They looked like this. That was back when computers were big enough for a cat to take a nap on top of the monitor.

Once upon a time, when I was a small child, my family had two old Macintosh computers that were used exclusively for playing games, mainly simple arcade games like Glypha III. (I use this game as an example because it was especially awesome and because it’s the only name I remember offhand) Those games were a lot of fun; they defined a significant portion of my existence for several years of my life. When we moved and got rid of those computers, my mother said it wasn’t such a big deal and we’d eventually get over it, but it’s been nine and a half years, and I still think about those games frequently with feelings of bittersweet nostalgia and great sadness. But I digress.

Glypha III, one of the awesomest computer programs ever to be invented

The point is, the real reason that those types of computer games are so addictive is that you can always live in hope of getting a new record and putting your name at the top of the hall of fame. (Some of the games just called it the “high scores”, but we always preferred the term “hall of fame” for some reason) Thus, the hall of fame on a current favorite game would become a measure of achievement, a quantification of accomplishment, and an outlet for sibling rivalry.

The greatest offense a person could commit would be to clear the hall of fame without the express knowledge and permission of all other players. Such an act of villainy would be met with fury and heartbreak. Not only had the tangible results of the accomplishments been erased, but the very memory of them had been savagely destroyed. Never could they be regained; even if the exact same score was achieved at some other time, it would be a separate occasion worthy of a second placement in the hall of fame. Deleting another person’s records of accomplishment is an ultimate act of cruelty.

Sometimes, though, we would mutually agree that the time had come to clear the hall of fame. After a period of time of obsessive game-playing, the high scores would inevitably reach a pinnacle that would be well-nigh impossible to surpass. As we failed to match or beat our previous achievements, frustration would set it, and sooner or later, we would realize that something had to be done. Of course, it was important that, before such a drastic deed should be done, the current hall of fame must be written down and the paper must be reverently deposited in a computer desk drawer. There, it would be forever available for reminiscence of former glories. Then, with mingled feelings of remorse and relief, the “clear high scores” button would be clicked, and the hall of fame would become blank.

Thus, the potential would be opened for many future victories. At first, any score would be guaranteed a spot in the hall of fame, and even after the hall of fame filled up, winning a spot on the list would be easy for a few days. Eventually, there would be high scores that would merit pride and joy equivalent to or greater than those of the previous high scores. The hall of fame would sooner or later reach another plateau, but in the meantime, winning would be possible once more.

It’s hard to set new high scores when you’re competing against everything you’ve ever done before. The best way to set new high scores is to take the old ones and hide them away in a drawer. They’re still there if you want to see them and remember them nostalgically, but they won’t clog up your hall of fame and prevent you from setting future high scores.

What metaphor? I’m just talking about computer games.