Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Stop me before I play again!

Hi, my name is Ken and I’m a Free Cell addict.
For years I blamed my assistant. She was the one who introduced me to the game. But over time I’ve come to realize I have to take responsibility for my own actions. I still should have fired her sorry ass but that’s not the point.

I’m the addict. I’m the one who can’t turn on his computer without playing just one game. And as you all know, one turns into two, which turns into ten, then twenty, and before you know it you’re out in the street living in a Maytag box.

Oh, it started off so innocently. “What’s that?” I asked my assistant Luciferita. “It’s Free Cell,” she said casually, drawing the helpless moth to the flame. “It’s kind of like a Solitaire game. You like Solitaire, don’t you?” I admitted that on certain social occasions I had imbibed in a game of computer Solitaire or two. “Well, this is better,” she said. “Let me show you how it works.”

I should have known better. That’s the same thing someone said to me about Tetris. By the time that was through I was eating Hamburger Helper right out of the package.

At first I had a little trouble getting the hang of Free Cell. Little did I know that that degree of difficulty, that “challenge” was what made the game so insidiously addictive. Anyone could win METAL GEAR SOLID 4: GUNS OF THE PATRIOTS, but Free Cell – the triumph over that game produced such a greater high, a euphoria that few have ever known.

But that high is somewhat transitory. It’s usually gone in one second, two if you’ve trained yourself to really savor it. So you must have more. That window pops onto your screen. “Would you like to play another game?

In the background you can hear your kids say, “Daddy, come out here. The lunar-eclipse is about to begin. It’s the last one earth will see until 3052.” “Be right there, guys!” I call out. But that little window beckons. "Would you like to play another game? Would you? WOULD YOU??! Sweat beads form on your forehead. You try to resist. You’re almost up from the chair when…

“Aw hell, one more game.”

And now I can’t stop. Emails pile up. I haven’t checked my Nigerian bank account for months.

And eventually it’s not just winning the game. You need more kicks! How many in a row can you win? How fast you can win? How few moves do you need to win? How long can you go without peeing?

Obviously, I need help. I can’t control this on my own. I just found out today that Hillary’s no longer in the race. So hopefully, with all of your support I can rid myself of this destructive habit and return to the light. I have a sponsor assigned to me. I just got an email from him introducing himself. For the first time in months I'm starting to feel there is a way out. One quick game and I’m going to write him back.

56 comments:

maven said...

LOL...I hear ya! I've been playing a totally stupid Solitaire's Journey for over 10 years (It's a "tournament" of various solitaire games). I've never won, never even come close to the perfect score..but I still have to play it every time I turn on the computer. Dang this addiction!

David J. Loehr said...

If I'm not mistaken, I spent the calendar year 1993 in thrall to Free Cell. This was after the priest had driven Tetris from the vile machine.

Right now, my big "time suck" is an online game called Word Link. Just don't. Talk about losing days...

Hank Hollyweird said...

I need to stay home more, I've never heard of Free Cell before this post...like I need another addiction. Thanks, Ken.

Dr. Leo Marvin said...

Since my affliction is blogs, I have about as much sympathy for you as a junkie has for his dealer whining about a drinking problem.

Sebastian said...

I kept hitting refresh for the last six hours for THIS?!?

KEN LEVINE said...

Hey Sebastian,

Save yourself a lot of pain. Visit other blogs.

Matthew said...

Did you know that you can get Freecell for your cellphone? *evil laugh*

Denise said...

I feel for you, Ken. I was once a Free Cell junkie. It was hard to stop, but I made it, and you can, too. Start playing mah-jjong on your computer. It takes longer to complete a game, it's more difficult, and more satisfying when you win. That's my new habit. HELP!!

SueBoo said...

I, too, am a free cell junkie. I have taken it one step further. I MUST get all of the kings lined up side by side. Neat and tidy.

benson said...

