The best computer games to play at the office

October 19, 2007, 4:40 PM UTC

A couple of you who responded to my inquiry about your forbidden behavior at the office had some funny remarks about my gaming history. This being Friday, and a gray, sodden day here in New York, I thought I would spend a little time on the subject instead of, you know, working.

Rebecca from Philadelphia, ever her enthusiastic self, was excited by one of my early game choices. “YOU PLAYED RISE OF THE TRIAD TOO?! I’m so happy!” she writes. “I really thought my brother and I were the only ones. No one EVER knows what I’m talking about when I mention that game. I LOVED THAT GAME!!”

So did I. That was a bloody, violent enterprise with lots of levels and cool weapons and a weird bouncing mechanism you could use to ice bad guys from above. Or good guys from below. I’m not sure which. It came in a line that included Wolfenstein, Doom, Doom 2, Doom 3, the offensive Duke Nukems, the incomparable Quake series, and Unreal. The genre then entered into the massive, crazy iterations like Halo that can no longer be played in a work environment.

At this point, as far as I know — and please correct me if I am wrong — there aren’t really any fun, light, quick-moving first-person shooters that work at the office anymore. They’re all huge and gangling and take enormous hardware resources and huge disk space. A fair number of them require an internet hookup and run like macadam on a corporate network.  Hence my opting for lighter, less graphic and disk-intensive games.

The other consideration is that, for some reason, most people seem to like to play these great first-person shooters not against the Artificial Intelligence, but against other players. I never did and still don’t. If I wanted to deal with vicious, predatory strangers, I’d go to a business meeting.

MMORPGs, likewise, are not only highly unsuitable to any kind of business career — with the possible exception of a permanent seat in the back of the mail room — but also turn you into a mountainous slab of pimpled jelly. For proof of this fact, please see perhaps the greatest episode of South Park ever made, “Make Love, Not Warcraft.” I can say no more.

Allan from Orlando doesn’t seem to be aware of these considerations and, being his usual amusing self, takes a dimmer and slightly more sarcastic view of the situation. “Well,” he writes, “your early taste in games was cool, but since then…. I mean, Soduku/Mahjongg? Have you just given up? Next you’ll be wearing a beret and black socks with tennis shoes.”

I know what he means. I’m a little ashamed of what I’ve got up on my screen these days. The thing is, for the office, games with repetitive matching are better, for the most part, than the great games I just mentioned. Honestly, how is one to go around fragging drooling monsters while you’re in a meeting, or having a conversation, or even on a squawkbox.

People say, “What’s that?” when an imp’s head explodes or your wand vaporizes a dwarf. And when you get to a Boss level and are battling a huge zombie vampire? Forget about talking numbers on your headset. Either the director of finance will end up getting greased or you will.

Anyhow, I think you see where we’re going with this. The Duke (pictured above) has been replaced by the much more sedate sixth-generation Tetris-type games like Cradle of Rome, or mutated board games like the ones Allan finds so ridiculous. There are times, sadly, when I even find myself playing those things where you have to find hidden objects like a shoe, a wrench or a parrot hidden in the Victorian library. I used to do that kind of thing when I was six year old, reading Highlights for Children. It looks like the great days of office gaming just might be over.

Unless… unless… do you guys have any ideas? Are there wonks out there who have found a solution to this conundrum and are even as we speak chasing vicious warthogs down an imaginary path? Please. Let me know. I’m beggin’ ya.