Before there was Clicker Heroes or Adventure Capitalist, there was Defrag: the prototypical timewaster for the bored or disaffected PC gamer. SSDs have cost us dearly.
For years – the Windows 95 to XP years specifically – Windows Defrag was my hangover cure. Well, cure’s the wrong word, but certainly it was something I used to stare at for far too long on Sunday mornings as an effort-free attempt to distract myself from my self-poisoning. I’d gun it up and watch Windows try to put my whirring, chuntering system drive in order.
Distraction. Pain relief. Therapy. Enlightenment.
All those tiny rectangles flicking about and changing colour, creating some false sense of progress: that, after hours of this, my hard drive, hell, my whole PC, would become some roaring light-speed beast now that all its data was efficiently ordered.
Clearly, I projected myself onto this. My bruised brain slowly, painfully rebuilding itself, eventually reaching the point where I would feel able to rise from my chair and go make a cup of tea. That would be triumph.
‘Twas a silly thing; an insane waste of time whose results upon my hard drive were probably more placebo than actual. But I missed it when I moved to SSDs (and when defragging of the larger magnetic drives that I use for document/photo/video storage was a) not particularly necessary b) automated by Windows anyway), and it was only when I was fairly deep into number-clicker game Adventure Capitalist that I realised I was replicating the same habit a decade later.
An ever so slightly more interactive variant, yes, but really I was in the same place as I’d been with Defrag – willing a progress bar to max out, falsely convincing myself that some great reward awaited at the end of it. It never did, never does: it only goes on.
If there is an afterlife for me, I am quite sure that it will involve watching an infinite hard drive defrag forever.