In praise of ultra-short games

In praise of ultra-short games

Enlarge / Is falling in this hole going to take long? I have a meeting at 2…

These days, the game industry at large seems to be focused on games that can keep players playing, and paying, indefinitely. This overarching genre of “forever” games encompasses esports like Hearthstone and Overwatch, social hangouts like World of Warcraft and Fortnite, and endlessly repetitive grinds like Destiny 2 and even Candy Crush Saga. The idea in each case is to create an experience that can engage a critical mass of players for hundreds or even thousands of hours over a span of years.

There’s something to be said for these kinds of endless experiences. These days, though, I’m frequently more fascinated by games at the complete opposite end of the spectrum. This class of “lunch break” games—single-serving, single-player narrative experiences designed to be played once, in about an hour or

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Xbox, PC get a little bit closer with the latest Xbox updates

Xbox, PC get a little bit closer with the latest Xbox updates

Enlarge (credit: Microsoft)

The May 2019 update for the Xbox One’s system software is now rolling out, bringing some small refinements to the friends list, messaging, and game/app list.

Starting with the last one first, the app list will now ignore “a,” “an,” and “the” when sorting or grouping alphabetically. This is the kind of change that makes me amazed that they weren’t already doing this, as it almost always makes for easier-to-use listings. Video games don’t even have The The to contend with.

The Messaging change is rather inexplicable. There’s a sensible change: incoming messaging requests from your friends are now prioritized, with requests from non-friends put in a separate category. But for some reason, Microsoft is going to wipe all group messages as a result. You can save backups of the messages for a limited time at Xbox.com, and messages with individual users are safe, but the

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Windows Solitaire inducted into the World Video Game Hall of Fame

Windows Solitaire inducted into the World Video Game Hall of Fame

Enlarge (credit: Microsoft)

The classic Windows game Solitaire has joined such landmarks as Doom, Tetris, and World of Warcraft in being inducted into the Strong Museum of Play’s World Video Game Hall of Fame. The award recognizes Solitaire‘s role as a significant part of gaming’s history.

Solitaire was first bundled with Windows 3.0. Much like the other notable bundled game, Minesweeper, Solitaire was there to serve as a secret tutorial: in a time when the mouse was still regarded as a new and exotic piece of computer hardware, Solitaire honed clicking, double clicking, and drag-and-drop skills. As a computerized version of a familiar card game, it was instantly recognizable. It was bundled with every subsequent Windows version, up to Windows 7. Windows 8 replaced it with a much more varied set of card games.

The combination of approachability and bundling means that the game has

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