I’m going to let you in on a secret: I am obsessed with the game Dots. Maybe you have heard of it or seen it in the App Store, not that either would make my addiction more legitimate. Dots was my go-to game in middle school on my blue iPhone 5C, and I would spend hours a day connecting the stupid but beautiful colored dots together and removing them from the board. The app is simple and sleek in design: a plain white background, over which the red, blue, yellow, green, and purple dots do their magic. At the risk of sounding like a total deadbeat, I must admit that my screen time on Dots—even with the one-hour daily limit I have (though frequently ignore) on the app—is far more than my screen time on any of the other major culprits that kill hours of my day. Yes, that means I spend more hours per day staring at tiny, colored dots on my phone than I do watching TikToks, FaceTiming friends, or sending and reading text messages.
Currently, there is no better feeling in the world to me than creating a square of same-colored dots that causes my phone to vibrate and thus eliminates all dots of that color from the board. I’m not sure why my euphoria comes from recreating seventh-grade swipesations on a touchscreen; alas, here we are. Maybe it is the intoxicating combination of nostalgia, gamer’s high, a compulsive need to constantly best myself, and the simple pleasure that exists in this beautifully simple game. Whatever is causing my obsession, I cannot seem to get enough.
Deep down, I know that in a week’s time I will likely have forgotten that Dots ever existed. The app will be deleted from my phone, and it could very well be another decade before the game even crosses my mind again. I wish I could say that Dots is special—that, like love at first sight, Dots and I are meant to be. And what a great story we—Dots and I—would have: Years after we first parted ways, the iconic duo is reunited, now better than ever, ready to set world records and achieve greatness. Sadly, I know all too well that this story is a short one. I may be pretty darn good at the game; I should be, considering the number of hours of professional training in dot-connecting I have per day. But, like all of my other obsessions in life, this is just another fad, and the dopamine of Dots will soon be all but gone.
And it probably should. My college-aged, farsighted eyes cannot usually handle hours of staring at a screen that radiates blue light and makes my head throb. I am not sure why I play Dots through that pain until it becomes an unbearable migraine from which I must hide under my covers in the dark in dead silence to recover. Nevertheless, I go through it all, time and time again, just to experience the pure ecstasy of a successful round of Dots.
I sometimes wonder if I just have an insanely addictive personality, or if others endure similarly intense yet meaningless phases—ones that people can move on from as quickly as they can become all-consumed by them. As far as I go on Dots, I will surely be onto something new in just a blip—hopefully ones that are not on my phone screen, for the sake of my tired and chronically-strained eyes.
To an outsider, it may seem like lunacy to discuss colored dots so extensively, let alone play the game for hours a day. But to me, Dots is a lifestyle—until I drop it all for whatever is to come, that is. I may love Dots so unabashedly today, but, tomorrow, I may live my life as though it never mattered to me. But this is no fault of Dots, nor mine. I am not a disloyal person. Dots was designed to captivate people like me, those walking through one door of life and into the next. Dots is a segue between beautiful moments in life: the silent waiting as the bus arrives at your stop, the antsy excitement in a Broadway theater right before showtime, the laying on the grass on a sunny day between classes. In the space between the colored dots, in the blank whiteness behind them, I find a million years of bliss. I am reminded of the tween girl I once was, who experienced the same simple joy I experience today from this simply perfect game.
Like all of the other activities I make the entirety of my existence for several days, weeks, and sometimes even months, the allure of Dots is in exploring the uncharted. I work to set new records for myself, discover every hidden pattern to develop strategy and skill, and feel the intense satisfaction that comes with each successful execution. Dots, unlike Two Dots, the newer version of Dots with countless levels and new challenges, is a straightforward game that demands mastery of the fundamentals. While games like Candy Crush or Two Dots perhaps appeal to some in providing a variety of gameplay, I find them cheap, unoriginal, and boring. Dots is classic, timeless, and elegant, and I am currently committed to learning all the ins and outs of the game in order to master the simple art of connecting the dots.
In a trance induced by a multi-sensory symphony of vibrations, symmetrical rectangular formations, and perfect dot alignments, I feel Dots is one of my more justifiable obsessions. I see what my younger self once saw in Dots, as the uncomplicated but oh-so-satisfying game scratches every corner of my neurodivergent brain. I allow myself to completely lean into the craze of Dots so that I can squeeze out every last bit of pleasure from the game. Just like the platitude says about the people in our lives, my intense interests come into my life for a season, a reason, or a lifetime. In my case, the seasons of my interests tend to be very short-lived. I think that by accepting that Dots likely won’t be here for the long haul shouldn’t change how I currently feel about the game. At this moment, Dots is everything I need in a pastime, and my worries blissfully melt away every time my screen lights up at the formation of a new square. Even if tomorrow Dots becomes exactly that—a simple collection of colored dots on my screen, as it once did in middle school—I can live with that, knowing that whatever shiny, new interest takes its place will serve me just as well. As good to me as Dots has been, I know that the obsessions yet to come will bring me new joys, satisfactions, and dopamine boosts of their own. I just need to continue basking in all that is exciting and uncharted.
Maybe my current phase is almost over, or maybe this is only the beginning. Either way, I am grateful to Dots for the here and now.
Until we meet again, Dots, Dots, Dots.