Kat bemoans the loss of her free time and gaming credibility to a simple Facebook game.
I have a problem. I don’t tell anyone about it, because I know they’ll look down on me. The only people who know are my fellow users. And now I’m about to stand up and tell the world.
I’ve been playing Popcap’s Zuma Blitz on Facebook for about a month now. It’s a simple enough game: balls roll down a path towards a well and you have to eliminate them before they reach it. You do this by firing coloured balls to create matched chains of three or more, which then disappear. You have one minute to rack up as many points as possible. A variety of bonuses add to your score and increase your time limit, while power-ups make it easier to gain extra points. The points are important. A weekly leaderboard allows you to compete against others on your friends list, and sometimes the competition feels very real. “Just one more game before bed” can easily turn into twenty minutes when you’re trying to beat your friend’s 270,000 point high score.
It started out as harmless idle curiosity. After all, I’m a Real Gamer ™. What hold could a few brightly coloured pixels without so much as a 3D rendering engine have on me? After four weeks’ play, I’ve already reached the 21st level and earned two bronze medals in my local leaderboard. I keep losing out on the top spots to two of my friends: a teenage prodigy and a Finn with cat-like reflexes. Late at night, I sometimes find myself resenting their skill. Zuma Blitz doesn’t keep track of how much time you’ve spent playing. This is probably good for my peace of mind.
I’d played Facebook games before, inevitably giving up after a couple of weeks of tedious repetitive activity. I still have a dormant Mafia Wars account, because a few friends really would put out a hit on me if I disappeared from their mafias. I removed Farmville approximately three minutes after first giving it access to my account. I block all and any updates about such games using the F.B.Purity browser plugin and definitely don’t post any myself – it’s incredibly gauche to inflict such things on your friends, virtual or otherwise.
So I never publically admit to the trophies I earn in Zuma Blitz. Only other players can see them by checking out my in-game stats. By then, it’s already too late for them.