Meet Stacie Murdoch
Bejeweled Blitz Keeps Disabled Advocate’s Mind Sharp
When 40 year old Sunnyvale, CA resident Stacie Murdoch was 19 she developed amnesia. “Basically, my brain was reset to that of a 10 year old,” she explains. “I developed epilepsy as a teenager and a series of seizures and some blows to my head during them led to the amnesia at 19. I had to relearn everything: math, social skills, all of high school. I basically had to rebuild my brain.” Part of Stacie’s recovery included a heavy dose of puzzles and games that engaged her brain in nontraditional ways and helped her to reforge the neural pathways damaged by the seizures. Now working at San Jose State University as an employment specialist for people with disabilities, Stacie has not only more than recovered the life skills she lost at 19 but has seen the epilepsy that plagued her disappear from her life. Still, keeping her mind sharp remains a priority for her and that’s one of the main reasons she keeps playing Bejeweled Blitz on her iPhone. “Ever since I went back to college I’ve been very conscious about strengthening my brain,” she says matter-of-factly, “And Bejeweled Blitz forces me to be very conscious of the board. It’s a very different type of exercise that I think strengthens my brain, forcing me to think quickly and find solutions.”
Not that Bejeweled Blitz is all work and no fun for this married mother of two rambunctious kids aged 2 and 4—she finds the game to be a quick, efficient stress reliever. Over the course of a typical week, Stacie will log about two hours of time with the game. “I play it to pass time and to get my mind off the stresses of the day,” she says, smiling. While she’s fairly devoted to the game nowadays, it took her awhile to warm up to it. Her husband introduced her to Blitz and since she had been a longtime fan of classic Bejeweled on her cell phone, she decided to give the Facebook version of the game a whirl. “At first, I was frustrated because my one minute was up and I still had more moves!” she laughs. “But as I played it more, I began to appreciate the short, quick games. I had a feeling of accomplishment (especially when I got a high score) because the game didn’t go on for days like Bejeweled can. So the first thing that frustrated me about Bejeweled Blitz has actually become the thing I appreciate most about it.”
Stacie’s personal leader board is packed with 47 other Bejeweled Blitz fans, but these days the focus among the group is less on competition and more on playing just for the sake of having fun—there’s a lot less trash-talking online these days. “Sometimes I am in a very competitive mood and I try to play until I just get into the top 10 or top 5. Other times I couldn’t care less and I just play to play,” she says with a shrug. “After all, I don’t play with some grand strategy, I just wing it.” She also plays mostly on her iPhone, having moved away from the Facebook version. The iPhone game has one advantage over the computer version: it’s a whole lot more convenient to play during her family’s frequent camping trips.
While her struggle with amnesia is now well behind her, it still informs her life; in fact, she actually reaps rewards from that difficult time. A job manning the front desk at the San Jose State University’s career center eventually led to the University offering her the more specialized role she fills now. “I had graduated with a degree in advertising because it seemed fun and interesting at the time, but ultimately it didn’t fit. Once I got a job at the career center and started helping the disabled, I found I related to them more than I even knew. I get it.”
Although Stacie’s epilepsy and resulting amnesia stopped being an active factor in her life at 23, the experience continues to affect her but in a positive way this time around. It fuels her commitment to her job, her devotion to her young family, her enjoyment of life…and it makes unwinding with Bejeweled Blitz something more than a guilty pleasure.