Only The Lonely

By Alec Meer on May 19th, 2008 at 4:27 pm.

An interesting read: Slate’s Josh Levin on the enduring appeal/success of Solitaire. Apparently its various versions (there are three in XP and Vista) remain the most-used Windows programs to this day and thus, by proxy, THE BIGGEST PC GAMES IN THE WORLD.

“The game’s continued pre-eminence is a remarkable feat—it’s something akin to living in a universe in which Pong were the most-popular title for PlayStation 3,” says Levin. Y’know what? I wouldn’t entirely mind living in that universe.

Anyway, he documents the origins of the game (its digital incarnation was created to avoid the hassle of shuffling, and there’s some unsurprising dodginess behind how Microsoft got hold of it), its use in teaching core computing concepts to inexperienced or unwilling minds and its inestimable importance as something that can be discreetly played in the office.

Towards the end, there’s a nod towards its possible supplanting by World of Warcraft and the like. Levin reckons this is because Solitaire’s doggedly anti-social in an age now accustomed to constant online communication, but I can’t help but feel that it’s simply proven to be a better timesink than Solitaire. It’s a game full of infinite, tiny achievements, whereas Solitaire or FreeCell have but one victory condition, and one which then requires a total reset if you want to continue playing. Though until WoW actually comes pre-installed with Windows (and the Microsoft-ActiBlizzard union necessary to make that happen is almost too terrifying to contemplate), Spider Solitaire surely doesn’t have too much to worry about.

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33 Comments »

  1. Ian says:

    The way that Solitaire competes with the more sociable likes of WoW is simple.

    Solitaire MMO, baby.

  2. Optimaximal says:

    Don’t let Microsoft find this out or they’ll start using micro-transactions on the Vegas scoring!

  3. Max says:

    The Vista version is very pretty, I particularly like the fireworks.

  4. Matu says:

    I still miss Space Cadet. If Windoze has ever had a good pre-installed game, that was it. Made for absolutely epic multiplayer gaming at parties.

    And yes, Vista is quite consistent with its eye candy upgrades, the games really do look very pretty.

  5. Ginger Yellow says:

    I don’t think it’s possible to overstate the importance of it being built into Windows. That and running in an easily minimised window.

  6. Seniath says:

    I for one welcome our new Microactard Overlords.

  7. Rob says:

    @Seniath

    I can’t think of anyone who wouldn’t welcome them if they chose that as their moniker.

  8. Babs says:

    I used to play multi-player FreeCell at school. You choose the same game seed and then race to the finish.

    Good lessons those :)

  9. Flint says:

    Sod Solitaire, I miss Taipei :(.

  10. Meat Circus says:

    Pah. Freecell beats Solitaire with a shitty stick. Anyone who thinks otherwise am an idiots.

  11. Lu-Tze says:

    Networked Hearts ftw.

  12. Metric says:

    Spider Solitaire is the single biggest improvement in XP over 2000. And Hearts is the only game I’ve ever got my entire family to play on a LAN.

    The games that come with linux beat hell out of the windows ones though, Iagno (othello) and Tetris especially.

  13. Jochen Scheisse says:

    FREECELL IS MOAR GANGSTAR

  14. Alec Meer says:

    God, I’ve so much work to do, but inevitably I’ve spent the last hour playing Solitaire.

  15. Robin says:

    Fairway Solitaire has become the default time-wasting game on my PC. I daren’t look at the ‘hours played’ counter, and I’ve still got pages of courses left to unlock.

  16. Chris says:

    Oh my gosh, I totally love Roy Orbison! Oh wait…

  17. Pod says:

    windows key d is the best shortcut ever

    TRUE DAT, BROTHER! [high 5]

  18. The_Archetype says:

    Freecell is one of the only games I’ve cheated on.

    Not on the solutions though. On the win/lose statistics.

    I’ve kept my wins at 100% ever since I realized that you could end the game process from the task manager and not have it increment your losses.

