A little known corollary of one of Newton's laws states that the amount of fun a handheld object generates will quadruple every 2 years. By that count kids today are having about 18 million times the fun that I had growing up. Fun, during those childhood years, depended on the availability of certain things - a messy toy, an active imagination or at minimum, an irritable elder sibling. As a result on boring vacation afternoons, you could either do your holiday homework (the first oxymoron I inadvertently learnt) or worse, watch UGC programming on DD.
That was until the introduction of the handheld,technological revolution that was the ball maze. I never knew what it was called back then and I cant remember what I would call it when telling my mom that I lost it. Maybe that is why I never got in trouble for losing it - how can you lose something that never existed? But I digress. You know what I mean - round, plastic casing, transparent plastic window looking into a maze trapping two or more steel balls. Hours of my childhood were spent trying to defeat gravity and jittery hands in guiding those lonely balls to join the party at the center of the maze. If I got too irritated, I could just shake the thing hard and transfer my irritation to the elders. Alternatively I could just break the plastic on top and add those two balls to my growing collection of small, shiny metal balls. Later - go back to the exhibition, point to that round thing with my hand, rinse and repeat. I never counted how many of those balls I collected. Not enough would be my best guess.
The next stage of pocket playmates was with the somewhat strangely named water video game. At least my friends called it that and, caving to peer pressure, so did I. Since there was no video involved, the etymology remains suspect. If the ball maze taught one that intense concentration without success led to irritation, the water video game imparted the great lesson of patience. The rather simple interface consisted of a rectangular, water filled plastic case and one large, rubber button, only a little unlike the interface of a fruity phone. Depressing the button caused some behind the scenes magic and the water reacted by churning and causing tiny plastic rings to float up. Did I mention transparent plastic window looking into the water? There was one so you could watch in amazement as the rings would go up and then float down in extreme slow motion and in the process, attempt to drop over the swords of two vertically affixed swordfish. The objective was to somehow make sure you get the most number of rings on the stick..er.. sword. My strategy was to start off by applying violent pressure to the button and then praying fervently. Did I say that this was a variety of handheld fun? I apologize. This was clearly in the category of ancient Chinese water torture. The first part of my strategy of course soon led to the tearing of the button and the water would be reclaimed by the parched Chennai atmosphere with the same speed that a tanker full of water is drained into colored plastic pots. Turns out water was also the source of fun for this game and into the trash it went. To make life more pleasant, I had to revert to trapping strange worms and lots of leaves in horlick's bottles in the hope that they'd grow into butterflies or at least moths. Sadly, I wasn't allowed to carry that around in my pocket.
We can now play first person shooters and racing simulators in mind bending color on a device that is smaller than my water video game and the interactivity is at such a level that you can grow dogs virtually, let alone caterpillars. I am not jealous. In fact if there is one thing I've learnt, it is that nostalgia is infinitely marketable. My plan for world domination is to release the two games I described above as games for handheld devices and then watch them fly off the virtual shelves of app stores. However I am hoping there will be some magic happening between now and the release date so that these games automatically program themselves. I shall use the same strategy that I used while playing those games - concentrate intensely, wait and pray, fervently.
p.s The ball maze is already out - http://www.simiotica.com/index_amaze.html but I have high hopes for the water video game. Somewhere some kid is waiting to be taught patience.