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Norwalk Neighbors: Games People Play

NORWALK, Conn. — After spending a lot of time in waiting rooms and standing in lines this week, I’ve discovered that people don’t just wait around anymore, staring off into space. They’re gaming. It used to be just teens and kids were the ones with their thumbs flying across their phone screens — but not anymore.

Seemingly mature adults are completely caught up in games. During the Great Depression, Monopoly was invented and credited with cheering up folks. Will Angry Birds or Fruit Ninja be remembered as our diversions during this deep recession?” Whatever the game, it’s clear this isn’t just kid stuff anymore.

Adults are passionate about their games. Waiting at Costco’s pharmacy in Norwalk, Dave Lyon of West Norwalk said, “I just love that I can play a game on my phone. I play solitaire. It calms your nerves and helps you forget that you’ve spent such a long time waiting. My wife plays Scrabble on her phone with her friends. The phone rings, and it’s someone ready to play her in a game. But the really popular game is Angry Birds. That one is crazy.”

Linda of Wolfpit Avenue played Angry Birds on a car ride back from Boston. “I am not really a game player, but that game is addicting. It’s a stupid premise: You shoot birds trapped in a cage with another bird in a slingshot to try to get the birds free. It’s stupid, really stupid, but you can- not stop playing once you get started. I first noticed it at my kids’ sports events. All the parents were playing it. So, I wanted to try it. Everybody is playing games. Even my 80-year-old mother enjoys playing games. She likes playing solitaire on an iPad.”

For Scoutmaster Arnold Feintuck of Darien, his game is Jig Saw. “I spend a half-hour everyday playing Jig Saw on my computer.  It’s my ‘veg’ time. I take a little time out for myself and work on the puzzles.” Arnold added, “It reduces stress, and I need that time.” In fact, inside the scout cabin is a sign: Caution Adults At Play.

Entrepreneur Trish Hayde of Hunter’s Lane is also a game player. “I love it. Keeps the mind sharp. I play with friends and strangers. I think the best is that I play my mom. You know, you can chat as well while you play. Great way to keep your loved ones occupied. Best thing is, it keeps me from munching at night!”

Letty Helgans of Darien plays solitaire and Scrabble on her Kindle or Blackberry. “I love it when I’m just waiting around or when my family is all together watching sports. I don’t have the patience to sit through a whole baseball game, but I like the company of my family, so I just play a game while they’re watching TV. It’s a chance to rest my eyes and relax. But it is addicting. My kids tease me and call my Blackberry, the Crackberry!”

When Sue Lynne Van Deventer of Norwalk sat down to have lunch with friends, one chided her to turn off her game. Her friend knows that Sue Lynne loves word games. The two start each day with a game. Sue Lynne said, “I downloaded many apps to my iPhone, and many were games much to my chagrin. I started with Fruit Ninja, then Angry Birds. My new favorite is, of course, Words With Friends, a knockoff of Scrabble. It just goes to show how we entertain ourselves in this cyber-age. The smart phone has revolutionized the way we spend our waiting time. We no longer have to stare off into space when waiting in line. We can keep ourselves occupied with all of our addictive games. It's fun but less personal than chatting up the person in front of you. I couldn't say which is better."

It is hard to say, particularly because gamers made a remarkable discovery this week. Gamers, in just 10 days, solved a molecular puzzle that has stumped scientists and supercomputers for more than a decade. These gamers may have unlocked a key that could lead to a significant breakthrough in AIDS and HIV research. These gamers were playing Foldit, an online game developed by a research team at the University of Washington. It was a lucky day for science that no one scolded them to turn off that game. Go Gamers!

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