Thoughts on Solitaire

Solitaire games come in any form imaginable.  Most people are familiar with only a few specific forms; the one that’s arguably most well-known and what many people call simply “Solitaire” (or “Patience”) actually has a name—Klondike.  “Solitaire” as a term covers the entire range of single-player card-based games—most of us actually know this by now.  You come across it on-line, at the least, if a friend doesn’t point it out.  But what made it so darn popular?

The history of Solitaire games is pretty easy to get into—in that no one knows for sure.  Card games in general have an incredibly murky history, so it’s hard to trace a specific game or genre back through time.  Klondike has some historical tie with France, which we can glean simply from the terms used (like “tableau”, names for other Solitaire games, and such), but beyond that no one really knows for sure.

Solitaire games enjoyed success on the computer for a few years before Microsoft made it part of the standard install on their operating systems back in Nineteen Ninety.  It was love at first click, really.  The interesting thing is that Solitaire games—from the tried-and-true Klondike, to FreeCell, to Spider Solitaire, and the rest—are still insanely popular.  It’s incalculable how much work is avoided in pursuit of getting the cards to the foundation.

Now, while the history of Klondike is difficult to pin down, the history of FreeCell is a good bit clearer.  Like most other forms of Solitaire, it’s insanely popular and, like its brethren, surely responsible for more ignored work than any other past time.  I have to admit, I’m no less addicted.  Yes, I enjoy my video games (obviously, heh), but I also admit that when I’ve been researching articles, sometimes my attention would be diverted by that digital table-top, whether the temptation be Klondike, Spider Solitaire, or whatever else.

Why are all those forms of Solitaire so popular?  I think it comes down to one basic aspect of them—they’re so easy to get into and don’t require an exceedingly large amount of brain-power.  In our adult lives, we generally have responsibilities—jobs, families, whatever else.  Even if we have other hobbies and games to take up our attention, they usually require us to think more to adequately utilize them.

There’s something to be said for taking a “mental break” and just clicking—which is, doubtless, why browser-based “casual games” like Bejeweled, Farmville, and all the rest so insanely popular, as well as ensure that Flash games will likely never go away.

That’s not to say such games as Solitaire, Bejeweled, et al. are completely mindless.  Of course not.  The point is that they require less mental taxation than something like Chess, StarCraft, and so on.  When we have to remember facts, figures, dates, birthdays, likes, dislikes, preferences, jargon, code—when we have to exert incredible mental power to do what we need to do each day, something that requires less is of course welcome.

In addition to that, it’s easy to get one of those games going.  A couple-few clicks and you’re off.  It’s not like, say, a console or computer game, where you have to power the thing up, put the disc in, click through menus and settings—almost makes one tired just thinking about it.  With a game like Klondike or Farmville, you’re up and running almost before you can really think about it.

As busy as most of our lives are, in whatever fashion, sometimes we can only get away with a break of a few minutes, maybe a bit longer if we’re lucky.  The average Solitaire game takes less than five minutes from first opening the program to beating that hand.  Something like Bejeweled or Chuzzle can be quit whenever the player likes.

Those two things—the ease of use and the quickness of use—are what makes such things popular.  They’re what ensure that Solitaire and browser games aren’t going to go away, and with our daily lives getting more complicated and busy all the time, they’re sure to only become more popular.


4 Responses to “Thoughts on Solitaire”

  1. Elisa Michelle Says:

    To be honest, I suck at Solitaire. I’ve never won a single game. Card games in general aren’t my strongsuit, but I do love board games like Clue (that game can be so fun). Still, I’m definitely a gamer girl — give me a 360 or a Playstation any day and I can be stiff competition sometimes, haha.

    • I’m surprised you haven’t one a single game of Solitaire. That said, I agree that Clue is awesome (and the film was pretty spiffy, too, if I say so myself).

      • Elisa Michelle Says:

        Clue is the best, and the movie was hilarious. I loved it. And Solitaire was always too boring, never really keeping me long enough to try and figure out the game. Maybe I’m too impatient or something?

      • Hee. Perhaps, just a little, heh. But A.D.H.D. just means you find more fun in more places really quickly. 😉

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