Years ago, I was seated on an airplane behind a guy playing "Angry Birds" on his cellphone. At the time, I'd never heard of the silly game where birds with special powers are flung from a virtual slingshot at a complex target made up of little green pigs.
Turns out that what sounds like a bad drug trip is, in fact, one of the universe's most hypnotically fascinating activities. If you don't believe me, watch a guy play "Angry Birds" nonstop for two hours on a screen the size of a credit card, then ask yourself: Why have I been watching a guy play "Angry Birds" nonstop for two hours on a screen the size of a credit card?
Because it's hypnotically fascinating, that's why. I downloaded the game immediately and have been playing it ever since.
But I have to admit, a few weeks ago I found myself bored with "Birds," and I strayed. After a thorough search of apps, I downloaded a new game called "You Must Escape."
The premise is simple: Objects in a room, such as potted plants, multimedia cabinets, armchairs and artwork hide or hold items needed to access other items which are, in turn, needed to access the key that opens the door and allows you to escape to the next room.
For example, a screwdriver hidden behind a pillow will unscrew the bolts on a heating grate, inside of which lies a flashlight which will illuminate the attic in which there is a key to the door. While you are searching for clues, there is a soft, mesmerizing strand of music playing on continual loop.
The visuals of "You Must Escape" are primitive, the clues are increasingly obscure, and the music is annoying yet, 10 minutes in, I was fully prepared to sacrifice every current relationship and future activity for the opportunity to play without interruption for the rest of my life. This is perhaps why an advertisement for an addiction treatment facility also runs on continual loop at the bottom of the screen -- just below the rug you think might be concealing the Swiss army knife that will slice open the elephant painting to reveal the remote that will turn on the TV that will show the code you'll plug into the wall safe that holds the key.
Because addiction loves a codependent, I showed the game to my husband. Although he was instantly better at deciphering clues, he quickly lost interest. And so I sat up nights alone, feverishly seeking the requisite tools that would grant me escape from room after room, all while a persistent summons to treatment made subliminal grabs for my brain.
At some point, after weeks of lost sleep coupled with heightened anxiety around doors, it occurred to me that I was going insane, and that, as such, it might be a good idea to put the game down and have a look around my life. My real life.
Because life imitates art, what I found when I looked around was a million personal doors on the verge of opening and closing. I've been shifting gears, moving away from art and shows and painting and into writing and giving workshops and speaking. To that end I've made calls, put out feelers, met with people, interviewed for a job and sent my book out to agents -- all things that have taken me a few steps closer to everything I want to do, but that haven't yet caused doors to fling open or new rooms to beckon.
Amazingly, clues to how stuck I felt were everywhere in the weepy, irritable, anxious, backache-y way I'd been showing up in my life for weeks. And yet it took a game to wake me to the reality of how I felt and why.
Which just goes to show -- sometimes it takes an elephant painting in the room to make you see the elephant in the room.
Contact Dana Shavin at email@example.com or www.danashavin.com.