What’s the Level You Just Can’t Beat?

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Last weekend I was supposed to be doing something, and while I was supposed to be doing it I was actually playing GeoDefense. Specifically I was playing Level 13 (out of 14) in the Hard group of levels.

It’s called Twister. It’s shaped sort of like the funnel of a tornado. The little tagline you get before you play it is “I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore.”

Get it? See, that’s a reference to the Wizard of Oz. Which has a tornado in it.

That this has ceased to be amusing to me is partly a function of the fact that I have spent more time playing the Twister level of GeoDefense than I’ve spent on a lot of entire games. Something about that level is just perfectly calibrated to defeat the problem-solving machinery in my brain.I must have played Twister at least 150 times. I’ve played it on the subway, while talking on the phone, while walking down the street. If I could have played Twister while playing Twister? I would have.

I mean, I get it. You’ve got long straightaways, so you set up laser towers at the ends. Chink all the angles with those green cannons that are good at swiveling. Promote the top laser to Level 3 quickly, so you can lock it in one direction when you need to. Forget about the missile towers — too expensive, and the missiles are too slow to chase down the quicker creeps, and the weird round creeps repel missiles anyway. (Whoever beat Twister in the screenshot we borrowed obviously has other theories.)

I get the theory. I just couldn’t make it work. I even skipped ahead and beat Level 14, Crazy Straw, without having beaten Twister, which goes against my personal Warrior Code. Then I went back.

I don’t even know why I kept playing it. I don’t think “fun” would accurately describe the experience I was having. But I had to beat it. I knew that it was beatable — because, duh — and I would prove to whoever designed it (who would never know or care) that I could beat it. Beating it would mean absolutely nothing to anybody, not even me. But I sank hours into it. Hours I could have spent developing a vaccine to cure leprosy. But no. I had to beat Twister.

And then I did. I didn’t do anything radical. It was just a matter of getting the balance right, and moving quick to build/promote towers when the action heated up and I had resources to burn. That’s it. I sat in my armchair and I beat it.

I felt good for about, oh, 20 seconds. My brain released about 4 molecules of endorphins. MISSION ACCOMPLISHED.

Then I went back to Level 1 and tried to beat my high score. Sometimes being a gamer is like being a character in a Beckett play that nobody’s watching.