Skip to main content

Games of 2014: Threes

Oh hey, handsome.

I'm playing Threes on the train home from work.

What should we have for dinner? I think there's some pasta in the cupboard. This go isn't going well. I shouldn't rush it. I should take my time. Three reds in a row. RNG. No chance. Out of moves! 2607. Swipe to save your score. Rubbish game. I'm going to browse Twitter again. Perhaps there's some video game drama I need to keep on top of. Best check.

Woosh. Straight into a tunnel. The little 3G at the top left of my iPhone, nonplussed, disappears into the ether. Searching... No service. Well, I suppose I'll play Threes again. But this time I'll take my time.

Thank you, Threes, for working even when I don't have a signal. Thank you, Threes, for working in tunnels. Thank you, Threes, for not bothering too much about signals and tunnels and 3G (evil eyes beam death rays at you, Bejeweled Blitz).

This time I'll take my time. This time I'll get rid of the itchy blue ones and the scratchy red twos as soon as I can. That's how you're supposed to play Threes, right? Stay efficient. Kill at least two tiles with one swipe. Keep the big numbers in the middle. One plus two equals three. Three plus three equals six. Six plus six equals 12. 12 plus 12 equals 24. The board is filling up. But if I can just make a few 48s, I've got a 192 sat there gagging for a twin. Drag slowly to see the future, pay attention to the upcoming card, and, above all, take your time. Whoosh. We're out of the tunnel.

Out of moves! 8640. Swipe to save your score. No thanks. Rubbish game. I'm going to check Twitter again. Perhaps there's some video game drama I need to keep on top of. Best check.

For a game all about numbers, Threes has surprisingly little to do with maths.

3G disappears. We're not in a tunnel this time, just in the middle of deepest, darkest Sussex, hurtling towards Gatwick Airport. Brighton is a hazy memory somewhere in the back of my mind. I should pick up some garlic bread. It upsets my stomach, but Alexia loves garlic bread. And some cheese. I'll grate it over the pasta.

This time I'll definitely take my time. This time I'm going to use earphones so I can hear Threes' chirpy music and sound effects. They make me think of meeting friends in a Starbucks in San Francisco. I'm wearing a video game T-shirt, I've let my beard grow too long and I've fussed over my hair, which I never do in Croydon. As the tiles combine they greet each other. Hey! What's up? Okay! Hi. Mmm mmm. Hello. Nearrrgh! Hey hey hey! Oh hey, handsome. He's wearing an American Apparel hoodie. She's wearing dirty Vans. Have you heard Sony pulled The Interview? Obama blamed North Korea and now we're going to war. Everybody laughs. Swipe up, down, left and right.

I think we're passing through Gatwick because the signal is pretty good here. I've got a 384 in the corner, desperate for its twin. Right, this is a good go. Don't mess it up. Take your time. I sit in the glow of my iPhone screen for three minutes before my trembling thumb springs to life and pecks out this chef d'oeuvre: 768. Yes! The man sat next to me squirms. I pull down the seat divider. You keep watching Modern Family on your iPad, mate. Threes is serious business.

The board is filling up, fast. Two steps forward, one step back. Or is that one step forward, two steps back? No matter how well you're doing at Threes, you're always losing. At some point, probably soon, you'll have nowhere left to go. You'll be boxed in. The lift has broken down and the alarm doesn't work. The aliens are everywhere. They're coming outta the goddamn walls!

If Threes is religious, then it's a Buddhist. We are losing from the moment we tap retry. Out of moves! But it's okay. Retry. Threes is responsive and it's quick to load. A tap and a rebirth, my stream of consciousness lives on. "The consciousness in the new person is neither identical nor entirely different from that in the deceased but the two form a causal continuum or stream." I think that means I should probably learn from my mistakes, that I should probably get better at Threes. But even though I've played this game almost every day since I bought it, I feel like I'm only as good as when I started. But that's fine. Threes is, after all, just a throwaway mobile game. A time sink. I don't care that much.

Good advice for us all.

But of course I care. I care so much that playing Threes on the way home from work does not feel like playing Threes on the way home from work. It just happens. Threes is so welcoming, so warm, so wonderful, that I have absorbed it into my very being. People say game addiction is a bad thing. What tosh. Threes calms me down after a stressful day at work. Threes comforts me when my mind is troubled. Threes caresses my cheek after I come in from the cold. Rejoice! I am irreparably addicted to Threes and all the better for it. I want to proclaim my revelation to all in this this bloody carriage: stop watching Modern Family and play Threes instead.

Ding. "We are now approaching East Croydon." Already? But I just left Brighton. Right, let's concentrate. I've never managed to get a tile with a higher score than 768. What if this time, I did? That would mean I'd have a... what would it be? 1536? Now that would be something special. I'd definitely beat my high score then.

My current high score is 28,641, which I know is rubbish (my make-believe San Francisco friends think it's "cute"), but I'm competing with myself here. If I beat myself, I'll be happy. In the silent solitude of the Brighton to London Victoria line, where heads are buried in smartphones and tablets and laptops, all I need is me, myself, and Threes.

We stop just outside East Croydon to wait for a platform to become available. I've got a 384 and a 192, but the board is almost full. I am at the mercy of the next tile. It is inevitable, Mr. Anderson. Resistance is futile. Game over, man.

Out of moves! Swipe to save score. 24,648. Damn. Double damn. Triple damn. Rubbish game. The train pulls up at platform two. Scrap pasta. I think we'll have pizza. Alexia loves ham and pineapple. I should check Twitter. Perhaps there's some video game drama I need to keep on top of. Best check. Or maybe I'll just play Threes as I walk to Morrisons. I'll look up at the roundabout on Dingwall Road. It'll be fine.


Read this next