When I move house there’s a little few weeks of time elapsing before I get off my arse and figure out how to set up an internet connection. This usually doesn’t matter much as I’ll be busy with other stuff, but once I’ve sat on a cardboard box to watch the 2003 Australian Idol final for the 8th time I start to want the internet and open up a browser. Of course, without a connection, chrome gives me a cute pixelated dinosaur and a cactus, telling me that my internet is all dried up like a desert or extinct reptile respectively.
I had seen this image for years before a friend mentioned it being a game. “WHAAAAAT” I whispered incredulously. This was amazing news. All I had to do was press space bar and suddenly my cute little friends came to life. The mechanic is simple. Dinosaur runs through desert toward cactus, press space to jump over cactus, repeat for high score and rejoice. There’s just enough variety and challenge as you play to keep you interested too. The little dino speeds up and some pterodactyls pop up as day turns to night. It’s all quite charming.
And before you know it you’ve probably got you’re sketchy free wifi access back and the internet returns without a hitch. Lovely. Without even having to ask or pay this little game pops up right where and when its meant too. This happens from time to time with computers and it got me thinking about other examples. Snake on old uranium-green-back-lit brick phones is a good example. You had your phone with you and you couldn’t afford a pay as you go text thread with your one friend during an awkward train ride so you looked like you were still texting while actually just playing snake. So sneaky. The little pixels moving around and eating while getting a little harder each time was just enough to keep you going at the right time.
Then there’s minesweeper. Windows was an expensive and fancy acquisition in the late nineties/early naughties so you would fire up your new computer, wait patiently for the OS to boot and then explore how many amazing things your new “ELECTRONIC COMPUTATOR” was capable of. The Windows system still tried to sell itself back then. You had all the inbuilt things like paint, wordpad, explorer and GaMeS!!. Like it still does, except for the games. The games, as far as I could tell, were just there because they’re great, why not include them. They were an essential part of office procrastination capability. Minesweeper and solitaire were clever little things you could leave in a minimised window at any time, come back to and puzzle over. Visually unobtrusive while still prettier than Sudoku. They showed that this machine can support games as well I guess, advertising. But really they were just this fantastic given.
Maybe with the internet and browsers as a given people just relied on flash games more and more until good old minesweeper seemed obsolete. Though something was lost with it’s departure, that sense of complementary service and feeling of buying into an exciting new world with the tech you were using. Cue the rise of the chrome dino.