Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Brickbreaker - Mindless Amusement or Viscious Addiction

I am not sure how this relates to venture finance or entrepreneurship, but I'm sure I'll find some connection along the way. Perhaps, it's that old joke:

Q: What two industries call their customers "users"?
A: Technology companies and Drug dealers

While the fall semester is in full swing, summer doesn't officially end for another few days. Still a good time to revisit what I did over my summer vacation. One thing I spent too much time doing was playing Brickbreaker, the only game that is part of the standard blackberry deck. Brickbreaker is an incredibly mindless game that can be played in spare moments on line, at airports, during boring conference calls, etc. For those of you fond of 1970's nostalgia, the game is similar to the Atari game, Breakout, that was a sequel to Pong. I recall playing this on one of the early Atari systems when I was a teenager.

The object is to knock down rows of bricks by hitting a ball with a paddle that can be moved by the wheel on the device. You start the game with three "lives" but can accumulate many more as you play and advance through the levels. After 34 levels, you start again at level 1 and continue. The game can be stopped and started at any time. In those spare moments, I manged to keep the same game going for several months over the summer and reached a score of 509,090 when I decided it was time to quit and let my remaining lives (somewhere north of 100) die.

The other interesting feature of the game is that you can submit your high score through the device and see where you rank on the list. My score was #471. It did not show how many scores were on the list, but given the number of blackberrys in the market, it has to be a big number. But that begs the question, Who are these other 470 people? Do they have jobs? How much abuse can the wheel on a blackberry take?

I didn't find the answer to any of these questions, but did run across a blog, Brickbreaker Conquest, that shed some light on the question. Here are a couple of those folks:

I’ve been playing my current game for about a month now. My current score is 1,376,500 with 378 lives remaining. My goal is to get in the top ten and then kill myself off. I’m spending way too much time on this thing and frankly has been an addiction worse than crack! Somebody help me! Seriously, I am having a blast knowing that I am going to be in the top ten in the world pretty soon!

For all you that can’t believe the scores out there, it is possible. I recently broke through the 2×34 level barrier. It took a few months of practice. Once you get past the second round, there are no more bragging rights. Actually the more points you boast, the more you should be scorned for frittering away your life. The game isn’t challenging and becomes boring, a way to pass time only. So if you’ve made it past the second round, pat yourself on the back and forget the game. You’ll be better for it. ps my score is currently 303,070 with 59 lives (no cheats used). Sigh….. This %$#^%$ addiciton!

Back to my point at the beginning of the post. I'm still not actually sure what this says about new venture opportunities, but there are a few points that came to mind:

  • Stabilitly of mobile platform - Can you imagine using your PC and not having it crash once in several months? Maybe if you have a MAC, but I've never gotten that kind of stability out of my PC.
  • Perhaps there is an opportunity in games for the non-serious gamer. I do have one investment in a company that has developed a platform for in game mobile advertising - Greystripe. They also run a site, Game Jump, that offers free games for mobile devices, many of which are similar style games, such as Tetris, Lego Bricks and Solitaire.
  • Finally, in Brickbreaker, the game becomes increasingly more difficult as you work through the first two series of levels, but once you pass in to the third series, it becomes very easy. Maybe this is trying to say that once you reach a certain level in an organization, work becomes easy and boring and it's time to leave and scratch that entrepreneurial itch...
Ok, I admit it. After a couple of weeks off, I have now started another game. See you at the twelve step program.


Anonymous said...

Hello Steve,

I am the host of brickbreakerconquest.com. I see you too have experienced what an addiction these games can become! That was a large part of why I started to blog.

Steve Bennet said...

Good to hear from you. I'm currently in recovery, but have jumped off the wagon a couple of times when I'm in a particularly long line or boring conference call....

Anonymous said...

That sounds about right!

I enjoy your post for obvious reasons. But it is also very interesting that you are looking for new ventures and using brickbreaker as an example in trying to uncover possible opportunities. I think there are a couple of very interesting points about brickbreaker, and other similar activities, that you haven't touched on...

Matthew Olivieri said...

HAHA Yes! After mulling over seemingly endless spreadsheets of data and complex formulas for either our financial projections or our databases, Brickbreaker represents the perfect mind numbing entertainment pause I require to keep from going insane.

Awesome article, Steve!!