    I’m so ashamed.

  19. zima says:

    Solitaire?!…

    Minesweeper forever!!!

    (and…crap, now I’ll start thinking how to adapt it to MMO)

  20. terry says:

    I fondly remember the “bouncing cards” victory sequence to be a reliable benchmarking system, until these pesky 3dfx kids came along ;’(

  21. MindBrain says:

    I hate Solitare

  22. Scandalon says:

    I absolutely can’t stand Solitare, the physical or the digital version, and have never understood the appeal. Unless it has monkeys. On fire. Then it’s hilarious.

    Also, don’t forget Minesweeper: The Movie.

  23. Pidesco says:

    I play Spider Solitaire when I stay at my parents’ place.

  24. malkav11 says:

    My grandmother does essentially three things with her computer – she sends and receives e-mail, she makes greeting cards to send to people, and she plays Windows-default card games like Solitaire, FreeCell, and Hearts. I did try giving her a wider array of solitaire games one time (as it’s the only type of game she’s ever shown an interest in) and she apparently never really got into any of them. I definitely think it has to do with them being installed by default.

  25. Phil H says:

    While I once was a fiend for it, Windows (Klondike) Solitaire has been completely supplanted by Nintendo’s Clubhouse Games on the DS, where I have almost every traditional card and board game I could ever want(except Cribbage) and then some(Hanafuda!). Throw in perfect stylus controls and the ability to take it absolutely anywhere and yeah, I don’t need anything else. I must have put in another 10-15 hours on it during my trip to the parents’ house for the last week and a half.

  26. James T says:

    I love my Ipod’s Klondike solitaire; standing around has never been so tolerable! Shame it drains the battery like a bastard. Does the Vista solitaire have an auto-complete thingie, like it should?

  27. Ben Abraham says:

    Auto-complete, FTW!

  28. Saflo says:

    I have no idea how to play Solitaire.

  29. Andrew says:

    Hmmp, never mind playing solitaire, I rather remake it.

    I wonder if using a physics engine is over the top?

  30. Taxman says:

    I can only ever beat Solitaire now by using the Shift+ Ctrl+ Alt cheat maybe it’s my imagination but the game seems to have gotten more difficult over the years especially the Vista version.

  31. Lightbulb says:

    Solitaire MMO

    Firts levels:

    Level 1 Put the Aces on to the 2′s to reveal the other Aces repeat 500 times

    Level 2 Put the 3′s on to the 2′s to reveal Aces repeat 500 times

    Continues to level 4

    Levels 4 to 8 you have to do the same thing but you need 2 players, one for black cards one for red. Most payers will go afk for ten minutes right at the end, drop out calling you a n00b if you make a mistake, drop out and call you a n00b if THEY make a mistake, drop out and call you a n00b for doing something clever that they don’t understand, drop out and call you a n00b for NO reason at all.

    Level 9 to 12 the same as above but one players for each suit – the same problems but made worse since there is 3 other players.

    Level 13 – full game of solitaire 2 players for each suit (one for odds and one for evens) so 8 players total.

    It should be noted that the packs are NOT dealt randomly, they are the same each time so once you have memorised each pack you can just grind it over and over and over. When you win a match (which takes 6 hours for good players since you have to win 600 games in a row (with a 7 hour timelimit).

    When you win a level 13 match you get a random new card back for one of the suits: So you cannot use mismatched sets, you need all 4 suits to make a new deck. Once you have finished a deck you move on to the next match (which required the previous pack to be unlocked). Of the 8 players who win the match only 3 get the backs and this is random – you can get the same back over and over or player 4 times and complete the deck.

    —-

    It only costs $9.05 a month! Whos gonna sign up with me?

  32. James T says:

    Count me in! Being an MMO is the only way to prevent piracy, I’m told!

  33. Nick R says:

    Even the Devil suffers from bad luck in Solitaire:

    http://www.sinfest.net/archive_page.php?comicID=2812