Every night it's the same forlorn ritual. I watch my TV, read my books, chase the cat into the bathroom and back ... all in a vain effort to fill the gaping emptiness inside. Invariably at some point my hands reach for the beloved black controller, where I try - even though I know it won't work, but still you never know - to log on to the online network of my Sony PS3 game console.
It's been seven days now - or is it 7,000? -- since the Sony Playstation network went down. We've since learned the company is taking the extreme step of rebuilding its network after a massive hacking attack. E-mail addresses, passwords, purchase history - and almost certainly credit card numbers - all sucked up by persons unknown.
I wish I could get riled up over this latest security breach - but honestly it's the third time in three years that I've received notification that my credit information may have been compromised. At this point in the digital age, I've become reconciled to the fact that lots of strangers are rummagging through the underwear drawer of my credit history.
What's truly disheartening about Sony's security fumble is how much I miss posting my best scores on the Sony network. And more insidiously, the addictive nature of video games.
My name is SunnyD11 and I am a Pixeljunk Monsters addict.
For those of you who don't know, Pixeljunk Monsters is probably the best game ever created in the history of the universe. It incorporates all the great themes of mankind's history - players build fortresses with their gold and kill monsters before they kill our babies.
Of course, like everything else in life, the devil is in the details. You only start out with a limited amount of gold. And there are different kinds of monsters that require different kinds of fortresses. A typical game goes like this: Buy two archer towers @100 gold each to kill the first wave of spiders; collect the gold that appears when the spiders die and buy one more cannon tower @120 gold to kill the giants; collect the gold (and blue gems to upgrade your fortresses) to buy beehive tower @450 gold to ward off mosquitoes, birds and bees; buy an electrical tower to electrocute the shielded monsters; etc.
If through error on your part, you fail to block the advancing waves of monsters, then one or more slip past your final defenses and start stomping around on the heads of your babies (or maybe they're villagers, but I think of them as my babies) until all 20 are dead. You lose. Or you win but with casualties.
Like most video games, if you're truly invested, then your heart is pounding, your neck muscles and shoulders are clenched, and the flow of blood is constricted to your hand. You come out of your trance when the pins and needles start pricking in your hand, or your muscles cramp or bladder swells.
It has occurred to me that my physical/mental experience on PixelJunk Monsters is quite similar to my job as homepage editor at CBSNews.com. When breaking news happens, I tweet this, ticker that, send a breaking news e-mail, rank a story on the front door, receive instant messages from producers and graphic artists, etc.
True confession: I think years of working in the news business have hardwired my brain to require this energy rush/adrenaline surge of multitasking. And when I get home my poor junkie brain turns to video games for another adrenaline fix.
It's not good.
After you've beaten all the levels, the next phase for those who are truly addicted is to start comparing your numbers to the gaming world at large. Which is where the Sony Playstation network comes in; we who are truly consumed eke out new satisfaction after we've beaten all the levels. We compare ourselves to Jonahbar, Blueskysarah, Fatima100, mandingo and the others who labor alone.
You're probably wondering why I can't continue playing the game, even if I can't log on to the network.
SunnyD11 refuses to play PixelJunk Monsters while the network is down because he knows that he will achieve a stellar, once-in-a-lifetime result and there will be no way to record it for posterity.
One of my coworkers notes that if you're wondering which credit card you might have registered on the Sony network, you can look through your old purchase e-mails from this sender DoNotReply@ac.playstation.net, which will reference the credit card you used with Sony network.
If like me, you're suffering a double whammy because you stream Netflix through your PS3, it's possible to connect a laptop to the TV and stream from your computer. I recently bought a laptop that had a HDMI port, and I simply disconnected the accursed PS3 and connected my laptop and streamed with quite good results to my TV.