It's 12:36 p.m. and my stomach's growling. I leave for lunch and return an hour later with lips and stomach burning from an extra spicy chicken udon. "Ah, look, how quaint." Someone has left a stack of papers on my desk with a little note asking me to make five copies. "Yeah, I'll get right on that," I say to myself, sliding the stack to my left. "Tomorrow."
Time to play some games. I click open my All-in-One sidebar in Firefox and open the Games folder. There are tons of web-based games on the list, but I click on Mafia Boss, a little turn-based gem that lets me recruit whores and bootleggers, hitmen and thugs. If I keep 'em happy with guns and dope, they make me money and defend my turf if another player tries to steal my cash. But last night, they lost a vicious gang war. I've been Zeroed. All my tough guys are dead, but I see the perp left me with a few whores and card sharks and a cute digital note which reads, "I made you an offer you couldn't refuse." Time to recruit some more big guns and stick it to the wannabe godfather who messed up my crew. La Cosa Nostra - It's not pretty.
Encouraged by the relative quietness of the cubicle savannah, I decide to kick it up a notch and bring on some action. Flash has given amateur game designers the tools needed to create some pretty intense side-scrollers, RPGs or shooters.
Newgrounds.com, AddictingGames.com and miniclip.com all have huge (sometimes overlapping) libraries of free games that have better graphics than most designed in 1993. You have to battle through ads and blinking banners, but the games are there, and they are really good at grabbing and holding onto your attention - for about five minutes. It's akin to how I feel about strip clubs: The idea is preferential to the reality of the situation.
My boss drops by my cube to let me know he's going home, but that I should stay until 6:00 to cover for him in case his boss calls. I could just wait five minutes after he's gone and take off myself, but his absence gives me courage. Why go home when I have a working computer right in front of me? Can I achieve the four-minute mile of videogaming at work and install a commercial game client on my PC? There is only one way to find out.
What game should I install? Anything that came out in the last year is probably going to crunch a little bit too much on my Dell-piece-of-crap-not- so-great-for-gaming rig. As much as I'd love to be playing WoW at work, I'd rather not be looking at a new frame every five minutes as I check my mail in Ironforge. I settle on Civ 3. It's a great game with endless possibilities of time-suckage, and it's not so flashy that the onboard graphics chip will explode every time I move.
With a furtive glance over my shoulder, I press the shiny red button to open the CD drive and gingerly slip the disc onto the tray. I wait for the autoplay splash screen to load with a combination of glee and anxiety. "Install Civilization?" Hell yeah. Time to test this mother: I double click the icon and fire it up. Splash screen seems peachy, the intro movie chugs, but, hey, it does that at home. I select "New Game," pick a random civ and wait for the gaming magic to unfold. I can't believe I didn't try this before. My boss leaves early almost every day during the summer. I could have been gaming for at least two or three hours in the afternoons all last year. This year, I'm gonna get my game on. The game has finished loading and there I am with my flashing pink settler unit, ready to found a nation of (damn it) Franks.