Education

Wally Spiers: Playing solitaire on the computer can be addictive

Wally Spiers
Wally Spiers

When I started doing this column again, one of the things I was encouraged to do was to look at life as a retired person, the retirement scene, so to speak.

Unfortunately, the only scene I have to write about this week is the one on my computer screen, which has been occupied mainly by solitaire, that infernal card game.

I understand that some people become addicted to the game on computer. Not me. I’m pretty sure I can get off whenever I want, now that I’ve gotten in my first 1,000 games. Of course, I exaggerate. It’s actually 976. I’ve won 143 of those. My fastest winning time is 4 minutes and 36 seconds. My fastest losing time is 33 seconds.

Not that I’m counting. The computer does that for me.

Back when I was in college I sometimes got sidetracked playing solitaire. But you had to shuffle a deck of cards and deal out your own hands. After a while that got old. But a couple of months ago when Microsoft kept urging me to download Windows 10 for free, one of the things that showed up and was easy to find was the solitaire section.

Now that the computer does all the work with the touch of a button, it is much easier to play all night if that is what it takes to win a game. But again, I exaggerate. Since the computer tells me I win an average of 14.6 percent of the time, sessions rarely go over two hours and not more than two or three times a day.

All it takes is a win for me to get up and go do something useful. But sometimes after I win, I wonder, “Can I do that again, right away?” The answer, after another 30 games or so, is pretty obvious.

976 games of solitaire played

143 games won

I reassure myself that solitaire surely must be good for something. Maybe it is keeping my senior mind alert and nimble or improving my hand-eye coordination or something. I guess it is better than online shopping or casino gambling.

I found some interesting things about solitaire on the Internet. It was first included as an option in Windows 3 by Microsoft and quickly became the most used application at work and at home. But apparently the story that they included a boss button which would hide the game when the boss came around wasn’t true, although someone did come up with such a device.

The computer is really quite encouraging about solitaire, although it will not allow you to cheat. And it won’t declare a game over until you have exhausted every possible move. You can ask for a new game, but it still counts the one you are playing as a loss.

When it is sure you are done, the computer throws up a box telling you, “No more moves! You have run out of moves. Good game!”

Nice praise but it said that even after one game in which I was unable to move any cards or pull any out of the deck in my 33-second game. I guess technically it was a good game. I did make all the possible moves, which were none.

I reassure myself that solitaire surely must be good for something. Maybe it is keeping my senior mind alert and nimble or improving my hand-eye coordination or something. I guess it is better than online shopping or casino gambling.

Wally Spiers on solitaire

Win or lose, it gives you the option of a “New game,” a “Return to home,” where there are other versions of solitaire or “Try again.” “Try again” allows you to play that same deal again if you think you made a mistake or could do better.

At first I thought try again meant start a new game and I lost the same lousy deal five times in a row before I caught on.

There is an undo arrow that will let you go back during a game and change moves if you think you have made a mistake. I have found though, that it rarely makes a difference. Best to just hit the new game button and let the machine shuffle and deal and go at it again — and again — and again, knowing, of course, that I am perfectly capable of walking away from any hand.

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