Find the Flowers vs Minesweeper


David Vronay writes about the difficult balance that has to be maintained between people who like the classic Windows game Minesweeper and people who are (understandably) upset that Windows includes a game about landmines, trivializing a very serious issue. (Yes, the image used in the game is a water mine, not a land mine, but that's scant consolation.)

By the way, David, you see, the idea behind "Find the Flowers" is that it's bad to step on flowers.

Comments (53)
  1. mccoyn says:

    The goal is to find the mines without blowing them up.  This doesn’t seem like a very violent game to me.

    Its not like all the games where the goal is to kill every monster that you see or steal cars to commit crimes.  Those games have violence as a goal.

  2. Illuminator says:

    The ways people will debase their work to serve the almighty dollar…

  3. James Schend says:

    I’m with McCoyn. It’s not like the goal of the game is to kill people with landmines, the entire point is to find (with a metal detector, presumably) and flag (for disposal, presumably) landmines without setting them off.

    People who object to this are using the same logic as the German government, which bans any Nazi symbols in movies/games/media in general– even if the entire point of the movie is fighting against the Nazis. (For instance, Return to Castle Wolfenstein, or the Indiana Jones movies.)

    Seems dumb to me.

    All Microsoft needs to do is name it "Humanitarian Mine Disposal Initiative" instead of "Minesweeper," and there you go.

  4. Name Required says:

    Nothing to do with anything, but there’s one of Raymond’s (and mine) pet peeves smack-dab in the middle of TFA: "This is really a large ask so late in the project."

    Makes I sick.

  5. Marcus says:

    @ German bans:

    This actually is a little different. As long as the media, which contains nazi symbols, has a cultural background, it seems to be fine for german officials. So even in Germany we do have nazi symbols in Indiana Jones ;)

    Sadly, games are not regarded as "art" and therefore nothing "cultural". In fact its more the opposite: Games are evil because they wreck the social skills of german teenagers, train them to use weapons and make them dumb.

  6. Kip says:

    Don’t forget about <a href="http://www.collegehumor.com/video:1770138">Minesweeper The Movie</a>.  I don’t think Find The Flowers Movie would have been nearly as good.

  7. Kip says:

    Oops looks like only plain text links are allowed.. sorry :-/

    http://www.collegehumor.com/video:1770138

  8. mcgurk says:

    What sad lives some people live.  I guess its easier concerning ones’ self over the violence and jingoistic implications of a game like Minesweeper than, oh, say, working to make the lives better of people who scour Phillipine garbage dumps to feed their children.

    And, you make yourself look all caring and important in the process, too.

    You have to realize that there is a good portion of the human population that must be ignored because their stupidity is infectious.  Most of them are truthers, but some of them are concerned over Minesweeper.  I’m sorry, did I say ignored?  I mean exterminated.  My bad.

  9. Ray says:

    This really is a great "real world" example of busy work being created to placate the humorless and/or delicate among us.  Not to belittle the evils of land mines, but you really have to be looking for something to whine about if you have a problem with Minesweeper.

    Next Up: A man who was once mauled by a bear sues Brown Bear Car Wash for financial "relief" because of the PTSD flare-ups brought on by their marketing materials.

  10. Jonathan says:

    @James Schend

    All Microsoft needs to do is name it "Humanitarian Mine Disposal Initiative" instead of "Minesweeper," and there you go.

    Ah, but then it is trivializing the dangers and suffering of the people on the real humanitarian mine clearing teams.  It is just cruel to imply that mines can be clear quickly and easily, and without loss of life or limb.

    (Or at least that is how that argument could be made).

  11. Brian says:

    @mcgurk

    there is a good portion of the human population that must be ignored because their stupidity is infectious.

    That belongs on a poster.  {golf clap}

  12. Tim says:

    "This is really a large ask so late in the project."

    That annoyed me too.  But it also annoyed me because of the "We would have had to rewrite the whole game" excuse.  This just after explaining they had made the appearance/theme entirely hot-switchable, so all they needed was to remove the preference option/UI and force the game to use the flower theme.  What a TOTAL rewrite!

  13. Jeff says:

    @mcgurk: .sigfile time!

