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Hey, do you hear that clicking sound? It’s barely audible, overwhelmed by the TV, the traffic outside, the wind blowing in the trees, and all the rest of the background noise that you’ve somehow learned to tune out. Of course, it’s not that hard to forget about that soft, tiny clicking sound. You’ve just grown so used to hearing it. It’s the sound of boredom in the early evening, of disinterest and distracted minds in between commercial breaks. It’s the sound of a human slowly deteriorating into a zombie, a little bit of drool slowly flowing down the crease of his chin. It’s the sound of someone using a computer mouse to browse the Internet hours for on end, looking for answers to whatever questions and desires he or she seeks. And for PC Solitaire players, it’s a sound that has become nothing more than a side effect from participating in the game that they so obsessively play.

Grabbing screen shots for Outlaw Volleyball was much more fun than for this game.

In the early part of the last decade, PCs were just stepping into the forefront of public use. For the first time, the average Joe could go home, sit down at his desk, and enjoy the myriad of possibilities with his wonderful new computer. Though the Internet was still too simplistic to be used effectively, the computer’s wide variety of other applications offered hours of potential entertainment. No longer would you have to carefully write out your resume or business letters on a typewriter; the built-in word processor worked wonders for anyone with a need to write. Those with a passion for art could start us Microsoft Paint, letting that newfangled mouse take the place of their beloved brush and pen. Yet despite all these features, the PC still needed something to keep everyone hooked to using their computers, something that could grab the attention of the average user and make them beg for more. The solution came in the form of the small variety of games that came with the computer, which provided small but ungodly additive distractions from everyday life.

The history of the Solitaire stretches far back into a time where there were no games, the only entertainment being a deck of playing cards and a sharp mind. The PC version follows the Klondike gaming style, dating back to the North American gold rush of the 19th Century. Traditional rules decree that seven stacks of cards should be laid out on the table, which each progressive stack having one more card than its predecessor. The top cards of each of these stacks are placed face up, allowing the player to see what he can work with. The 24 remaining cards are placed in a big stack over to the side, left facedown for later use. If you carefully at the top cards of the seven main piles, you’ll see what numbers or letters they hold. If you’re lucky, you’ll get a card worth something, like a King or a Queen. Noting this, have to take three cards from your pile and see what you’ve got. In order to get rid of the cards in your hand, they have to be a number or letter less than the cards at the top of your pile. If you’ve got a King on top, you’ll need to have a Queen in your hand. If you’ve got a Five card on top, you’ll need a Four. Not only that, but the colors have to alternate as well, forcing you to put a red card after a black card, and vice versa.

Grabbing screen shots for any game would much more fun than for this game.

Sounds complicated, doesn’t it? Thankfully, getting all the cards piled together appropriately is the most difficult part of the game. Unfortunately, it’s not the end of your test. Not only do you have to get all 24 of your extra cards into the piles, but you’ve also got to restack them in numerical order by their symbols, starting with the Aces and working your way up to the kings. Considering that the placement of the card differs with each playthrough, you’ll have to choose wisely where and when you place your cards. One slipup could lose you the entire game, stranding you as you look for that one missing card with an ever-increasing sense of desperation and hopelessness. Thankfully, unlike the classic deck of 52 playing cards, the Microsoft version allows you to reset the game and give the challenging game another shot. And once you’ve gotten good at spotting possible links in piles, you can start challenging yourself by beating the game faster, or trying to beat your all time score. Regardless of what you do, Solitaire will always be there, beckoning you to return to its incredibly addictive fun.

Considering that this game is a digitized clone of a game created over a century ago, it’s little wonder why Solitaire lacks the flash and flair of current PC games. All you have is a standard green background and piles of two-dimensional cards spanning across the playing field. While these aren’t necessarily the most beautiful sight to ever come from a PC, the cards do look like perfect replicas of the real thing, with the appropriate colors, lettering, and picture designs. The Ace of Hearts may be an easy card to mimic, but the drawing of the Queen of Hearts takes a little work. While the front of the cards may look classic, the backs look a little more up to date. With each new Microsoft hardware and software upgrade, the deck designs get a facelift, ranging from bland red backs to miniaturized versions of your wallpapers. Each deck design differs with the operating system, offering a tiny speck of customization for a simple yet engrossing game.

It has deathmatch, team deathmatch and capture the bag modes. It doesn’t really.

Growing up, I never played with a deck of cards. I had my board games, my Legos, and my video games. Looking back, I regret that I never bothered to learn the countless games that I could have played both by myself and with friends. Microsoft’s spin on the Solitaire gaming style was my first experience with such a concept of cards. And it was quite an introduction, indeed. Solitaire remains one of the most addictive and played game the world over, treating gamers and PC owners alike to a wonderfully simple and challenging that game. So if you’re tired of leveling up in that MMORPG, or you can’t afford that new big budget game that just came out, don’t forget: Solitaire will always be waiting for you, just a few clicks away.

7 out of 10

The author of this fine article

is a Senior Staff Writer at Thunderbolt, having joined in February 2005.

Gentle persuasion

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