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The rise and rise of solitaire

Thys Du Plooy

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Current levels of fanatic gaming have very modest origins. Let’s rewind the clock a few decades and look at one of the very unlikely heroes of gaming: solitaire.

Since computers started becoming part of everyday life back in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s people have always enjoyed playing games on them. With their ridiculously low computing power it was not possible to play very complex games on them. Game developers were actually challenged to come up with games that offered the kind of challenge that would see people coming back for more, without having to worry too much about what the graphics looked like.

This was where games like solitaire, mine sweeper and tetris was born. The games were challenging and exceptionally addictive. Over time there has been an evolution of these games and they have morphed into different genres of games. Many of today’s games are based on learnings from these early games.

The one we would like to have a bit of a closer look at is solitaire. It is one of those games that just about every single person on the planet with access to a computer has played. Personally I have played many variations of it and have driven myself nearly bonkers trying to beat them. It also doesn’t matter how many times you win when playing solitaire (or come agonisingly close), you will always be back for more.

Since the earliest versions of Windows were introduced on computers, these games started to come loaded as part of the OS. Some very popular versions during the 1990’s included tri peaks solitaire, pyramid solitaire, spider solitaire and mah-jong solitaire. It can be argued that mah-jong solitaire is not strictly a solitaire game, but it features many similarities.

One of the features that make it so enjoyable is that they will always offer a challenge, no matter how many times you have played the game. This is what gives it a timeless appeal. The same can’t be said for many of the games these days…

With the games being part of Windows and also becoming available at no cost online, the numbers of players have just continuously grown. Based on the number of times terms like “tri peaks solitaire” or “mah-jong” is searched in Google, it is very safe to assume that there are literally millions of players still enjoying these games on a daily bases globally.

The games are also extremely easy to learn in most cases. It becomes a bit more challenging when playing games like spider solitaire, because you use multiple decks. When playing pyramid solitaire you also get some elements of maths thrown into the mix. Versions of the game like tri peaks solitaire have always been popular as they have been great options to while away a few minutes.

Tri peaks solitaire for example is played against the clock. The challenge is then to try and remove the respective cards as quickly as possible to make sure you get maximum bonus points. But I am veering of the point…

Games like solitaire offer a timeless gaming experience for one simple reason: they offer a challenge every time you play. I can name so many games you can buy these days where you can either master it, with the result of it becoming boring, or there are cheats to artificially improve your chances of success.

The idea is not to knock current games, but to tip your hat to the pioneers in computer gaming . The solitaires, minesweepers and the like are the ones who really blazed the trail. After all these years they still have the respect of millions and countless hours are spent trying to win.


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