    Ugh. These bleeding-heart "anti-minesweeper-game" people are really sad and need to get the hell out of other people’s business. Like the religious fundies that assault me at Chik-Fil-A and tell me my motorcycle is a tool of Satan. ("So it’s the way of Satan to use less gas and emit less pollution?" Yes, that quickly turned ugly for the jeebus-freak, who found out I can quote scripture better than he can.)

    I just bought a nicely-done Messerschmitt Me-262 fighter plane toy at an airshow.

    No swastikas allowed on it because those are BAD! So the plane looks really strange without any insignia at all.

    So I ended up getting "looked at funny" as I’m buying a large sheet of swastika decals at the local hobby store.

    These people need to sod off and leave me alone. And leave Microsoft alone too. There are more important issues to focus on.

    Now I have swastikas stuck all over my cube at work, because what am I to do with a couple dozen leftover stickers? At least it’s a conversation point. Plus it appears to offend the non-English-speaking illegal-immigrant cleaners, which is a bonus.

  14. Aidan Folkes says:

    As I discovered, when I left my XBox 360 Controller For Windows plugged in, the new version has force feedback if you hit a mine.

  15. Freaking Out says:

    Is it bad that I’m more offended by the new icon for Spider Solitaire than anything else?

    Actually, offended is the wrong word. Try… creeped out, or terrified. The old icons weren’t that bad, but the new one is an arachnophobe’s nightmare.

    David’s right about one thing, it IS difficult to avoid offending or upsetting everyone in the whole world with your design choices…

  16. J says:

    Jeff:  I’m all for purposefully offending the overly sensitive, but the fact that you have swastika decals scattered around your cubicle indicates to me that you’re completely out of touch with reality.  Seek help, please.

  17. John says:

    It’s ridiculous that the model plane didn’t have swastikas (for historical accuracy), but it’s way out of line to stick them all over your cube.

  18. Asztal says:

    The sound when you lose also changes between flowers mode and mines mode.

    Because obviously it wouldn’t make much sense if the flowers blew up when you found them.

  19. Brother Laz says:

    Some people should learn to discern between the GOAL and the CONTENT of a game. Racing games are totally violent because you can ram other cars off the road in KILL their DRIVERS!1! Minesweeper is violent because it has MINES in it!

    There’s also the whole realism thing. I’m sure nobody will get the wrong ideas from playing World of Warcraft and impersonating an elf who kills bipedal cows with lightning bolts. Neither will people who play Need for Speed proceed to try and ram police cars head-on thinking if they destroy 20 and hide in a tunnel the cops will depart and they’ll receive a Lamborghini.

    Ignore the zealots opposing these two categories of harmlessly violent games, and deal with the small segment of ‘violence porn’ games like Soldier of Fortune and several other shooters, which should be banned because THOSE games glorify violence and bloodshed.

  20. e.thermal says:

    yes great argument: guns err mines don’t kill people, video games do, ban em all, minesweeper ncluded </sarcasm>. Some people enjoy living their lives with their heads up their asses.  

  21. Tom Hill says:

    Somewhat off topic, what happened to Pinball in Vista?

  22. DriverDude says:

    "It’s not like the goal of the game is to kill people with landmines, the entire point is to find (with a metal detector, presumably) and flag (for disposal, presumably) landmines without setting them off."

    That’s is the point, yes. What people are complaining about is there are no serious consequences of stepping on a mine in Minesweeper, unlike in the real world, where limbs and lives are lost (often by people who are NOT playing the lets-find-a-mine game)

    May I humbly suggest the following fixes:

    1. Put some bite into the original game: kill a program whenever a mine is stepped on, and if the user has a losing streak, BSOD the machine. That will teach them the horrors of mines.

    2. Change the flowers to a nice, red, juicy fruit. Then the only people to complain are Mac lovers but they already hate Windows anyway. Chaulk it up to friendly jabs at the competition… besides, you know Steve would totally do that to Bill.

    BTW, I did not know Minesweeper could change appearance. *Gasp*

  23. dot says:

    There’s a simple solution that should satisfy both camps (and show off WPF):

    Exploding Flowers!

