Thursday, 25 October 2012

Game avoidance

I'm on holiday, which used to mean I had long, lazy days entirely at my disposal, unfettered by the need to offer entertainment, sustenance and attention to my delightful children.  Not any more. When I am off school, so are my kids. Work just becomes a different type of work, albeit one with people you love.

This week, however, I enjoy the benefits of working at a school whose half-term holidays are out of sync with my kids' school. I can drop them off and then spend six hours doing whatever the hell I want. I could go for a walk, read a book, watch a film, or play one of my many games that are piled up in a sort of entertainment "in-tray". X-Com is my current nemesis and I have to say it is kicking my ass at every encounter.

But this morning was different. I got an email asking me to look at something for work: a new feature for the music database website. It's not something I have to do, as I stopped officially supporting that thing ages ago, but still I find myself drawn back to it, like how George Lucas won't stop meddling with Star Wars until he has annoyed everyone in the universe.  (Don't go away thinking I am equating my music database to Star Wars. I'm not. My music database is way less entertaining than Episodes 4, 5 and 6, and only slightly more interesting than Episodes 1, 2 and 3)
The thing is, the work was interesting, and involved learning how to do something I didn't know before. I decided to use it to teach myself a bit of Ajax, which is a programming technique rather than a cleaning product, and to play around with my new local PHP testing server. Tinkering is fun and, in many ways, it IS a game. You have a goal (get the thing working), obstacles to overcome (things don't work so you have to find out where they are going wrong) and rewards (the satisfied feeling that you are making progress, both in the project and in your own knowledge). I certainly find it less frustrating than X-Com, because I'm pretty sure my Music Database is not out to get me, whereas those aliens definitely are. The green-blooded bastards.

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