Ken, are you as bad as starting with game #1, working in order towards #32,000 (the MS version)and keeping a stat sheet? Not that I resemble anyone doing that.

emily said...

Since Apr 13, 2004, I have played 964 Freecell games, winning 716 and losing 248 for a Winning Percentage of 74%, but who's counting?

Dan said...

If you think Free Cell is addictive, try Addictive Solitaure! I can not get away from that game!

Mary Stella said...

Ken, upgrade to Vista. If Freecell is anywhere on my computer now, I can't find it.

Mary Stella said...

Right now, my big "time suck" is an online game called Word Link. Just don't.

For me, at night, it's either Poker Stars (Play money only because I have no desire to bankrupt myself.) or Scrabblecubes (Resisting the urge to upgrade to the version where you pay and can win money.)

Gridlock said...

I earned $28 for completing Totem Destroyer the other day.

Of course, my employer thinks I spent that hour being productive..

Before you click that link, I'll let you know that there's only 25 levels so there is an end in sight..

Tom Quigley said...

I had the same problem pulling myself away from the Video Poker games in Vegas.... Fortunately, a cocktail waitress who would pass by every other hand kept bringing me margaritas until I passed out... The thought of ending up with a hangover every time I started playing cured me....

Anonymous said...

From Jan:

Oh, does this speak to me!! I don't know how long I've been playing, but I find myself starting up a game (or two, three, or more) automatically when I sit at the computer. (In fact, after reading the comments, especially the one about the number of games played since 2004, I went to Free Cell to check my own stats, and found myself in the middle of a game before I realized what had happened.) I didn't even realize there were stats for the longest time, but you can imagine my excitement when I actually increased the percentage of wins by one point: from 68% to 69%. Of course, it's getting harder and harder now because of the sheer numbers: 60965 wins to 27730 losses. And since I always have to end on a win, it often makes it hard to stop playing. (And I'm getting a new computer, and one of my concerns was if I would be able to transfer the Free Cell stats--since I'm almost at 100,000 games........) Thanks for the post. Made my day (I'm glad to see I'm not alone with my "little" problem.)

Bob said...

Ken, just wanted to thank you for the great interview you did with Paul Harris on the radio recently. I heard it on his podcast (available through iTunes) and really enjoyed it, especially the TV talk. I hope you can do it again soon, on whatever station he's on--it's rare to have a host and guest so much on the same wavelength. You mention "that Simpsons episode where Homer was the mascot on a minor-league team" and he immediately replies "Dancing Homer", like it was the most obvious thing in the world! I really liked your analysis about replacing departing characters on MASH and Cheers, and how it took some time to write to Kirstie Alley's strengths. It was a great interview, and I highly recommend it to your blog readers.

Anonymous said...

My father has a goal to play every single Free Cell game available on the computer, so he uses that little feature where you can state which game out of a possible 36,000 you want to play. I think he started this a couple of years ago... he's somewhere around Game 3500 by now. I say "somewhere around" because his laptop went ka-blooey a couple of months ago and he lost the text file telling him what game he's on now. (But not to worry; he'll eventually regain the heart to soldier on with his quest, once he's over the initial blow.)

spmsmith

SharoneRosen said...

oh Ken, playing cards on-line is evil... but Bejeweled is divine. Denise is right, go with Mah Jong. It takes a long time and is difficult to win... endlessly addictive... gotta get back to it... I know I can win this time, I just know it...

rob! said...

based on what you've written, i strongly suggest you NEVER get a Wii, Ken.

Blogette said...

I'm more of a Spider Solitaire girl, myself. There was a time when I would just waste hours playing it.

Chad said...

The computer is the greatest tool for writing ever invented.

The computer is the greatest tool for the avoidance of writing ever invented.

The Curmudgeon said...

Free Cell -- it's one of those gateway drugs.

I did Free Cell for years in my Win98 days. I thought I could handle it well enough. I thought I was handling it.

