Lately I’ve been Puzzle Quest-ing for my health, jumping on the treadmill whenever I want to game. Possessing one of those mediocre minds that becomes bored quite easily, in order to exercise efficiently for any length of time requires a distraction, some outlet for my mind as my body goes about the business of toning itself. Movies or the morning’s SportsCenter typically satisfies most folks, but in this case predictable plots haunt most of the cable HBOs. And sports just bore me, thus reminding me of my legs, the sweat, and that gnawing pain in my lungs.
The difficulty in this activity of course is finding the right game, as all do not apply themselves well to the constant motion and noise associated with cardio-exercise. Castlevania: Symphony of the Night worked quite well as did other 2-D platformers. Story-based RPGs found me jumping off the treadmill in order to listen to dialogue. Initiating the intricate commands of Street Fighter or fast-paced headshots of Call of Duty while your body (literally) is in motion left me crippled, dying from zombie bites or roundhouse fireball to the face. Duct-taping the Rock Band drums to the adjacent bookcase, I nearly stabbed myself with the sticks.
PuzzleQuest requires little in the way of ‘game learning:’ no intricate controls, combos, or plot-driven cyphers to memorize. Players match jewels, skulls, and coins and use the collected matches to hurl spells at zombies, ogres, and minotaurs. The thrill in itself is simple: the cascading gems chime out bonus points, extra turns, and created weaponry. Control in hand, I could run for hours and never notice what had so completely distracted my lower half, while my thumb successfully cast bolt lightning and saved the world.
My motivations for exercise requires some explanation. Outside the obvious drive to remain healthy and mobile, reducing the fate of one day donning pants fashioned from sizable circus tents, I fear an abscess of sloth might reduce or stymie my desire to write effectively. That’s one excuse at any rate. The primary drive is purely competitive in nature: as Dasad strives everyday to run, leap, and even doggie-paddle during his free time, training for various club sports and other sweat-inducing activities, I dare not let that bum get too fit, too fast. He might actually acquire the energy and quickness to beat me in Tekken, and that I can never allow.
Lately my friend has joined that special clique of Americans that run marathons and jogs in the wee hours of the day in tight shorts. You might notice him or one of his brethren racing along the shoulder at three in the morning or seven o’clock at night, florescent tags stapled to their Speedos, faces flush with sweat and exhaustion. I often wonder what runners consider while retracing their respective trails every morning. Don’t they get bored after a while? I’d be sorely tempted after fifteen minutes to find myself something new, pausing on a park bench to consider the scenery, the stars, or the scents wafting from the corner Starbucks. Indeed I cannot criticize their focus, but certainly my ADD would not be able to suffer the repetitious movements, the struggle against muscle and fat, the absence of meaningful words scattered among the neighborhood woodlands.
For what purpose, I ask you? Why do we pay the monthly fees for gyms, the twenty-first century equivalent of a torture chamber? Health of course is the obvious answer, forever linked with suffering and physical pain. The digital realm and the computer, a god in its own right, demands the daily sacrifice of time, energy, and those size 36 pants you’ve kept since college. Unlike our ancestors, we work not to survive. The dinosaurs are extinct; Nature’s predators are stored away in zoo or protected by countless government edicts; even Maryland deer bounce off the sides of our Excursion as we cruise up the road to the grocer’s for milk. The Wild is conquered. We run not to survive another day, but to avoid fusing with our sofas.
Thus, with the snow building outside and my mind now fully awake, my body creaks and groans, demanding exercise. I shall grab my shoes and hop on the treadmill, controller in hand. Until they begin cloning dinosaurs, this is the best I can do.