Nose to the Grindstone

First, a note on my experimental literature monthly project. Taking on a new, totally unexpected freelance position has suddenly reduced my spare time to almost zero, and I’m scrambling to regain balance between my work and personal lives. Unfortunately, that’s also meant that the several writing side projects I’ve had going have taken the brunt, and at least in regards to the monthly thing I mentioned, there was no way hit my goal completion date of July 6.

This is what the hypertext project looks like so far, but it should easily have four to five times that number of segments to be considered bare-bones-complete. The only work I’m able to do on it currently is to think very hard about what exactly I’d like to say through each character, but that’s sufficient til things calm down a little.

I have learned, however, that if I want to limit each project to a single month I’ll need to either set a much smaller end goal and/or try to get them done in sprints. I’d been considering using an Inform interactive fiction project I’d already started for the month of July, but maybe instead a digital comic, created in a single day a la 24 Hour Comics Day?

As part of this new hustle, all of my recreational game playing has also come to a complete standstill, because I have to hold on very tight to what little free time I have. I’ve been “playing” Tiny Tower, which isn’t a game as much as a tower/business management sim with cute graphics.

The game itself is built on the model that Nimblebit discovered is the most effective, which is to release a free game and offer in-app purchases; people who wouldn’t be willing to shell out that initial .99 are more than happy to pay $20 to speed things along using “Tower Bux”. It’s possible to play without buying bux, but things move more slowly the higher the tower climbs (restocking, new residents moving in, etc). And it’s perpetual, with businesses constantly selling and needing restocking and selling again.

Perhaps it’s a combination of my own gamer classification and my extreme wariness of the Zynga performance-reward dynamic, but I can’t decide how I feel about it. There’s no specific goal in Tiny Tower other than “build the biggest tower ever” and nothing to really do except tap floors to restock things or build new businesses.

What I’m wondering is, is it worth investing my time in a diversion with no tangible reward? (Not to suggest it isn’t fun – as a kid, I hated spending quarters on arcade games that didn’t shell out a prize, like a bouncy ball or piece of gum and I guess I’m still kind of the same way. Weirdo!) Tiny Tower works well enough right now, when I don’t have time to invest in games that require more active participation. But I know that when I do figure out that balance in my life and reclaim some of my free time, 1) I will eventually abandon my tower, and 2) I don’t really mind that outcome.

Still, I’m accepting that it’s okay to just be idle sometimes, so I’m not too fussed. But my next problem is, when do I stop playing this thing? Do I wait until I’ve hit 30 floors, or 50? Is it fair to ply me emotionally with the lives of the tower residents (who post their funny thoughts to their own “Bitbook” feed), if I’m just going to resign them to the darkness when all the businesses run out of stock for the final time?

Kind of like my work situation, in which I have multiple options but don’t know what direction I’m going to be taking in a few months, with Tiny Tower I’m learning to function in a kind of enforced here and now, with no known reward to look forward to, and only the checking-over of my work at the end of each day to mark my progress. Not a bad thing, but different.

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