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The Forgotten Art of Potato Counting


by bryonyrae

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Potato Counter is not a game that gets a lot of attention. Initially, around the time that it was released, there was a craze for all things Meridell, and even Potato Counter had its fifteen minutes of fame. However, the interest soon died down and nowadays you seldom hear anyone talk about the game.

You might think that Potato Counter is too simple to be interesting.

You might think that Potato Counter has boring graphics.

You might think that Potato Counter is the ultimate no-frills game and completely without strategy.

But you’d be wrong. There is an art and a unique charm to this unassuming game, and here I will attempt to let you in on some of its secrets.

Potato Counter can be found, as I have already mentioned, in Meridell, more specifically on Meri Acres farm. It’s free to play and you earn neopoints for every correct guess.

(Speaking of which, I often wonder why they insist on referring to your answer as a guess. Surely there would be no sense in typing in a random number, when you have plenty of time to count the potatoes? That’s what the name of the game means, right? If there are any guessers out there, I hope that by the time you have finished reading this guide, you will have become a counter and answer correctly almost every time.)

The game is listed under the “Educational” heading in the games room – and fair enough; it’s a good game for keeping the brain cells active, but a label like that can also make the game seem boring, when it is actually anything but. It is also tagged as being “For kids”, and sure, this is an excellent game for kids as it’s easy to learn with few confusing rules or complicated graphics. But it really is a great game for all ages, and one which I can almost guarantee that you will never tire of. The limit of three plays per day sees to that.

At the time of writing the number of recorded game plays for Potato Counter is one million. Compare that with some of the other games in Meridell –Whack-a-Kass, Ultimate Bullseye and Turmac Roll have all been played 200 million times; big brother Extreme Potato Counter is 50 times more popular with 50 million plays and Attack of the Slorgs has been played ten million times. It’s obvious that Potato Counter has been a little overlooked. I hope that is going to change.

The number of potatoes is usually between about 30 and 70, but very occasionally you will come across a seemingly never-ending screen with thousands of potatoes on it. You’ve got to hand it to the Neopets Team; they certainly have a sense of humour. However, you don’t, of course, actually need to count all those potatoes. Instead of submitting an answer, just press the Back button on your browser and try again, and you won’t have wasted one of your three daily plays.

The maximum amount of neopoints you can earn per play seems to be 75, which you get for any guess under 30 seconds. It seldom takes me longer than that to count, but that will probably depend on your connection speed, too. So the game doesn’t pay out a lot, but it is very quick to do and quite addictive.

For me, its simplicity has a definite charm to it – it’s a classic and somehow humble game, reluctant to sing its own praises, unlike some of its flashy, high-tech cousins in the games room (Extreme Potato Counter is a case in point. What do those moving objects really add to the game?). I find its modesty very endearing, and the actual game-play is unlike anything else on the site. The simple ideas are often the best.

The friendly yellow Kacheek who runs the game is a big part of its appeal. He never yells or gets angry at you for trying to play more times than allowed per day, unlike many of the other characters in Neopia. (If there were a Jelly World, for example, which of course there isn’t, and if it were possible to get free jelly from there, my guess would be that the Jelly Keeper would be a pretty aggressive kind of guy, and that he might say something like “NO! You cannot take more than one jelly per day!” pretty regularly.)

Enough of all this, I hear you say. What about the actual game-play? And weren’t you going to let me in on some secrets? Rest assured, I’m getting there.

There are several important things to think about when you are playing Potato Counter. Number one is probably to be in the right frame of mind. Make sure that you can focus. It is almost impossible to count accurately at speed with a lot of noise and distractions going on around you, so try to sit in a quiet room if you can. Take a few deep breaths before you begin, and prepare yourself for what is to come. As soon as you click that button, the timer starts ticking, so make sure you are 100% ready for it.

You also want to be relaxed, so that you don’t need to think too much about what you are doing. That way, you will use more of the subconscious part of your brain – which is quicker. Don’t dawdle, but don’t work yourself into a frenzy, either.

It may also help you to say the numbers out loud, so you don’t forget or lose track of where you are.

My best tip, though, is the following: don’t just count the potatoes one by one!

Try to count them in groups. This concept is a little tricky to explain, but I’ll do my best. What I mean is that keeping track of every single potato and every single number is harder than keeping track of groups of potatoes. Counting in groups makes for fewer numbers and less confusion – you don’t have to ask yourself whether you were at 38 or 39. I usually count in fives – 5-10-15-20-25-30. Of course, the total number of potatoes isn’t usually evenly divisible by five, so at the end, I just add on the odd potatoes that are left – so the last jump may be from 30 to 32. On the whole though, it’s fairly easy to “see” five potatoes at once. However, you may prefer to count in groups of two or three, whatever you find easiest. As long as you’re not counting every single potato one by one, you’re saving valuable time.

Needless to say, you should always start at the top and work your way down. I also try to scroll down before I start counting so that I can see all the potatoes on my screen at once. I prefer to start in the top left-hand corner and move down row by row. Others may prefer to start from the top right, or to count the potatoes in clusters rather than rows. Just do what works for you, but remember that it’s a good idea to get yourself into an efficient routine and stick to it, so that you can perfect your technique with plenty of practise.

The Neopets Team has made it a little bit easier for us all by having several different colours and shapes of potatoes on the screen, which helps you to keep track of where you are and which potatoes you’ve already counted. But occasionally, you will find yourself getting mixed up or missing a few potatoes along the way. When you do submit a wrong answer, don’t worry! It happens to us all, but with practice, it will happen more and more seldomly.

Sadly, there is currently no avatar available for playing Potato Counter. I think this game deserves more recognition, and hope that the Neopets Team will eventually create an avatar for it. Perhaps it could be given out as a random event for players with counting times under 30 seconds. Maybe with an avatar out there to collect, Potato Counter would finally become as popular as it deserves to be.

 
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