By Delia Mizrahi
Whenever I’m on the edge of my seat, heart pounding fast, nervous about whatever’s around me, I always find comfort in my trusty phone games. In stressful situations, there are a range of simple games I switch between constantly. Yes, playing is a very solitary activity, but many were found through friends, family, and strangers. They act as a solution to my current problems. If that issue is a friend’s or family struggles, or just a bad day, my mobile games help fill that space. These games are non-consequential, I can step outside my comfort zone without any fear of backlash.
Card games have a particular way of calming me down. They make me get out of my head and simply forget what’s going on around me. I might choose my grandpa’s favorite, Solitaire, the one with the scary looking spider icon, or the quick paced Rummy 500 that my aunt drilled into my mind. But whatever it is they seem to have the same effect.
On a flight home from Washington D.C., I couldn’t seem to fall asleep. I was nervous about going to school the next day, with the end of the year looming, finals and high school coming closer each day. And I was hopped up on the memories made from a school trip. So out came my phone. On that flight I beat my time record of single deck Spider, a game where you organize each suit in a deck from king to ace. It calmed me down, and I was able to give up and start over at any time. And I did. That led me to completing a round in two minutes and twenty-eight seconds. When I got home I rushed to tell my mom about this new accomplishment. She let me feel high and mighty for the night, but a few days later I was on her phone and I noticed something. Her single deck time record was two minutes and ten seconds. Eighteen seconds better than mine. To this day, I haven’t been able to beat that, despite all my trying.
At the beginning of sixth grade I found myself in a whole new world. I was attending an all-girls school. It was my first time switching schools, against my better judgment, and I didn’t have very many friends. I was worried about the unknown of the future and I didn’t have anyone to share those fears with. Middle school had always been talked about as a place to fear, something to avoid, so how was I supposed to go at that alone? That was the year I found Extreme Car Driving Simulator. It’s set in a little city and country-side where you drive around and complete checkpoints. The cars were fast and could be thrown around without any fear of losing the game. There was no real objective in the game, except “Go fast.” This satisfied my ever-present need to drive and filled the empty moments of middle school.
Some of these games offered a solution to my inability to take risks and step out of my comfort zone. I was always a fan of the X-Games. I would watch skateboarding videos for years before I was even able to balance on one. And when I did, I was always too scared to do any of the real tricks I would see the pros do. Stickman Skater satisfied this lack of ability. I led a stick figure through cities and towns, skating on all that was visible. I’d kickflip from the top of a stair set, to the top of a taxi, where I’d boardslide all the way to the end of the track. All from the safety of my room! Despite the crazy tricks I could make the little man on my screen do, I wasn’t as skilled of a skater. But that didn’t stop me from constantly trying. I would ride and ride, trying to ollie, kickflip, and just try to get off the ground. But I could never seem to bring the board with me. I found comfort in knowing that I had completed the levels of the game, despite my poor skills in real life.
Once, my older sister, Lena, and I found ourselves on our first trip out of the country and the longest flight we’d ever been on. I didn’t sleep for the whole twelve hours; neither did she. We were both too excited about what lay ahead. During a good portion of the flight we watched a young man in the next row play a game where a character navigates through obstacles in the jungle. We finally caught a glimpse of the name, Temple Run. The first thing we did upon landing was download the new game. Lena got the first game, and I got the second. It was tricky, had cool graphics, and it was about something I could never even think about doing in real life. I loved it instantly. For the rest of the trip Temple Run followed us everywhere, through the busy streets of a foreign country, restaurants packed with people speaking Spanish, and the clean rooms we found at the end of every day. With Temple Run the long flight home didn’t feel so long anymore.
All day long, I reach into my pocket for these games. They are non-judgmental, I can mess up and start over, with no consequences. These individual moments provide a break from the competitive real world around me. They’re always there and know exactly how to make me chill out. They are my safety blanket. The more I spend time with them, the more I trust them and rely on them in difficult situations. These mobile games will never leave the comfort of my home screen. They will always travel around with me, a little like old friends who know me well.
Southern California resident Delia Mizrahi is one of the winners in NYVGCC’s nationwide Fair Game Writing Challenge.