Minesweeper is a single player puzzle game. The game board is computer generated and consists of a grid comprised of square buttons. The player’s left clicks to reveal mine-free squares and right clicks to place flags over mines. Once revealed, mine-free territories display a number indicating how many adjacent squares contain mines. Victory occurs when all the mine-free territory is revealed. Loss occurs when the user clicks a square that contains a mine. Each round is timed, allowing players to record and compare scores with themselves and others.
When thinking of Minesweeper, it is difficult to imagine the game outside its most famous context. Minesweeper comes preinstalled on all Microsoft computers. During the PC boom accompanying advent of the Internet in the late 1990s, the Microsoft software became iconic way to kill time. In this light, Minesweeper can be looked at as an ambassador of PC gaming culture.
Though Minesweeper has been around since the 1960s, its juxtaposition with the work oriented PC offers valuable insight on algorithmic culture. During game play, the player becomes a processing system that analyses the board to make decisions. Solutions are sometimes readily apparent. For example, if a revealed square displays the number one and is only next to one unrevealed square, that square must contain a mine. This type of processing simply calls for speedy recognition and rapid action. Even simple processing tasks like this one familiarizes the user with the mouse, helping the player to acquire a mastery over one of the main operational tools of the PC. When computers began entering households, this process was not instantly familiar. In this early context, Minesweeper functioned as a tool that uses the enjoyment of a game to teach precision use of computer controls.
When problems become more complex the primary problem of reaction shifts from physical to logical. Players must develop more complex systems of analysis to navigate difficult situations. Players quickly learn how to stabilize chance as entity as real as a number. The certainty of particular variables can be exploited to make conclusions on intersecting occurrences of chance. By cross-referencing multiple self-contained system of chance the player can often eliminate extraneous options to find conclusions that are not available otherwise. These processes are all site specific, and the many possible shapes of the board offer seemingly endless combinations.
While playing minesweeper, the player engages in the act that the computer is designed to circumvent. The processing role shifts smoothly as an abstract representation because of its math based building blocks. Reversing these roles allows for the player to empathize with the computing prosing. In becoming the enactor of contained analytical puzzle, the player is objectified as a systematic solving entity.
With success bound to efficient processing and action, the user is pressured to strengthen and hasten patterns of analysis and tactical approach strategies. In Minesweeper, half the battle is to eliminate the time spent in between solving and finding what to solve. While a complex algorithm can be factored to solve a problem, it may be better to solve simpler tasks that could potentially demystify a tricky problem. This teaches the player how to navigate the abstract system efficiently, a skill reflects succeeding in the work place.
The machinic acts of Minesweeper make it a game that is dependent on the algorithmic nature of the video game. From randomly generation to rule enforcement, the game relies on the computer to create and enforce the constructs that make the game. The rate at which this is done is also vital to the games success. Beating an expert game in 240 seconds is an accomplishment, but the computer creates the structure virtually instantly. The relationship between machine and user in minesweeper allows the user to see into this relationship. Like an astronomer viewing stars, the player decodes the field.
During a good game, the mind should be constantly engaged, and strive to turn scanning into instant understanding in a way where action happens simultaneously. In this optimized state, the player becomes very machine like. Whether or not the player is optimized, their input can be reduced to a function representing the limits of processing ability that parallels their perspective on the game.
One conflict in the game that has very little to do with the diegetic components of play is discerning the visual field. Clusters of multicolored numbers and flags can make it difficult to distinguish what’s sitting on the board. The best way to combat this is to play with momentum. Like listening to music, one has to know what came before to understand what comes next. Without this melody of focus, the player is forced to waste valuable time revisiting past moves. In fact, the ability to understand action in a stream of time is crucial to success in the game. The more the player can obtain and process at once, the more success they will find.
What is the perfect game of minesweeper? A simple answer seems to point toward the fastest game humanly possible. But since board generation is random, there really is no way to standardize competition to measure an objectified level of human perfection. After all, it’s a game and not a test. Admittedly, that process gets confused because of the requirements to reach the objective. So the perfect game may be closer to the most fun game, which involves meeting the objectives in a more stimulating way than a particular player was able to accomplish before. On a larger scale, perhaps this question intends to ask what is the hallmark trait of the user in algorithmic?
There is a strong argument that feeling pleasurable is the perfect state of the Minesweeper player. In terms of enjoyment, the game offers two main rewards. Of course, pleasure can be had from high scores. This points towards the end result of the game. Then there is the gratification from successful selection, which is more concerned with the process. In this way pleasure becomes tied to efficiency. Minesweeper takes processing and makes it engaging and fun. If you need a quick break from real work, Minesweeper is a great get away that could come in handy when you decide to get back to work.