As you may have noticed if you check this with any frequency, I’ve taken a short break. Blogging was never something I intended to do with any regularity, but recent elective surgery plus a new writing project have left me short on time and motivation.
During said surgical recovery, I saw a meme about playing Minesweeper and thought, “I could stand to get more autistic about that.” When I was in college, I worked a part-time job that required the use of Windows 98 and I played Minesweeper constantly, almost unconsciously. It got to the point where I figured I could play competitively, but never looked into it. In the years since, using newer machines, I hadn’t thought about it, but the amount of time on my hands and my scattered post-op mental state made it distinctly appealing. So I’ve been playing again, relearning the intuition of it. I’m not as good as I was, but I can see a way back.
Before, I always thought of Minesweeper as a war game: something that teaches you which risks are safe to take. In a way that’s still true, although I see that less as a blanket statement now, and more of a self-calibration of short-term risk thresholds. I can tell when I’m in a rash mood by the moves I choose to make and the losses I choose to risk. This is not something that is usually apparent to me during self-reflection, but Minesweeper shows it to me. Knowing this lets me then calibrate that attitude toward the rest of the work I’m doing for the day: am I going to get impatient? Am I going to jump to conclusions? Where might I go wrong?
This idea of holistic games isn’t new. It’s present in mental health apps and stim toys. A friend of mine once designed a game in which the “characters” were musical notes, and the landscape you guided them through would produce harmonies. Gaming as self-directed psychological assessment, however, seems to be a slightly unexplored angle. It makes me wonder how else it could be employed to explore postures related to avenues of behavior beyond risk-taking and mood regulation. Could a game be used to measure empathy? Openness?
I had no overarching Ender’s Game-style thesis here. I just enjoy clicking blocks.