How to Procrastinate #4 – Old School Computer Games

Although it’s difficult to believe, there was a time in recent history when smartphones didn’t exist, social media platforms were just a twinkle in a Zuckerberg’s eye and downloading the trailer to Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo and Juliet required gearing up the internet the night before and praying that no one needed to use the landline between then and the time you got back from school to watch it.

It’s easy to forget how starved we were of computer-based distractionary resources not so long ago. Gameboys were great but you couldn’t exactly pretend that you were constructing an ‘oh so important’ email to the boss when, in fact, you were playing Tetris. Thankfully, for the motivationally challenged, this noticeable gap in the market was filled by a game so deceptively addictive that office workers the world round had to stay late most evenings just to get anything done. No more walking around the office with an envelope pretending they were doing something important. Now they could stare intently at they computer monitors for hours and no one would be any the wiser that they were still docked in procrastination station. What a time to be alive eh?

For the uninitiated, Minesweeper (along with it’s siblings, Solitaire and FreeCell) is a single player, point and click puzzle game that came free with various incarnations of Microsoft Windows.  The goal was to avoid getting ‘blown up’ by clicking on squares and hoping to find a number (rather than a mine) underneath.  Surprisingly, the game was not designed to help office workers to avoid getting any work done but to help early Windows users to learn how to use a mouse.

However, once we all got used to this new fangled word-processing technology, we were having far too much fun to have the games taken away from us. So Minesweeper remained an integral part of the procrastinator’s toolkit for decades. It had everything. All the pretence of working and none of the actual effort.  The pros learnt quickly what the best way to angle your desk to avoid unwelcome glances at your work screen was. They figured out that, for extra security, it was best practice to keep a word document or spreadsheet open just in case the boss made an appearance. After that it was just a question of how long it took until the fear of doing nothing overtook the fear of doing it badly.

Of course today the Candy Crushes, Angry Birds and Pokemon Gos have usurped Minesweeper’s crown. Yet, there will always be a special place in this procrastinators heart for the simplicity of these games. Before social media exploded and the lure of the interwebs became too much to resist, these video games delayed the completion of countless reports, student essays and corporate presentations.

However, time marches on and in the era of the internet it seems amazing that any of us get any work done at all anymore. Next up in the series – the interwebs.