Monday, November 14, 2022

Tetris and Accepting Imperfection

I've never been big on computer or phone games. But I liked Oregon Trail back in the day. And Tetris. Oh, I did like Tetris. I was good at Tetris. I could play a continuous game for a long time. I remember finding it harder to play once iPhones came out and you had to use a touchscreen instead of going click, click, click. Tetris is the game that I occasionally do pick up again, mainly when my mind is itchy and needs something to focus on, like if I have five minutes to wait on something I'm a little anxious about. I'm still pretty decent at Tetris.

A couple months ago, I discovered Woodoku and had a temporary fixation with it. It's a little addictive because there are different levels that you complete within a week's time and other little sets that you do over the course of the month. So it makes you feel like you have to check in at least half the days in the week. It looks like Tetris, but it uses that square setup of sudoku. So you use your wooden blocks to fill in the squares, kind of like how you fill numbers into sudoku. I've never seen the appeal of sudoku. But this is good; I like this.

The way that the setup is, you often have no choice but to put a piece in where it will make a trapped, empty space. But it's okay because you have to take the best choice available and think in long term, not just for the one move. You might make empty spaces now, but maybe in the next more you'll get the right piece that allows you to access that space again and fill it in even better than you could have before. After all, since the pieces aren't falling down in ever-increasing speeds like in Tetris, you have time to plan and try to make a strategy (I say try because of course you still don't know which pieces you'll get next) (not that I normally like having to make a strategy--so maybe I like that you can only strategize so far. The strategy is more about how best to fill in space, not about military moves). 

Given that it's so different from Tetris despite looking fairly similar, I wondered. I tried up a game of ol' Tetris again. I wondered if I wouldn't play as well, since it had been a while and since I'd been getting new ways of thinking. And guess what I didn't anticipate.

Usually, I keep a pretty clean Tetris game. Just a couple rows on the bottom, no gaps within the rows. If I have to make a trapped, empty space, I get knocked off my game. The rows start stacking up, and I'm buried. But playing Woodoku got me used to having those empty spaces. So when I found that the best option in Tetris was to make a trapped space, I did it and kept going and cleared up the space again. I found that I could play a better game with higher stacks of rows that I had been able to before. I found that I could play through the imperfection.

Sometimes that's life. You can't fit all the pieces in perfectly. But if you start in with the awareness that they won't all fit perfectly, then you can have the mindset that allows you to best work within that state of imperfection. You can keep reacting, planning not just for the perfect fit but also for the imperfect one. And then you can keep clearing out rows and racing towards your goal.

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