The Lines I Can Clear

February 18th, 2023

One of my first addictions was a cartridge called Tetris.

If you’ve never played the game — okay, you’re lying, but I’ll bite. In Tetris, tetrominoes (geometric shapes made of four connected squares) drop from the sky and it’s up to you to move, rotate, and place them on the way down. If you do it right, you create solid lines with the shapes, perfect rows that then disappear to add points to your score.

The game speeds up as you play it, becoming more unforgiving as you go, pretending it’s life or something.

You lose the game when your screen gets filled by shapes that don’t complete any rows; though when I started playing, the game would often be lost when I made my first mistake.

It can happen early, and there is an element of shame to it. You meant to place the tetromino one column to the left; you rotated a piece twice, returning it to its initial shape, making it unable to fit where you intended it to go.

The mistake leaves a gap.

And I have a hard time ignoring the gap.

I should focus on what I can do, the present piece, and what I can accomplish with it. There are other lines to clear.

But the gap.

And I make another mistake.

The gaps, the mistakes, the empty promises and false potential adds up; I make an unshakable realization that I can’t fix it, inevitably lose my focus, and I fail.

It’s not a coincidence I called Tetris an addiction.

A fun fact about Tetris is that you can never actually win it. You can only continue to put down one block at a time, to make the next right decision, until you can’t keep up, and you die.

Is that a fun fact?

I think it is. I’m reading Matthew Perry’s book and it is not very good but I am loving the hell out of it, because it’s like talking to a friend who gets me, like talking to myself sometimes.

Matty understands the gaps; the holes we are desperate to fill, and the mistakes we make that we can’t get over, letting our screens be overcome with shapes that make no sense and destroy our will to play.

I like the idea that we can die in games and then come back, because we do it in real life. We don’t die die, no, but people we used to be die, and we come back a little different each time. Sometimes a lot different. With new knowledge. With better skills.

I’ve died a lot. I’ve been given too many extra lives. I keep trying to put shapes in the right order, and I try not to mind the gaps.

I focus on the lines I can clear.

Published by dennisvogen

I'm me, of course. Or am I?

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