Then came the XP machine... and it offered me Free Cell or Spider Solitaire. It took me just a little while to switch over almost completely.

I started small -- one suit, easy level. Soon, though, I was doing the medium level and sneaking hits on the difficult level -- four suits!

I remember how happy I was the first time I beat the difficult level... and it's been downhill ever since.

I'm putting together a documentary of my trials and tribulations. I'm thinking of calling it "Free Cell Madness." Catchy title, yes?

Sebastian said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sebastian said...

@Ken:

read what dr. leo marvin wrote and then read my comment and then I guess you'll find out that I was joking.

Next time I'll use airquotes or a smileyface or irony-tags. *sigh*

I have your blog in my RSS reader. I don't hit refresh. And I would never criticize you for posting something on a _daily_ basis. There are so many gems here and I'm a huge Cheers fan so you can't shoo me away.

Kathleen In Cincinnati said...

I, too am addicted to BLOGS. However, I do not like to play "complex" games that I cannot master and which would therefore increase my self loathing. Feeling. Need. For. Computer. Solitaire. And. Mindless. Clicking. Thanks. To. Ken's. Post. Oh, the good old days before I had Internet. BTW, Ken. your post had me laughing out loud. Thanks for your Blog. It's a jewel.

benson said...

A little trivia...

The story I've heard is Microsoft put solitaire on Windows as a "training" tool, to teach newbies how to use a mouse. (Back in the days when folks were migrating from DOS). At least that's what they would have you believe.

notanonymous said...

What Free Cell is this?

Susan said...

Boy does this bring back memories of my own Free Cell Binge of 2000 and 2001. I think I hit bottom when my boss said, "Every time I pass your desk, there's a card game on your computer." That's when I knew I had to break the habit and go clean.

Thankfully, at my new job (no, I didn't get fired, I changed jobs), there's no free cell anywhere to be found. I was able to quit cold turkey.

RMS said...

I'm with Blogette, it's spider solitare for me. All the wasted hours and days... yes, I'll get back to my novel. Any minute now...

R.Lawrence said...

Dear Ken,

I, too, was a Freecell addict. I would not stop until I would get 20successful games in a row. I forced myself to find the Freecell.exe file and delete it. I hate to see such a great talent like you get drawn in. I'm trying not to get get too serious, but I'd love to see a new show written by you and David.

Jim said...

Sueboo: Not only was I lining the kings up side by side, but I was also trying to leave at least one ace covered up right up to the last minute. Or is not an ace then something low. Just so that the last move I made would suddenly sweep all the cards away in one great rush.

I think that the only way I cured my addiction in the end was by installing Grand Theft Auto. Twenty minutes of mass murder made for a much more satisfying break.

diane said...

I thought I'd kicked the Free Cell habit, only to find a website with many solitaire games and other games that are equally addictive. Best of all they let you win tokens that are basically completely useless but make you feel like you are racking up piles of something important. I'm not going to tell you the site for your own good.

karyrogers said...

I recently re-discovered free cell, so to speak. I was looking for something to do while running sound tech at the local community theatre show. Free cell! It took me a while to re-learn and I still probably lose more games than I win, but it's fun and the show goes by much quicker. (No, I don't miss my cues. =)

Mary Stella said...

Emily said:
Since Apr 13, 2004, I have played 964 Freecell games, winning 716 and losing 248 for a Winning Percentage of 74%, but who's counting?

Four years and you haven't broken 1000 games yet? Emily, what a slacker! *g*

Anonymous said...

For a real challenge, try selecting either game # -1 or # -2.

Hours and hours of fun for the whole family...

Jim Pettinger.

Doug Walsh said...

Ken, you must try "Fairway Solitaire". It's an excellent solitaire game with a golf twist. I know it sounds ridiculous, but it's fantastic.

Google it for the free demo.

Tallulah Morehead said...

I click on your blog.

Since I have dial-up, while it loads, I play a quick round of solitaire.

