I'm addicted to Dots, the oddly simple iPhone game that's like an interactive Damien Hirst painting. You have sixty seconds to clear as many dots from the screen as you can; there are no bells or whistles, just dots. Still, Dots has lessons to teach. Here are ten.
1. Sometimes, to make a square of one color, you have to get rid of some dots of a different color. In other words: To solve one problem, you might have to tackle a different one first.
2. Eliminating dots willy-nilly will drive up your score, but not as much as strategically playing so that you can create as many squares as possible. Lesson: Consider the big picture when making decisions.
3. Using shrinkers can help you eliminate dots, making it easier to create squares and push up your score. But buying shrinkers will cost you some dots. It's worth it, though. Just like in life. You have to lose before you gain — or maybe it takes money to make money?
4. When you think you're running out of time, you're not: Time Stops will give you five more seconds. You may not be able to stop time in real life, but you can usually find a little more time if you really need to get something done. No deadline is fixed. Changing one, however, may cost you. Is it worth it? Only you know the answer. If your high score is 400 and you're at 399 with only three seconds left, you just might be able to top your score by adding five more seconds. Boom: New high score.
5. Sometimes you start out ahead of the game. Every now and then, your game begins with a square already set up for you. This happens in life, too: There are times when you luck out, and find everything just works. Take this for what it is: Luck. Be grateful. You had nothing to do with it, yet you get to reap the rewards!
6. Sometimes you're dealt a crappy hand. Fold. Start over. If the dots are just not working out, there's no shame in hitting "Score" and then "Restart." This is America. Starting over is part of your pursuit of happiness. Don't feel bad about it. This includes changing careers, moving to a new country, breaking up with your hairdresser. You have the right to start over!
7. Relax! If you're too tense/too intense, you won't see the squares right in front of you. And if you swipe too quickly, you accidentally might not touch all of the dots in your square. (This has happened to me too many times.) Just like in life: When you're stressed out and rushing, you're more likely to make stupid mistakes. Breathe, do what you need to do, and do it properly.
8. Expander dots are useless. There's no life lesson here, it just seems like the expander function has no real benefit or purpose. WTF.
9. The more you do something, the better you are. The more you play Dots, the better you get. Your high score climbs for a reason. Practice, repetition and experience leads to skill, just like playing the piano, shooting hoops or applying eyeliner. In the immortal words of Madonna, "experience has made me rich and now they're after me."
10. Sometimes things do not line up the way you want them to. You do what you can to move things around, and still, it just doesn't work. Nothing aligns, your score is crappy, such is life. It's not you, it's the way the world works. Move on. (Or see #6 and start over!)
Image by Jim Cooke.