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Practice Room 107

Escape to Analog

reporting and opinion by John Woods


Once, there was a pool hall in Georgia, just outside Atlanta. It had two bar boxes up front near the street, four 8-foot tables down the middle of its too narrow room, then two 5 x 10 snooker tables. Just past the tables, there were maybe eight arcade-style video games along the walls flanking a seating area before the counter. People would stop by to play challenge table snooker on the table nearest the counter while others sat around talking or playing rummy or for awhile, chess.

On weekend nights, if there was no tournament, junior high kids would play sort-of pool on the bar tables, or just sit on them, and high school kids with their dates would play semi-serious fun pool on the 8-footers.

But the most popular game, and most profitable to the owner, was snooker between when the doors opened and late afternoon.

Nothing else came close except video games, which got play by a large percentage of all patrons of all ages. Kids at night and regulars sitting out a game of snooker would waste a lot of quarters firing off virtual shots at animated outlaws, ducks, and deer, or spend hours trying for high score on Star Wars or Centipede.

The video games were the number two moneymaker after challenge table snooker, in which the person who let the winner out paid the house one dollar and all other players, sometimes as many as eleven or thirteen, played free.

Almost everyone, kids and adults, would happily obsess about a video game while most of the time, the 8-footers sat quietly vacant and lonely.

That was before ADHD. Apparently, victims may become obsessed with a video game and seriously think their virtual world is more legitimate than their analog world.

Recently, psychologists confirmed video game addicts have made a choice to simply give up on actual reality and existentially place themselves in a fantasy where they are not alleged to be less than others but are rather, characters on a quest for greatness.

But, aren’t we all on a quest for greatness?

How is it the path to greatness offered by mastering pool’s challenges, for instance, are ignored by so many, some even to the point of being addicted to an escape from reality? For whatever reason, given a room full of analog game tables and digital game consoles, too many go digital and too few chose analog.

For almost 100-years, western science has studied what motivates humans. Maslow said there is a hierarchy of needs, and each need has motivators and de-motivators, and we are all the same but all different, so what motivates us or not is a complex situation.

When our simple human brains try to define the complexity, the tendency is to organize it in a way that makes it appear digital. It either is, or it is-not. Now, it turns out recent science proves we are not digital ourselves, and we do not think digitally.

Science was really hopeful we were digital, because it would make us predictable, and maybe controllable, based on logical cause and effect. But darn it, we’re human, and science is not entirely amused about it.

We exist in and are ourselves a complete spectral range of foggy-ness peppered with bright lights and dark shadows of colors, excitement, intrigues, and an occasional clear vision. We’re all like dogs on a hunt or a fast game of 8-ball.

The digital world is only capable of pretending to be reality, but it isn’t. It is objective; humans are not.

Critics of video games report positive behaviors among patients being treated for digital addiction. The behaviors are conditioned by the game played, and while otherwise considered social may be experienced without any relationship to another human. Instead, social interaction is pretended with a character in a video game programmed to respond based on a digital logic algorithm that science now proves, after fifty-years of trying, can never replicate how a brain works or mind thinks.

Pool, however, does not pretend to replicate the human mind. It requires the human mind to apply whatever version of cause it may effect or otherwise, there is no game.

Pool is entirely real, even when played “between the ears.” Like any human, it is not digital. It is like video games, but it is not pretend reality. Pool’s brutal drama is real. Its social relationship is real. The challenge of greatness and of perfection is real.

Copyright all John Woods 2009/2010

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