My first computer game was Tetris. My first computer-game skill was to find the sound button and turn it off. I’m not good at spacial relationships, and I was very bad at Tetris. Eventually I outgrew it.
Last week, I put it back on my iPad. The paid version. Because I kept thinking I needed it. As I
gain skill, no, umm, practice, waste time with this game, I am getting better. Much faster. What happened?
Two things. In the version I have, you can slow down the time it takes for the tiles to drop. I got familiar with both the shape itself and the negative space that it fills.
The second thing was learning patience. You have to fill in the row completely with whatever shape you get. The more holes you think you’ll get to later, the faster you lose.
I’m now up to a much faster speed, and working quickly.
1. To get better at anything, you need to practice. A lot. Even if people tell you it’s a waste of time.
2. Another word for “practice” is “shaping a habit.” And good habits are good to form. Good habits make life easier.
3. Start slowly–so slowly you feel like an idiot. You learn a lot from going slowly. You have time to observe and learn. You can speed up when you have the hang of the big picture.
4. Be ready to jettison your assumptions. That’s really hard. But when we look at the world expecting certain things, we generally find them. When we approach the world with an open mind, allowing the experience to form new ideas, we begin to see opportunities that we did not see before. Example: There are two Tetris pieces that are mirror images of each other. This confuses me. Every time. I keep putting them in the wrong-shaped space and then
- noticing it doesn’t fit
- then panicking
- then not paying attention
- then losing the game.
To fix this, I decided to try a new way of seeing the board–not by shape, but by color. At first it was confusing, then it got a lot easier. Had I simply berated myself for not being good at spacial relationships, I would have stayed stuck. By working with color, something I understand better, I advanced my skill.
Yes, computer games are time-wasters. But they also have some great metaphors buried in them. And you know how much I love a good metaphor.
—Quinn McDonald is thinking about Tetris synethesia and smiling.