Thursday, November 29, 2012

B-I-N-G-O

For the past couple of months, I've been playing Bingo online, using an app that I downloaded for the iPad.  Just tonight, I got an "award" for having won 100 Bingos, so you know that I've been playing it for awhile.  The website has Bingo in any number of permutations, based on the season or the cluster of numbers or the speed of the game or the chances of winning.
It isn't for money.  The only thing that I can win is the "chips" to play more games of Bingo.  

The version that I have settled on is a fast-paced game where all 5 numbers drop at once and you have to place your daubs pretty quickly before the next round drops down.  I like the speed and the kind of race against time.  It also means that people can get Bingos pretty quickly.  

Today's game of Bingo, in case you haven't played it in a long time, like most every other "free" game that is coming out for the iPhone and iPad these days, includes any number of power-ups that increase your chances of winning.  So a  combination of filled squares can get you, for example, a couple of squares that contain "Instant Bingo," meaning that if that number comes up, you win automatically, regardless of what other squares you have filled.

My daughter doesn't get it.  She saw me playing one day and remarked, "So there's really no skill involved at all.  It's just luck."  That's right, just a game of chance.  That's what attracts me and that's what says to her that Bingo is pointless.  

A game of chance.  That is a bit of a misnomer.  Better put, Bingo, like a slot machine, like any number of dice games, is a game against chance.  It's an opportunity to beat chance, to outduel fate, to overcome the odds, to defy logic.  

You know, the older you get, the more the odds are against you.  

Maybe that's why this mindless game is so appealing.  Because it isn't just luck.  There's a certain amount of speed involved.  Each game of Bingo on this website allows for a certain number of Bingos to be won, depending on how many people are playing at that time.  So if you win an early Bingo, it's fairly leisurely, but if you are fighting for one of the late Bingos and any number of anonymous contestants from around the world are waiting for the same number you are to go Bingo, then whoever sees the number and punches the square fastest wins.  There's something gratifying in beating those other people out.  Pavlov said it would be like this, right?

There's also a bit of a Bingo community.  You see the same names in the same rooms.  There's a scrolling chat option where people wear out the smiley faces and all of that like nobody's business.  I don't participate in that.  I just play Bingo.

And there's another aspect to the competition--like every other phone/tablet game these days, there's an opportunity to play better/faster/longer if you are willing to spend money.  I'm not.  So part of my challenge is managing the number of games I can buy but not overdoing it so that I can rack up various "freebies" which will give me a chance to play more later.  It's all about timing rewards and delaying gratification and not going all in if I start to lose.  Because it's hard to make up as much by winning as it costs to play.  That's how they get you.  They think that you'll get so into it that you'll run through all of your "chips" and decide to buy more.

Not me.  I can wait.  I can wait for days, if necessary, collecting the free chips that come from signing on each day until I have built up quite a war chest and can manage my games and my power-ups quite effectively so that I have my best chance of winning when I do play.

Of course, it's all silliness, like any game of chance, and if/when I play it in a sustained way, attrition will take its toll and I will lose.  But that is why we play games of chance, right?  To experience those times when there is no logical reason why we should win, but we do anyway, and we win just enough to forget about all of the times that we have lost in between.  That's life, isn't it?  

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