Killing Zombies for Relaxation

I've never been much for video games. They hadn't been invented back in the Dark Ages when I was a kid, and since my profession has been focused on computers my entire adult life, I never had any desire to play with them when I got home at night.

Last fall my 3-yr-old grandson introduced me to my first video game on his Kindle Fire. (Yes, he has a tablet. This preschooler carries around more computing power in his chubby little hands than I had available in an entire corporation when I first started programming. Kind of blows your mind, doesn't it?) He said, "Nana, let's play Plants vs. Zombies." The kid proceeds to show me how to use plants to destroy the zombies that are trying to attack my house. I sat there and watched him plant sunflowers and mushrooms, and zap the approaching wave of zombies with pea shooters. After a few minutes my fingers started to get itchy. "Here, let me try that," I said, and took possession of the tablet. I admit I had pangs of regret when his mom arrived to pick him up and insisted on taking the tablet with them.

Now that I have my own Kindle Fire (no, not just to play games...not really), I've gotten into the habit of playing at night for a few minutes before I fall asleep. There's something very satisfying about killing a few zombies before you call it a night.

Then I happened upon another game. This one does not involve killing. It's a sweet little game called Ice Age Village. In this one, you create a village and fill it with animal families. You start with a single animal, like a bear, and then you get him a wife. He's so happy he starts giving you coins every so often. When you have enough coins, you can get them a baby. That makes them even happier and they give you more coins. Then you get him another baby, which completes the family. So you start on another animal, like an orange bird family. In the meantime you can decorate their habitat, and expand your land so you have a good-sized village.Before you know it, the clock reads 2:00 a.m. and you hate to turn off your tablet because what if that baby orange bird egg hatches while you're asleep?

I haven't spent time contemplating why these games are so addictive. Killing zombies to save the sweet little plants and the people in the house probably taps some protective instinct. Or maybe there's a savage strain lying dormant inside me that likes to raise its ugly head every so often. (That's why I enjoy writing murder mysteries, maybe?) Building the village and populating it with animal families gives me a great deal of satisfaction. I mean, I control everything. I give happiness, and receive love in return. And I get to decorate with flowers and snow sculptures, and make sure the grass is trim and the paths are straight. Ah! Life in my village is so much simpler and orderly and regulated than real life.

Oh. Wait. Uh...yeah. Well, there you go.