Single-player games

Between the many and large changes the advent of the computer wrought in the world, one odd little dent it made was an explosion of single-player games. Before the computer, “game” was more or less synonymous with “multi-player game”.

The word “multiplayer” appeared in the mid-1970s.

Before the existence of the computer, games like Myst, Baldur’s Gate, and Firewatch were impossible. What the computer gave us was the ability to create synthetic storytellers: rich, interactive, dynamic, responsive fiction.

But there is also a huge class of games that were possible before the computer. Games like Bejeweled, Picross and, most obviously, Windows Solitaire. This sort of puzzle-solving game has existed for rather longer than the computer has, but it seems to me that single-player video games are drastically more popular than other kinds of solitaire.

Of course, video games are drastically more popular than every other kind of game.

Now that everyone has a supercomputer in their pockets, escaping to these sorts of intellectual islands is trivially near at hand. The time from “I want to play a game of Bejeweled” to actually playing a game of Bejeweled is about ten seconds.

I think these games enrich our lives and engage our minds. But perhaps they also disconnect us from one another, a little.

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