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Andy Richardson: Breaking the addiction of hours spent popping bricks

A few years ago, She Who Must Be Obeyed got home from work late. It was 11pm. She found me on the sofa clutching my mobile phone. The battery was at 3 per cent and my face was illuminated by the dull reflection of the phone.

“Don’t interrupt. I’m getting a highest score.”
“Don’t interrupt. I’m getting a highest score.”

“What. Are. You. Doing?” she asked of a man, who realised it was way past his bedtime and who knew the excuse ‘waited up for you, darling’ wouldn’t wash.

Now, perhaps this is the moment where my partner-radar wasn’t working properly, I’m not sure. Perhaps it was the moment when I should have said: ‘Nothing dear,’ and dashed to the kitchen to make a restorative cup of tea.

Instead, I said: “Don’t interrupt. I’m getting a highest score.”

My brain, thankfully, soon kicked into gear and I apologised for my crassness, while dashing to the kettle quicker than Usain Bolt in a 2012 Olympic Final.

The truth, as she soon discovered, was that I’d found an amazing computer game that had pinned me to the sofa for a full seven hours. It was the telephone equivalent of being ambushed by cake at a 10 Downing Street Party – I know, we’re still banging on about that, but, seriously, who gets ambushed by cake? And who gets ambushed by a computer game?

So I did the only thing I could do in the circumstances. I deleted the game. Gone. Forever. Adios, Brick and Balls, or whatever you were called. There will be no more lying there, for seven hours on a computer game, when I could be tidying the house, getting fit, keeping in touch with friends or finding some other way to spend time productively.

And so my attentions were diverted to the less thrilling pursuit of Bubble Pop, though my devotion was similarly unstinting.

Most people wouldn’t be proud of themselves at having reached level 3,156 on a computer game – and that’s not hyperbole, that’s the actual level I’ve reached.

It’s taken a full four days and 19 hours – or 115 continuous hours, to be precise.

Think of all the fat I could have burned by swapping walking or jogging or swimming or cross training for playing computer games.

But it’s too late now.

She Who Must Be Obeyed was browsing the interweb. And an evil search engine sensed this would be a weak moment.

So, having stayed clear of the crack cocaine of phone games, it plonked an ad telling me Brick and Balls was missing me. Could we get back together, just for old time’s sake?

It wouldn’t hurt. We could just hang out, you know, nothing serious. Take it slow and see where it goes.

I downloaded. I installed. I found myself clearing 80 levels in the space of 24 hours, during which time normal routines were cast to the wind as I fell into some sort of semi-comatose state. Just before I deleted it – for the second and, I hope, last time – She Who Must Be Obeyed switched off the light.

“I could literally sit here, playing this, until 3am,” I confessed. “I could literally fall asleep for a few hours, phone in hand, then wake up and carry on playing it.”

I was similarly decisive about quitting smoking – man, why did I ever smoke? Silk Cut led to Marlboro Red before common sense kicked in and I substituted my smoking habit with the consumption of a small bottle of vodka each evening, until I thought better of that, too.

Maybe there’s an addictive personality trait lurking beneath the skin. Who can say?

So it’s over for Brick and Balls and I. We’ve decided on what Chris Martin calls a conscious uncoupling. There’ll be no more lying on the sofa killing time as the gentle hum of popped bricks soothes my troubled mind. I won’t watch the flashing lights like a kid at the fairground, eyes agog, any longer. We’ve gone our separate ways, we’re no longer on talking terms, Brick And Balls is just somebody that I used to know.

Mind you, if I ever find myself away for a few days, working far from home, stuck in some dead end Premier Inn, then maybe we could… No, no, no.

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