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The Tinkered Mind
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February 3rd, 2019
Lucilius once played a video game where each level was much the same. It had a start and a set time limit before each level was over. But each level was just slightly shorter than the last.
During each level much the same task was required but the ease with which it was accomplished depended much on what happened during the previous level.
If the time during each level was spent as fully engaged as possible, then the next level became slightly easier. This was important because each level became progressively shorter while the ease of tasks, if maintained, accelerated, allowing for more abilities to be expressed in less time.
While the last level of the game was the shortest of all, Lucilius seemed to achieve as much as he’d done in all the other levels combined.
When he played again he decided to tarry in the tasks, letting the goals of each level slip past the time limits, the next level starting relentlessly - the difficulty of each growing larger and larger till the levels were too short to gain again an upper hand, and all was lost.
When he restarted the game a third time, he found that he did not start back at zero but was handicapped at the tasks with the same level of difficulty he’d degenerated to in the last game. He tried to work extra hard to make up for the lost time, but before he felt he could make any progress, the levels were ending faster and faster until the third game was done.
The same happened with the fourth and fifth games with only marginal and frustrating improvements.
When the screen lit up with the intro screen for the next round an idea came into his head:
Just as the intro screen faded and the first level came into view Lucilius hit the PAUSE button. He leaned in close to the screen and studied what his first move would be. Then he toggled the controls in that direction and quickly tapped the PAUSE button. The game reacted and Lucilius hit the PAUSE button once more. He studied how the game had reacted and figured out his next move, toggled the controls and then tapped the PAUSE button one more time. He kept on in this painstaking manner until he had the first level completed.
Lucilius smiled at the screen, certain he’d outsmarted the game, but then Lucilius woke up. He found himself lying on a couch in a friend’s apartment. Pizza boxes strewn across a coffee table and the glow of a T.V. looping an intro to some video game. As happens so often he completely forgot his video game dream upon waking, remembering instead where things had left off the night before.
His friend walked into the room in a daze, noticing Lucilius awake and mumbled, ‘what’s up’.
Lucilius watched as his friend sat back in front of the glowing screen and picked up a controller. Lucilius sat up, rubbed his face and then reached out for his own controller, but froze in the action. He looked at his hand just about to touch the controller and PAUSED just long enough to wonder what he was doing.
This episode of Tinkered Thinking references Episode 23: Pause.