I Have Competitive OCD

SteelyKid is a fan of a web game called BumperStars, which my parents introduced her to. If I’m at the computer doing something, she’ll march over, demand to be picked up, then point at the screen and say “Buh-Pah” until I open it up.

Of course, she’s a toddler, and thus has an extremely short attention span (except when she doesn’t). About two minutes after I start a game for her, she’ll slide down off my lap, and go find something else to do. Which would be fine, except for one thing: I have competitive OCD.

I don’t mean that I try to one-up other people who have obsessive-compulsive disorders. I just mean that I am incapable of walking away from anything competitive until it’s complete, or there’s no possible way I can continue. If it has a score, I have to play it out to the end, no matter what else I ought to be doing. And I have to play to win– I can’t easily manage to put in a half-assed effort, just to end something quickly.

So, SteelyKid will march over, demand “Buh-Pah,” then walk away two minutes later, and I’m stuck there playing the game out, trying to get a new high score, or at least a respectable effort at one. Which is an enormous time sink, because we’ve been doing this for quite a while now, and a high-score game takes a good long while.

This is a big part of why I don’t own any video games. (That, plus the fact that I suck at most video games.) Whenever I get involved with a video game, it tends to eat my life. Tetris consumed a big chunk of my freshman year in college, and Super Tecmo Bowl ate a huge portion of my junior year. The real rock-bottom moments of the compulsion come when I find myself sitting around watching other people play games like Tetris or Tecmo Bowl, waiting for my turn.

Of course, this goes beyond video games. The most extreme demonstrations typically involve real sports, like the time I started getting tunnel vision playing basketball in a too-warm gym, and kept playing. After all, it was 11-all in a game to 15– you can’t expect me to just walk away for a piddling little problem like losing my peripheral vision…

(The blinding headache I had for the rest of that afternoon, while I drank enormous quantities of Gatorade trying to restore some kind of electrolyte balance was ample punishment for that one.)

I don’t know what’s more pathetic– the fact that I’m sucked in by a game as silly as Bumper Stars, or the fact that my weird competitive compulsion allows a toddler to outwit me. After all, once I start a game, I’m stuck there trying for a high score, which takes a good long time. And that’s a good long time when SteelyKid can roam around with minimal supervision, because I’m trying to make that one last bank shot… She’s a wily little thing already, exploiting her dad’s weaknesses like that.

I’d say more about this, but I opened the game in order to get the URL for the link above, and now I have to go play a game. Just one, mind…

Comments

  1. #1 Mike
    March 30, 2010

    Don’t feel so bad — my daughter got a CD with a game on it from Wendy’s. I spent a lot of time this past weekend playing it for her until she got enough coins to buy something in the game she wanted.

    I never thought “gold farmer” would be something I took on for the kids, at least in that context……

  2. #2 Ewan
    March 30, 2010

    Speaking of competitive… so what’s your high score, anyway? :)

  3. #3 Chad Orzel
    March 30, 2010

    73730.

    For the moment, anyway. I had to open the game to check, and now that’s subject to change…

  4. #4 Phillip IV
    March 30, 2010

    (The blinding headache I had for the rest of that afternoon, while I drank enormous quantities of Gatorade trying to restore some kind of electrolyte balance was ample punishment for that one.)

    “Hao to teech proper runnin ‘n playin to ur hoomyn” by Emmy

  5. #5 Jen
    March 30, 2010

    Now I’m addicted to that game, thaaaaaanks. My high score is only about half of yours, but I only played for about half an hour. I’ll be helpful and pass the addiction along!

  6. #6 Ewan
    March 31, 2010

    Yep; two hours later… I was finally past Chad’s score and able to move on :-).

  7. #7 onymous
    March 31, 2010

    Dammit. Productive week, destroyed!

  8. #8 onymous
    March 31, 2010

    In other words, thanks ;-)

  9. #9 GrayGaffer
    March 31, 2010

    I can sympathize. I had to decide pretty early on not to get into video games. Back in ’82 or so I got an Atari one Christmas Eve and started playing Asteroids. I couldn’t sleep for several days because of asteroids raining down the inside of my eyelids. And when I looked up two days later my girlfriend had left. She didn’t talk to me again for two years.

    It’s happening again. I got an iPhone. My stack of books to be read is growing faster than I read them, for the first time in my life. So is my drive of time-shifted TV shows. And I now work at a game company too, just to top it off. But I have a 600,000+ high score in Wordle. At least my wife has one too, and we can play Scrabble together through the home VPN while I am waiting for the ferry.

  10. #10 rob
    March 31, 2010

    73730? that’s all? my high score is 73731…

    (bwa ha ha…)

  11. #11 Pineyman
    March 31, 2010

    Ha! Wait until she enters the Webkinz phase. Mindless games galore there. You are so hosed….

  12. #12 Pineyman
    March 31, 2010

    Then comes American Girl and all the ones on their website….

    I truly hope you’re taking sedatives now.

  13. #13 rob
    March 31, 2010

    it’s a simple matter to block port 80, then tell your kids “oh no, the internet burned down. you better go outside and play with your friends.”

    :)

  14. #14 Thoryke
    March 31, 2010

    I wonder if this is at the bottom of some of the intractable political arguments…not being able to accept the outcome of a vote and get on to the next subject, for example? For some people no argument or “game” can be over until they are the “winners”.

    I’ve endured many a meeting where the person running it was outvoted, and still she insisted that “we haven’t reached consensus yet”, because we didn’t agree with her. [not at my current institution, in case anyone is wondering]

  15. #15 Thoryke
    March 31, 2010

    I wonder if this is at the bottom of some of the intractable political arguments…not being able to accept the outcome of a vote and get on to the next subject, for example? For some people no argument or “game” can be over until they are the “winners”.

    I’ve endured many a meeting where the person running it was outvoted, and still she insisted that “we haven’t reached consensus yet”, because we didn’t agree with her. [not at my current institution, in case anyone is wondering]

  16. #16 Ewan
    June 2, 2010

    Two months and *mumble* games later, I just managed to reach level 20 (for the ‘achievement’ and hence dopamine buzz) and 83290 high score. I am stopping now. No, really..

The site is currently under maintenance and will be back shortly. New comments have been disabled during this time, please check back soon.