Hi. My name is Sara, and it’s been 5 years and 2 months since I last played Dr. Mario.
I know, 5 years is doing really well, staying on the wagon! I’ve been keeping my chin up and moving forward, one day at a time. But, there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t see those little Dr. Mario pills dropping behind my closed eyes.
Install an NES Emulator, it’ll be fun, they said.
Play Dr. Mario, it’s cute, they said.
Stop playing Dr. Mario, it’s easy, SAID NO ONE, EVER!
Growing up, I wasn’t allowed to play video games, so my introduction into casual gaming started with (and continues) with Tetris. Tetris was my mistress, fired up and played with for hours, without blinking, until I beat my previous best score. When I met my husband, he was a huge gamer, and I wanted to connect with him on that level. I was terrible at console games to start, so he fired up the computer, installed the emulator and introduced me to this tiny 8-bit doctor with magic falling pills. The function was like Tetris, which I could play with my eyes closed (figuratively, of course), but there was more “character” to it… literally – Dr. Mario. And the colors. Oh God’s… the colors. Matching those tiny pill sides to other tiny pill sides and watching them disappear, only to get new, exciting pills to match up.
I wonder what Dr. Mario was actually treating with all of those pills… Probably addiction(s).
It wasn’t just that the game was simple and cute and bright, it was that when I stopped playing, those tiny little pills stayed with me. In my mind’s eye. Hiding until I blinked. Sneezed. Napped. Read. I couldn’t escape them, and so, in an effort to get rid of them, I played MORE Dr. Mario. My logic was flawed. I would spend, literally, hours at my computer matching those falling, tiny colored pills. My inbox would ding constantly, reminding me of actual work to do. My 9-5 job was so mindless that I could install the emulator there and play on breaks and during lunch. I lost weekends and time traveled through Holidays. I had a problem.
My solution? Quit playing. Cold turkey. I turned the reins over to my husband and instructed him to destroy the good Dr. Mario and his damned colorful, little pills. He did. My system was wiped clear of all NES Emulator files and games. All that was left was Tetris. My sweet, first game love. My first casual gaming addiction. The difference with Tetris, for me, was after I played, I didn’t continue to see the falling blocks. When my game ended, it was over and I could move on. I used Tetris, then as a cure for my Dr. Mario problem. I opened the program and fingered the arrow keys on my keyboard. Set the level to 30. Pressed the space bar and maneuvered those falling blocks into place with the speed and grace of a lion running after a gazelle. When my fingers finally cramped and I could no longer kinesthetically remember the location of the up arrow from the down arrow, my game ended. I blinked. No pills. I sneezed. No pills. I napped and read. No pills.
Years passed. Uneventfully. And only sparingly filled with Tetris hours.
With the advent of Facebook and their easily accessible casual games, like Bejeweled, my trigger happy fingers were tingling with muscle memory for Dr. Mario. I tried to play one game of Bejeweled, but that turned into 30. Those beautiful jewels, brightly colored and twinkling – and that voice – the voice of Satan himself telling me I had done EXCELLENT or SPECTACULAR. I longed to hear that voice as I matched three jewels and cleared row after row. I recognized my problem (after a few … weeks) and turned to my beloved Tetris to set me straight again. By this time I had moved onto console gaming and found Tetris to be much less fun using a controller, but much more effective in keeping me off my computer and away from my casual game vice(s).
As of today, I rarely play Bejeweled. I barely launch Tetris. And I never go near Dr. Mario. Am I cured? No. But I’ll take this remission over dream filled nights of beautiful, brightly colored pills any day.