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Danny O'Brien: Question on geeks and games

Danny & Merlin As you may know, Danny O’Brien and I are rumored to be working on a book for O’Reilly’s Hacks series. As we theoretically toil with this theoretical book, we’ll be lazily turning to you smart people from time to time to save our bacon. This is the first of those occasions.

Thus, Danny asks…

So one of the things that’s cropping up in the research is that geeks hate boredom more than other people: indeed, more than life itself. The whole “rather gnaw your own arm off??? is frightening close to reality here.

Given the choice between a fractionally tedious task that will save hours of effort, and something capitivating and challenging, we’ll bunk off the former.

I don’t know yet whether that’s not something that’s applicable to other people. But I am interested in linking this up with another bit of anecdata, which is that geeks often enjoy thought games and puzzles.

So, here’s my question: when you have a regular, mind-crushingly dull task to do, do you have a little game you play with yourself to make it easier? If so, what is it?

(Merlin reminds me to include the canonical Simpsons reference in this discussion:)

Bart makes a game of it Principal Skinner: Oh, licking envelopes can be fun! All you have to do is make a game of it.

Bart: What kind of game?

Principal Skinner: Well, for example, you could see how many you could lick in an hour, then try to break that record.

Bart: Sounds like a pretty crappy game to me.

Principal Skinner: Yes, well… Get started.

Josh's picture

I'm with Principal Skinner and...

I'm with Principal Skinner and all the other game players. But the games can be spiritual, not just efficiency or speed. I'll let Thich Nhat Hanh say it:

"To my mind, the idea that doing dishes is unpleasant can occur only when you aren't doing them. Once you are standing in front of the sink with your sleeves rolled up and your hands in warm water, it really isn't so bad. I enjoy taking my time with each dish, being fully aware of the dish, the water, and each movement of my hands. I know that if I hurry in order to go and have a cup of tea, the time will be unpleasant, and not worth living." From Thich Nhat Hanh: Essential Writings, page 30.




An Oblique Strategy:
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