I just deleted Temple Run from my phone. Not because the game is bad—far from it. Rather, I deleted it because it is perhaps the most maddeningly addictive piece of software that I have ever encountered. I would walk down the street staring into the screen, in the process bumping into people, stepping on cats, falling down stairwells, and yet still continuing to play. The premise of Temple Run is that you are an Indiana Jones-like character speeding away from what looks to be a pack of wild apes through a maze of ancient temple ruins. Along the way, you tilt the phone to collect coins and swipe left, right, or up to turn and jump.
While Temple Run is a “casual game,” it’s not a terribly casual experience to play it. Every moment requires your absolute attention. There are turns every second or so, and you must angle the character just so in order to collect coins. One second of inattention and – BAM – you’ve run off track and into a tree. After a month or so of non-stop temple running, I started to realize that the game was taking over my life in subtle and problematic ways. I would take a break from work and come back more stressed than when I had started. I would fire up the game every time I had a free 30 seconds, playing on the elevator, while cooking, while walking to the bathroom. As the anxiety and addiction melded and became more obvious, I started to question why I was even playing at all.