Things I’ve Learned Playing Canabalt


Despite my usual better judgment, I’ve recently been playing a game called Canabalt on my iPhone. It’s a very easy and fun to play game actually. The idea is the you have a runner that is trying to escape some unknown catastrophe by running and jumping from building to building. Besides the inherent danger in falling to your death with each leap, there are boxes, chairs and robot bombs put randomly before you that you must also jump over.

I rarely play games. In fact, I purposefully avoid them. I know from past experience that I can get addicted to them and hours of my life can disappear. Frankly, I value those hours, especially as one only has so many to accomplish their goals for this life.

That said, I have actually been doing some thinking (see: justifying) about how, in fact, this game has been beneficial in teaching some valuable life lessons:

  • Obstacles are sometimes your friend. – In the game, the more you run, the faster you get, the more quickly things whiz by, etc. The only way to slow down is to purposely run into a box, chair or other obstacle. There is actually a certain strategy in knowing when to speed up and slow down in the game. Go too fast and you risk losing control and perspective, go too slow and there will not be enough momentum to jump to the next stage. Sometimes, obstacles help to slow us down, learn lessons and occasionally save our asses from certain doom.

  • Listen closely for small details. – The game has a fantastic soundtrack and great sound effects. Many of those sounds, barely audible above the music, let you know when you should get ready to jump. A trap door opening just before the robot bomb falls for instance. Listening for the tiny details help you survive in the big picture and save your ass.

  • Chase your own top score. – I had a pretty good run and set a very high score in my first attempt at the game. That is the score I am trying to beat. I’m not looking at some public leaderboard trying to be better than the next guy. My only goal is to always strive to make this time better than the last.

  • Know when to stop. – As I said, I know how easily sucked in I can get with games. This one is especially easy to say “I was robbed.” or “I didn’t mean to do that.” and thus justify another round. Sometimes, you have to know when enough is enough, cut your losses, and live on to play another day.