Digital Slob
Curt Brandao

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Playing games at work
can be a lot of work

One of the worst kept secrets in the Digital Age is that almost all of us play computer games on the job.

OK. There. I said it.

It's a universal pseudo-sin that stirs bouts of occasional "what have we become" guilt among Respectable People and Digital Slobs alike, second only to checking voicemail on the toilet.

The Christian Science Monitor reports one North Carolina politician wants to save all state employees from the temptation of computer Solitaire by yanking it off their hard drives. While understandable, it seems cruel, especially since most civil service workers could never get invited to a real game of cards.

Thankfully, Google provides a treasure trove of rationalizations for almost any vice, this one included.

A 2003 Dutch study found that workers playing computer games actually had signs of higher productivity. Researchers speculated that office game breaks could also reduce absenteeism -- not as much as a Jacuzzi in the break room, but still.

Professor Jeffrey Goldstein told the BBC he wanted to broaden the study. But since that was two years ago, we can only assume he had to put things on hold after getting hooked on Minesweeper.

So for now, we still have to play shockwave.com games at work with a vague shame cloud overhead. Actually, Shame Cloud sounds like a great name for a new game.

A Respectable Person can make agile attempts at hiding his computer play when the boss comes around. Quick gaming reflexes come in handy when surprise inspections require shutting down a game window, or covering it up with a spreadsheet using slight-of-hand skills that would be the envy of many opening acts in Las Vegas.

Still, anyone within earshot can tell something is up, anyway, as soon he starts clicking his mouse like he's having a seizure. Unless his hard drive crashed or he's foaming at the mouth, you can bet someone's going for a record and has just a few seconds left on his power-ups.

Sadly, while most Respectable People have rock-solid five-year career plans, when it comes to goofing off, most never think past the next flop in their current hand of online Texas Hold 'Em.

On-the-clock Slobs, however, take getting to the next level to a whole new level.

Many Slobs plan their entire careers around playing computer games, and employ an ambitious, complex labyrinth of misdirection and desensitization to make it happen. Here are just a couple of insider secrets:

» If the boss is coming while you're playing a computer game, meet the potentially explosive threat halfway, altering the supervisory trajectory away from your monitor and toward a more inert target, like the water cooler, the soda machine or the restroom (if you've gone to the water-cooler/soda-machine well once too often already).

» Boot up Solitaire on your computer, take a screenshot of the cards and turn it into desktop wallpaper for your monitor. Use it to bait your supervisor as a practical joke, laugh with coworkers about your wry wit, and soon you'll be able to go on your lunch break in mid-game without a second thought.

See the Columnists section for some past articles.
Also see www.digitalslob.com

Curt Brandao is the Star-Bulletin's production editor. Reach him at: cbrandao@starbulletin.com

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