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Solitaire-y Addiction

Why solitaire is so fun that we can’t stop playing.

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Solitaire may be the most used software ever made. The Klondike and Spider variations especially have no doubt clocked in many hundreds of billions of deals globally since it was first digitized. Not to mention the number of plays from various traditional versions of solitaire one is able to play on their lonesome with a real deck of cards.

Don't have a computer or phone? Get a handheld solitaire game instead! Their batteries last almost forever.

Often I will research social media for the keyword “solitaire” (as one does) and beyond the spam of rings and so on it is often entertaining to find what people say about the game. One common complaint I’ve seen is from professionals who install a version of solitaire, and then lament this decision for all of the time they spent playing the cards. It never ends well. They’ll never install solitaire again, they say. But inevitably they do play solitaire again!

What compels us to play more solitaire?

The key qualities of what makes solitaire fun are:

Which are enforced by:

Of course all of these aspects of the enjoyment of solitaire can be translated to nearly anything else. From reading a book, to eating sushi. They can all make you compelled to do the task again and again — once you get a taste for it at least. When something becomes something of a hobby, or habit, it’s hard to put down. Like comfortable shoes, or your own bed, it’s easy to slide right back in so long as the chain isn’t broken. Your bed is your bed, but a house fire may make it no more. So too can the chain of gameplay be broken by change.

Rooty Tooty Point ‘n’ Shooty

An anecdote from my own experience is to do with the game Team Fortress 2. For a few years, this was my daily driver. I played a round or two every day. I played on the same server, with nearly the same people day after day. It was fun, exciting, familiar, rewarding. Like a morning cup of coffee a win would get me going to the tasks of the day. But then the game began to change update by update, it became interesting in some ways, yet some of the magic also was diminished. Then one day the game I loved to play went Free To Play, and with it a flood of people came in. My server was full. Day after day I could not join. I tried to play on other servers — it just wasn’t the same. And the game changed too, so many changes that the familiarity and comfort and reliable winning was gone. It wasn’t the same game anymore. Then I uninstalled. I tried to play again a few times in the years since, but that habit was already broken for good, the game I knew gone, the community that once was now dust in the wind.

I admit when I actually used Windows XP I still had not yet learned to love solitaire.

The same kind of experience can happen with solitaire. Except that more often than not you can get the same familiarity without such a disruption. Although disruptions do happen. Going from Windows 3.1 to 95 to XP to 7 to 10 playing Windows Solitaire was always familiar yet different. And no doubt when people made those version jumps (or even a jump to a Mac) they never accepted the new versions of the builtin solitaire (or couldn’t find the new solitaire), and the chain was snapped. Windows 10 solitaire is probably one of the worst examples of this. Microsoft wants you to pay a subscription for their solitaire. Per computer you own. It’s either a monthly subscription, or you get ads if you want to play Windows 10 solitaire. This has for sure alienated many people, some likely of which who went cold turkey because of it. Only Microsoft knows if it was financially worth it.

No, just, no!

We say addiction in relation to games, like how addicting the game is, but it’s not quite a real chemical addiction — more like a compulsion as described before, and the same processes which make you come back to solitaire can get you into most any task. Then the trick is, if playing solitaire is a real problem for you, to figure out something which is more useful to you… and trick your brain into finding it just as much if not more rewarding. To some their work is play, if you can make your work play and be profitable to the point of becoming wealthy then you may be lucky or smart.

I still like to shoot things in games. I have almost just as many hours as I did in Team Fortress 2 as I do in another game Destiny 2. And similar things happened. The game changed in disruptive, disappointing games, my friends left the game, and then I left the game. The pattern repeated!

But solitaire is something you play alone. It is a solitary game. Which removes that element of social enforcement / obligation / interaction as a variable in your willingness to stop. Should someone who plays solitaire often stop just to stop though? If it’s not a real problem, then probably not. If your life is falling apart, and you’re play solitaire 24/7, then it’s probably still not solitaire’s fault that it is your chosen escape to deal with mental illness or stress. Using games like solitaire to distract you when you are hurting can generally be a good thing as a coping mechanism to survive the bad times, but not when you neglect so much of what does matter in life to play a game. If you notice these kinds of issues in yourself or others then it is likely time to reach out and get help with the mental health and or life situation which is causing the issues.

There should be no shame in playing solitaire, or scorn for those who play it. Solitaire is more than what it is commonly thought of, and solitaire has potential beyond what is already realized — potential that I see and want to bring into reality! Play solitaire to clear your mind. Play solitaire to relieve stress. For me personally, solitaire is the infinite zen. As I got older, I enjoy it more. Solitaire is fun, and I appreciate that fun is so easily found with it!

Solitaire Is the World’s Game — Solitaire: A Tribute

With Windows Solitaire especially, solitaire has a firm legacy of making computers approachable to more people. It’s a game many from now older generations played with real cards, and could easily understand the rules for, could easily see the appeal and usefulness of having functions like shuffling automatic. In a sense, solitaire was a very important software which convinced people to use computers and invest in them more. We likely owe so much to solitaire that is not properly celebrated — it is the game that got many to buy their own personal computers, which fueled a computing revolution with cash. And now today for many people the first app they install on their new devices is… a copy of a solitaire. It is one of the many carrots (along with the likes of the P word) that in the background drove our technological civilization forward. 🃏

Solitaire is not going anywhere. It’s here to stay as a game that is played — as an infinite set of games that are possible. Solitaire is predictable, solitaire is comfortable, solitaire is fun, solitaire is rewarding. There’s a variant for everyone. From Klondike to Freecell to Wheel (as in, Faerie Solitaire). Even versions of solitaire played without cards, such as Mahjong Solitaire, are still very much solitaire. There are variations for every play style, styles which have not yet even been invented but will likely be huge decades from now. And all of our young people, including you if you don’t yet love solitaire, will eventually realize that solitaire is actually your game too. ♥♠♦♣

Solitaire games within games? Has humanity gone too far!?

Did you know? National Solitaire Day is May 22. Mark you calendars!

P.S. Is a correction required in this text? Tell me in our Discord!

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