the joys of being-in-the-zone

I’ve written in the past about the pleasures of acceleration, how speeding up can prove satisfying because of the opportunities it can present for evading difficult issues that an actor might otherwise find themselves forced to confront. There’s a really interesting section in Addiction By Design pg 54 which speaks to this idea:

Speed is a critical element of the zone experience. “I play really fast,” a middle- aged tax accountant named Shelly told me. “I don’t like to wait, I want to know what’s gonna come out. If a machine is slow, I move to a faster one.” “I usually play just with one hand,” said a college student named Julie; “you probably couldn’t even see the cards, that’s how fast I go” (her eyes widened and glazed over in front of an imaginary screen, index finger punching rapidly). Gambling addicts speak of speed as a kind of skill, even when it leads them to miss hands they might have won. 9 “Sometimes I’d get into such a rhythm on the machine that I’d mistakenly discard winning hands,” recalled Sharon, whom we met in the introduction. “It was more about keeping the pace than making the right decisions.” “Keeping the pace” is critical to the zone experience, as gamblers articulate. “The speed is relaxing,” said Lola, a buffet waitress and mother of four. “It’s not exactly excitement; it’s calm, like a tranquilizer. It gets me into the zone.” Randall, an electronics technician in his late forties, has a long- standing penchant for vehicles that enable him to escape with speed— motorcycles, racing dragsters, and video poker. “In a very paradoxical way,” he reflected, “the speed of it slows me down. Both the fact that I’m in motion and the risk of it are calming, and kind of mechanical.” As he recognizes, a mechanically mediated tempo functions as a form of predictability that structures and regulates his play, transforming risk into rhythm. As long as gamblers hold their speed steady, it suspends them in the holding pattern of the zone.

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