The Science Explorer Logo

Lasse Havelund/Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

How Microsoft Tricked Its Users Through Games

Very Sneaky!

| 2 min read

Very Sneaky!

It might seem as though Microsoft put games like Solitaire and Minesweeper on their computers simply to entertain users, but there was actually a far sneakier reason.

In 1990, when Solitaire first came out on Microsoft Windows 3.0 computers, few people were adept at navigating the system using a mouse. In fact, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 15 percent of households had computers.

At the time, most users were accustomed to command-line input (typing directions on a keyboard), but Solitaire required a user to drag and drop using a mouse. Thus, by playing the game, users were training themselves to perform these actions without even realizing it.

SEE ALSO: Researchers Use Gaming Technology to Create Better X-Rays

The addition of Minesweeper served a similar purpose. If you recall, when playing the logic puzzle game, you have to left click to clear a square and right click to place a flag. Right clicking is useful in many computer programs, so the game trained players to perform that action without thinking about it and caused it to become second nature.

Hearts, introduced in 1992, could be played over a network. It was included to get users interested in the networking capabilities of their computer.

When released, FreeCell was bundled with the Win32s package that made it possible for 32-bit applications to run on the 16-bit Windows 3.1. The game was included to test that the 32-bit data processing system was properly installed. If it was not, the game could not run.

If this article has brought back fond memories, and you want to play now, depending on your computer it may be a bit trickier than it was back in the early 1990s. When Microsoft released Windows 8, they removed all of the games. They brought Solitaire back for Windows 10, but you’ll have to go searching in the Windows store if you want the other classics.

Despite the games’ sneaky introductions, they remained on the computers for decades thanks to their highly addictive nature. I challenge you to open Solitaire and play just one game!

Related Content