind myself – as I sit at the desk in my spare bedroom – that the game is just a way to spend some time. Losing is inevitable at some point. If I’m happy and productive (if one can call playing computer games productive), then it’s all fine. The chuzzles will pop or they won’t. When I run out of possible moves, the screen tells me so and the chuzzles’ eyes open widely in dismay that I’ve failed them. But I can always play again. And the more I sit in there, the better I get (and I’m really pretty awesome, frankly). It’s a good experience – it soothes me and gives me a few good reminders about life.

I also see on the Wikipedia entry that there are other tricks. You can tickle the chuzzles (click it repeatedly)! You can make the chuzzles dizzy if you shake the row! And Mom informed me that she once left a game running and returned to find the chuzzles asleep. “I ran the mouse over them and woke each one individually.” She told me, delighted. “You should try it. They’re so cute.”

Now instead of telling you about my appointment with Dr. Counselor, I’m going to go make the chuzzles dizzy. Because I haven’t tried that yet. Perhaps that will develop into yet another lesson I can apply to life.


Lucy said...

I tried one game of chuzzles and decided I shouldn't download the whole game, for fear of doing nothing but sending them off to the beaker. I didn't notice the hints or other cute things, though, so now I want to play again...
I like your lesson about doing what you can. I think that's wise.

repressed librarian said...

This is interesting, especially as I've been considering a post on ways I wish life were more like Tetris :-)

The Contessa said...

I love games like this! IN my current chapter of life makeovers, the chapter is titled Are we having fun yet? and the end result it to make time for fun each day and the list includes - COMPUTER GAMES!!!!

Yay me!

Sleeping chuzzles! THat's cute! And I love that your mom plays!

SJ said...

I'm so glad that other people expereince the joys of a good chuzzle game =-) They're just so darn cute.
I loved your insights about parallels to thesis writing. I confess I just chuzzled purely as an avoidance technique

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