Sliding Into Place

Played Out is a weekly reflection by Richard Clark about his time with mobile games, and the moments they intersect with life.

By: Richard Clark

Filed Under: Life Mobile Reflections


There are occasional moments playing OLO when the game is just a bit too even, or when defeat is inevitable, and it takes a jolt to take the win. Two players take turns flicking a disc across the screen, attempting to cause the disc to land somewhere in the same color zone as the disc, on the other side. It’s a minimalist game made up only of circles and rectangles, understated colors, and slight music and sound effects.

There is no power-move; no equivalent to a home-run or a 75 yard touchdown; only slow, methodical and careful sliding of discs. A lucky shot often looks the same as an incredibly clever and meticulously planned shot.

After several turns, one player inevitably finds it necessary to slam their disc through the playing field, dislodging any scored points in the way and causing chaos to take hold and readjust the status quo.

It’s bit-size terrorism: the loser blows up the whole playing field in order to reestablish things in his favor. Sometimes, if the right discs end up on the right side of the playing field, it’s a huge success, and sometimes, those discs end up somewhere else. That’s when you know you’ve failed. Essentially, the game’s trademark moments are made up of chaotic swipes, and the only strategy that matters is how you anticipate and respond to them.

A few months ago, one divine swipe sent my life into chaos and its different parts into several different directions. The dad’s death came at the tail end of a long and losing battle with cancer. The divorce was a quick end to years of troubled stand-offs and separations. Both of these things happening in the same week made it undeniably clear: my life was going to be different. All of the discs I had carefully placed were blown apart, left to scatter and collide against themselves and the walls that kept them close. It was only a matter of time before I found out if this would pan out in my favor or not.

Within a few weeks, I could see the changes playing out. I literally shifted from being an introvert to an extrovert, finding it hard to be alone in an empty house with no one aware of where I was or what I was doing. I started to embrace the independence that came with being single. I found more solace than ever in my faith and those who share my faith, and took on a more active role in my church. I found an extreme sense of purpose in what had before felt like a hobby or a pipe dream, and started to work hard to see if maybe, just maybe, I could be a writer or an editor. The assumptions and plans I’d held previously were exploded and dispersed, they collided and morphed, and they became something else entirely. The game had changed.

This past week, I could feel those changes sliding into place. While the previous weeks and months have felt a bit like a colliding and jostling series of random events and decisions, this week I felt my path straightening in front of me. I’m fine with a lack of resolution; I love the journey. But I hate not knowing what journey I’m on. But finally, I felt the discs glide into place and assurance take hold as all of the things that are important to me clicked into one another like cogs in a machine. My relationships, my career choices, and my faith all made cosmic sense.

When I play OLO, this game made up of nothing more than shapes and colors, I think about the power that chaos has over a life – how it can destroy or revive. I think about how, even when it seemed as if chaos had ruined every great set-up I had, those discs were still moving, readying themselves to bounce back and return. I can achieve much more through that one jolt than I ever thought possible.

[art credit]

Filed Under: Life Mobile Reflections

About the Author:
Richard Clark is the managing editor of Gamechurch, the editor-in-chief of Christ and Pop Culture, and a regular columnist at Unwinnable.

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