I read your blog.

I laugh, but my laugter is hollow.

I know I am lost.

Help me.

Right after this next round.

estiv said...

For a real challenge, try selecting either game # -1 or
# -2....Jim Pettinger


I hope I don't offend anyone when I say: Holy fucking shit. Is it even possible to win one of those two games?

Roger Green said...

My 81-year-old mother plays Free Cell. Keeps her mind sharp. There are worse things.

She learned it, BTW, from me, but I'm now more into Internet Spades, Internet Backgammon, Internet Hearts...

Dav said...

Christ, I just clicked over here after finishing a game of FreeCell. That's spooky. This is a sign, I need to get myself cleaned up.

Simon H. said...

I never knew the pains you free cell addicts go through. That is, until I got addicted to a Texas Hold 'Em Game right now on my sexist IPhone. Passes the time at work, even if my $15,000 bankroll means nothing.

Anonymous said...

Just 'cuz I can't resist an opp to screw with your head as you confess all to us in your dark hours of addiction, I am posting this link:

http://www.mystake.ru/icetris.html

You're welcome. :-)

Stacey

Anonymous said...

Oh, and I cling to my old Treo 90 for dear life because I have cracked versions of Atomica, Bejewelled and Sudoku on it. I play them all day long at work while my husband slaves away. *snort*

Stacey

Rory L. Aronsky said...

The computer is the greatest tool for the avoidance of writing ever invented.

All together now...Amen!

I should be finishing up some work so I can watch a few of my favorite X-Files episodes on DVD again before going to see the movie tomorrow, but nope. I've been to all of my favorite blogs, my favorite Las Vegas news/smartassery site (www.vegasrex.com), a few movie news sites, my Battleship addiction (www.itsyourturn.com, called "Battleboats" there), and I'm still considering whether to spend $94 right now on "The Complete Calvin & Hobbes" collection.

Work? Still gathering dust.

Eleanor said...

I went the same route as Denise - you think Free Cell is addictive, it's got nothing on some of the Mah-jjong games that are out there.
There is an arcade version, and I just can't kick the habit.
Stay well clear!
Trust me on this.

A. Buck Short said...

Some of these addictive games are self-regulating.
Two words:Russian Roulette.
The more you play the less you’ll eventually play. Oh…wait.

Anonymous said...

From Ms. Didi

I'm a spider solitare girl and hooked a couple of others at work on it. They hate me now *evil smirk*. But now I've found jigsaw puzzles online and they keep me from doing real work for hours at a time. If it's not one addiction, it's another!

Tom Quigley said...

I wonder if all you addicts who show up at a Lynrd Skynrd concert start shouting "Play Free Cell!"...

Tom Quigley said...

Just realized you probably wouldn't... You'd be too busy sitting at home in front of your computers and playing....

Anonymous said...

I totally sympathize w/ you on this addiction. But there is an upside :) It's a perfect game for those that have anal retentia. There's no better feeling than winning a free cell game and seeing the cards get cleaned up and put into nice little stacks. That's what makes me forget to pay my bills online and leave the cats dish empty.

jbryant said...

simon h: breaking a game addiction on the sexist iPhone is easy -- just let your nails grow long.

Stella Louise said...

Forget Free Cell--try Free Rice! It's a vocabulary game that also donates rice via the U.N. Fund to end World hunger. So while it's an addictive time suck, you can rationalize that you're doing something good for the world!

Yair said...

OK, so here's a FAQ including some hard games (and one which is apparently impossible - 11982) -

http://www.solitairelaboratory.com/fcfaq.html

I was never a huge Free Cell fan myself, but Spider has eaten up a considrable number of hours. Don't go near it if you value your time.

TheVideoGameGirl said...

I'm a girl, and, belive it or not, I'm atticted to violet games. I dont go for a simple card game or 'ride the imaginary pony' or anything. I just sit back, relax, and kill the evil game character!