Faerie Solitaire: Continuing

I spent a bit more time on Faerie Solitaire last night. Sleepy of mind, I wanted something simple to distract me, and isn’t solitaire the canonical distraction? The Solitaire app that still comes with Windows was the thing filling the “casual game” niche before anyone figured out that there was a market there.

But of course that solitaire does’t play the tricks that the for-profit games do to keep you interested and then, eventually, tell you that you’re done so you’ll buy a sequel. More precisely, they tell you that you’re done when you dispose of all the cards, which I suppose is an “eventually” thing, but they don’t have a long-term goal you’re working towards, a campaign mode containing hundreds of hands, with bits of story punctuating chapters. Ending with a single victory seems like the wrong granularity if you want people to play continuously and obsessively. Faerie Solitaire certainly doesn’t. In fact, it employs something of the same gimmick as Half-Life: it never gives you permission to stop. When you finish a match, it doesn’t present you with a menu that has a “quit” option. It gives you a special screen displaying your progress, but the UI has only one button, labeled “Continue”. In order to quit, you have to quit after the next round has started.

The thing is, though, despite the lack of such gimmickry, people did play Windows Solitaire obsessively for millions of man-hours. Was it just the lack of alternatives, or is there still something we can learn from it?

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