The Long And Short Of It
Microsoft is like a Hydra, the mythical multi-headed creature slain by Hercules. One head gets cut off, another grows in its place. Microsoft Bob did not work out, but many other things have, and that is what I was thinking about the other day when doing some research. It dawned on me that as much as I get frustrated at Microsoft for their corporate policies, there are some things they have done that really deserve recognition.
Instead of going off on some tangent like I so often do, I want to talk about Microsoft this time from the perspective of a gamer. After all, gamers are the ones that drive technology on the PC side to new heights. We are the ones that usually have the disposable income to pay for all that cutting edge gear, we're also the ones that many companies want to appeal to when they study their demographics.
So, we thought it was time to give some effort to the cause and take a serious look at Microsoft from a purely gaming perspective. I want to go over some things that they have and haven't done for our community and try to come to some sort of conclusion about their contributions. Have they been good for gamers? Let's take a look.
The Early Contributions
Windows 3.1 may not be the fondest of memories for you, but for many it offered a great deal. The world, and myself, became addicted to Solitaire. It was a nutty little game that we often played at home with a deck of cards, but somehow, having the computer do all of the shuffling and complex card layout was much more fun than doing it yourself. It has been found to be the most commonly used Windows application in the history of the environment, and I have to say it is no surprise.
I go to a company to meet with someone, and see the phone-answer-slash-greeter hammering away at a deck of cards on the screen. They quickly hide it behind an Excel window, but we pass a knowing glance at each other, because I've done the same thing during some of my own work hours. It helps build hand-eye coordination for those older people who don't feel all that comfortable with computers. It helps sooth the beasts of burden that have to put up with arrogant bosses who don't seem to have any heart at all. All the pretty colors, all the simple clicking, it is somehow very "Zen-Like". Besides, you are actually working. You are defragging your drive in the background, and this little program takes up so few resources, that you figure you might as well fire it up while the machine chugs on the hard drive. It's harmless, non-offensive and one of the biggest productivity killers of the modern era - and we love it still.
Of course, we have also graduated to Mine Sweeper, and my personal addictive favorite: FreeCell. Unlike the other solitaire game, this one you can win if you use your brain, and there is more clicking and less dragging, so you can more easily get your frustrations out. Even though Windows 3.1 was no peach, Microsoft was kind enough to churn out a few well-intentioned game packs for it, with some rather embarrassing graphics and mediocre game play. The skiing game was not very good, but the tiles game was well done. Oh, sure, we look back on these now with a sense of pity, but some of these titles have made it to the later incarnations, and I know that you and many others simply go crazy if those IT freaks don't allow you to have those loaded up on your system. Computing just does not seem to be the same without them. Who knew that their first real offering would become an addiction for some 50 million people in the United States alone? Maybe they were on to something...