Tapper as a metaphor for modern day multi-tasking

One of my prevailing memories as a youth was playing a video game called Tapper. In the game, you were a bartender, tending to 4 bars simultaneously. At each bar was a patron or two (and more would join as the game got harder). They’d drink a beer at the end of the bar, sling the empty glass back to you, and start walking toward the front. You’d have to catch the glass, refill, and sling it back. The happy owner of the new drink would stumble to the back of the line, drink, and the process would start all over again.

The idea was to not let your guard slip. If you weren’t there to catch an empty glass, or if a thirsty barfly reached the front of the counter empty-handed, or if you refilled one-too-many beers, the game was over.

Tapper turns out to be a great metaphor for the multi-tasking careers most of us live in today (and frankly, the multi-tasking lives we live today). Imagine each bar as a project. Each patron a client. Who do you send beers too? Which bar is in most desperate need of your attention? Is it best to fill up all the beers for one line of people before moving to the next bar, or scoot around between the bar lines as quickly as possible?

All of these were judgments. Multiple factors (how many people were in each line, how long it had been since you made refills, how fast they were coming back to the beginning of the line) weighed into the decision.

In the end, you’d lose, because the game got too difficult. At least, in real life, we can decide how many bar lines are appropriate to manage, and where the threshold is between manageability and a shattered bunch of Schlitz.