Saturday, June 04, 2011

Help a Brother Out!: I Clicked a Square and the Smiley Face Guy Turned His Eyes into Xes Like He's Dead, Does That Mean I Win, Did I Beat the Game

You are about to be privy to one of my many shameful and potentially compromising secrets, one of the psychological scars and mental torments that eats away at my very soul each and every day to irreparably wound my interpersonal relations with all around me. I share this with you in the utmost confidence, on the internet, and I hope dearly that somebody can help to ease the continual disgrace and dismay that such a failing incurs on my person each day I walk this earth.

Ladies and gentlemen:

Help a Brother Out!

You know Minesweeper, that abstract minefield-simulator video game that has come standard with every Windows release since 1992?

How in the fuck do you play this game?

The standard-issue card games, your Solitaires and Freecells and whatnot, I can wrap my head around those like nothing and just beat them mercifully. Even Hearts, and Hearts is just complete bullshit. But Minesweeper? Holy god, entire decades' worth of my life spent on Windows machines (really already a waste to begin with) and I have just never had any idea what of anything is going on in Minesweeper.

I'll click somewhere, and a number will appear. A two? Great! Are those points? Do I work towards a high score? Does a three mean I'm doing better, or worse? So I'll click somewhere else on the board, it can really just be anywhere, and then BAM WHOOPS IT IS A MINE and I have sent the smiley face at the top of the window to a hellish early grave. He will never see his wife and children again, because I clicked here instead of there and explosions happened.

So I'll start another game, click somewhere on completely misguided instinct, and then HOORAY A THIRD OF THE BOARD IS EMPTY SPACE NOW. A whole bunch of numbers appear, hopefully for the high score, and then apparently I'm not allowed to just take the points and end the game there so I click somewhere else aaaaaaaaaaand get a one. Hooray! Look at this roll I'm on, there's no way anything can LOL WHOOPS HIT A MINE GAME OVER and another dead smiley face hits my lifetime pile of squandered yellow soldiers, a pile currently sitting somewhere around fifteen or twenty corpses for all the times in my life I have ever attempted Minesweeper. I have never won; I'm not entirely sure I would know what winning would look like.

It's not like I didn't try to figure it out! Normally -- this is not a technique you are advised to rely on academically, but normally -- you can gleam a better understanding of something from its Wikipedia page, but instead I get helpful game tips like this:

"Minesweeper can be modeled as algebra of binary variables with some exception that it does not possess a unique solution all the time. At such cases, the player has to guess for the location of a mine. See below for an example of a case that the player has to guess. See board puzzles with algebra of binary variables for reducing the minesweeper locally into algebra of binary variables."


"If you have two adjacent numbers, the difference between those numbers is equal to the difference in the number of mines for the 3 squares adjacent to each that are not adjacent to the other number. For example: if these numbers differ by 3, all of the adjacent squares to the higher number not shared by the other are mines, and all the opposite ones are safe."

oh well why didn't you say so

This may seem like a strange thing to be hung up on, but I might need this someday, dadgum it. I'm an information professional, and unemployed! Dudes out there in the world are being turned down for jobs because of their Myers-Briggs Type Indicators as we speak, and if people can get turned down for crap like that then I am justified in my nightmarish visions of losing an employment opportunity because I am the one idiot in the world who can't click anything but mines.

So help a brother out! If you are a Minesweeper shark, expert, guru or enthusiast, I would appreciate whatever you can tell me to make me better at this stupid frigging game that I don't understand and that will surely one day leave me a broken and bitter vagabond. Throw me a bone, here!


Ryan said...

A 1 is next to 1 mine. A 2 is next to 2 mines. And so on.

You want to clear squares that don't have mines and flag squares that do. (You can flag them with right-click)

Anonymous said...

I once heard that Minesweeper was made by Robert Donner, alum of Winnipeg's St. Paul's High School.

James Hope Howard said...

Is that how the numbers work! Well, son of a gun. That makes the whole thing make a bit more sense.

That Robert Donner Winnipeg connection appears to be legitimate, if artifacts from the early days of the internet are to be trusted, so that's neat. Although there's only so much we can do with that claim to fame -- and, thinking it over quickly, "Manitoba Minesweepers" would be only barely better than "Polar Bears" as a prospective NHL team name.