Thursday, November 10, 2011

Minesweeper swept away my childhood

Nothing, nothing nothing, nothing, flag, nothing, nothing question mark, question mark, flag, flag, flag, flag, flag, flag, flag, flag, nothing, mine... damn it!

Having one of these minesweeping suits will protect
you from shards of plastic as you bash in your computer.
Anyone who has ever had their internet go down and is killing time before they can do something productive knows Minesweeper exists. Less people know that the above paragraph describes 98 percent of all Minesweeper games ever played. And surprisingly, even less have spent seven months of their life trying desperately to get a sub-two minute time on expert difficulty. When they achieved it, they found out there are even larger Minesweeper nerds who routinely notch times under 40 seconds. Disappointment raged as a life's accomplishment shriveled up in a matter of seconds and small schoolyard children picked on them.

I fall into the third category.

Back in 9th grade, when everyone else spent their Friday nights having sex, Minesweeper occupied my time. Who cares about genital stimulation when an imaginary army might hit a mine on their journey across Antarctica to reclaim the Holy Rat of Spartania?

… I created storylines to give me a stronger drive for this game.

And that drove me on my sub-two minute quest. For those who actually don't understand the basics of the game, there's a grid of squares, when you click, a patch of numbers appears that tell you how many “mines” they touch. You then use logic to clear the board of non-mines, leaving only the mines. To obtain a time under two minutes, you need to mark where a mine is every 1.2 seconds. Keep in mind, it takes even longer than 1.2 seconds to type 1.2 seconds, and you need to go faster than that.

When you get really deep in the game, there are some broken bits where logic will not carry you. At this point you have to flip a coin and choose one or the other. But flipping a coin also takes longer than 1.2 seconds and to keep up the pace, you must make rash an ill-informed decisions at a late point in the game. This usually results in profanity.
This doesn't frighten me. But a red three touching five
squares with no way to find the mine's true location does.

As alluded to, I spent seven months trying to obtain what I perceived as perfection. After all, my friends thought of the game as some sort of crappy screen saver, not one with strategy and preplanned times to swear. But then YouTube came around and knocked me off the high I rode for nearly a decade.

With YouTube I can load up video from the World Minesweeper Championships (yup, it exists) and watch video of people stroll through expert like it's nothing more than medium. Minesweeper literally drove me crazy (it creates social isolation), and these people do it competitively. It seems kind of strange to do, because never has anyone used “I'm really good at the game you don't understand” as a pickup line. It just reeks of sadness. Although the phrase “I can find the mine” might have merit.

Recently, my internet went down, so that meant no Minesweeper watching for me, instead, Minesweeper playing. I found tons of changes in it. That beloved gray screen, the one that had taunted and rewarded me so much in my youth had turned blue. It also kept stats beyond simple completion! Oh, and also the skills I built over the course of roughly 20,000 games had completely vanished. I scrambled to nab a 50 second intermediate score. Pathetic. But it also felt kind of good. Sure, I wasted a lot of time in my youth and had nothing to show for it, but at least I didn't waste twice as much time to get to the professional level of Minesweeper.

Hey, I think this one isn't a mine... damn it!
Well, at least it's a sub-two minute time.

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