Sunday, August 21, 2011

Tiny Tower: What hath Man Wrought?

All I was looking for was a simple way to pass the time with my iPhone. Having neither money nor credit card, I was relegated to perusing the free apps, searching for something more than an alley cat who'll parrot your every word with a speech impediment that makes him sound like an emphysema patient. I'll admit, it's not easy when it comes to video games: most of the apps that I've downloaded are for social networking on the go (Facebook, Google+, Twitter, Goodreads, etc), news, or a dictionary. If someone were to steal my iPhone and hack through the security code, they would probably pity my mega-exciting life of memorising word definitions and keeping up with arch├Žo-linguistic discoveries while listening to reruns of WGBH Jazz Decades, and think about returning it before laughing at their foolishness and formatting my auxilliary livelihood.

Like any other normal human being, when I first got wind of Tiny Tower, I found the concept silly: isn't this just a vertical Farmville? I refused to even consider deigning such an activity. Not so much because my time is valuable (it isn't), or because I was low on space (free apps and pictures of my dog don't take up that much room), but because the mere concept of the game seemed to offend my matured tastes in digital hobby.

Ennui quickly drowned any inkling of connoisseurship and enslaved me to the pastime I once found pedestrian. I noticed that my friend had downloaded the game via the Orwellian iPhone game centre; I started remembering playing Maxis's Sim Tower and how interesting I had found it for about the span of two days. It became clear to me that by downloading this aberration, I could relive some nostalgic jiffy of time and possibly cure my first-world tedium in between actual tasks. What I was treated to was an authoritarian horror that unleashed its avaricious claws into the fabric of my daily schedule.

Upon opening the game/app, I was immediately manhandled into a tutorial with loose instructions binding me into premature failure. Somehow, I made it through by building a pizza parlour and residential apartments where my pixellated tenants could live and work as I pleased. I quickly put my first three tenants to work tossing dough and exchanging workout stories at the parlour, while the other 2/5 of my residents were scoffed at for their laziness and lack of entrepreneurial chutzpah as I constructed a second suite in which to recruit more unemployed lackeys of apparent welfare state of Tiny Town. Soon enough I finally got the hang of the game, installing a few more businesses at which I could employ my tiny wards. Then the honeymoon ended.

What I didn't realise is that the game perpetuated play into all hours of the day, whether one actively pursued it or not. Like a Poean phantasy, the constant chiming of re-stocked floors called me back to the game, groping for my iPhone in the dead of night in order to answer its lonely whimper, checking in on my sleepless 8-bit avatars. I could never be safe from this clingy application: it followed me like an incompetent stalker, uncouthly bringing attention to its loneliness any chance that I had to myself or was engrossed in another activity. It wouldn't have been so bad, had there been some end goal, some destination to which I was nearing, but it seemed that instead I had thrust myself into a never-ending cycle of construction and commerce, dragging my digital building into the heavens like some twenty-first century Tower of Babel whilst concurrently optimising the centres at which I would accrue the funding to continue my perverse mission.

I had to break free. I had to find a way out of this obligated hell I so ignorantly enrolled myself into. I knew what had to come next: deletion. I had to delete the game from my phone! but the ding, the ding, the constant ding - it called me to it, dragging me forever back to its addictive shores... until the day came that I was able to purchase a priced game, at which point my free hours became the seat of rope cutting, apocalyptic gardening, and catapulting birds into sundry debris. Yet Tiny Tower remains, quietly biding its time, taunting me through its app updates, waiting for curiosity to kill the cat.