  24. Igor says:

    Or even better smelly mines :)

  25. Unabomber says:

    There’s no mines in amerika? Really?

  26. Kuwanger says:

    @Jonathan:

    ‘Ah, but then it is trivializing the dangers and suffering of the people on the real humanitarian mine clearing teams.  It is just cruel to imply that mines can be clear quickly and easily, and without loss of life or limb.

    (Or at least that is how that argument could be made).’

    Considering that the "humanitarian mine clearing team" could end up being a parent or older brother of a child who "discovered" a mine, I think it does rather trivialize the situation.  More to the point it’s the fact that first-world countries go through all the bother of planting tons of mines, don’t bother to clear them up when the "war" is over, and then third-world civilians get to play minesweeper with their bodies.  At that point, it’s hard not to see a minesweeper game as entirely distasteful.  Or, put another way, how would you feel about a Stop-The-Holocaust game with every version of Windows?

    @Jeff:

    ‘These people need to sod off and leave me alone. And leave Microsoft alone too. There are more important issues to focus on.’

    Those people should probably leave you alone.  But, Microsoft is a business.  If it wants to sell in certain locales, it’s in its best interest to pay attention to what offends people to increase/maintain sales.  Or, in short, to leave Microsoft alone would involve not buying Windows.  I don’t think Microsoft wants that.

  27. SvenGroot says:

    My favourite thing to do with the new Minesweeper in Vista is this:

    1. Make sure you’re using mine mode, not flowers.
    2. Set up a custom game with as big a field and as many mines as it will allow (24×30, 668 mines).

    3. Turn your speakers up to 11.

    4. Click twice in the field to set the mines off (the first click is never a mine).

    5. Enjoy the show.

    :)

  28. I was reading Raymond Chen’s blog post Find the Flowers vs. Minesweeper which is a pointer to David Vray’s

  29. Will says:

    So to solve all the problems of no serious consequences the solution is to link the game into real world files.

    So for example at low level you could be playing for the life of .lnk files, at medium go for "big project.doc" files, then at the highest level you are protecting your kernel and driver files.

  30. - says:

    Kip: that (awesome) trailer has a mistake: it’s impossible for the first guess to be a mine. I think the game actually places the mines after the first click, on the remaining squares.

  31. ERock says:

    But, wouldn’t you be able to see the flowers before stepping on them?

  32. Thomas says:

    My suggestion is that the program, when first run by a user, should ask if they are terrible offended by the use of mines in the game.  If they answer yes then the program should connect to the Internet, log onto U.S. Defense Department computers, interface with an unsecured particle beam satellite controller, then locate, target, and vaporize the offended user.  One less idiot on the planet and everyone else’s score goes up by one.

  33. Dean Harding says:

    For people who don’t believe land mines are a serious matter, I suggest you go here: http://www0.un.org/cyberschoolbus/banmines/facts.asp

  34. Mark says:

    I don’t think that anyone, anywhere, believes that landmines aren’t a serious matter.  I do think that most sane, intelligent, people recognize that the issue of mines in a game is NOT serious matter.

  35. Dean Harding says:

    Windows is sold in more countries than just the U.S. And just because the U.S. is so far removed from the very real horror of land mines, doesn’t mean there aren’t people who live with that horror every day. The fact is, minesweeper *does* trivialize mines.

    Now, normally, I’d be totally against anything that was trying to PC for the sake of being PC, but I do think this is different. Would it be in Microsoft’s best interest to include a game based on African American slavery with Windows? Somehow I don’t think so…

    Besides, adding a "flower" mode is really not that much work — the game was being re-written anyway. So who cares?

  36. Gazpacho says:

    Do you think someone in Cambodia even wants to <i>think</i> about landmines? Seriously? Regardless of what the goal is, it’s not much of a diversion when the game reminds you of your lost relative or lost leg, is it?

  37. Nils says:

    @Jeff:

    <pendant>

    Motorcycles may use less gas, but I think you would be surprised about emissions. Since catalytic converters are not required many, many motorcycles actually emit more gaseous emissions than cat-equipped automobiles.

    </pendant>

  38. mccoyn says:

    Following the old CO2 does not count convention I assume.

  39. Nils says:

    @mccoyn

    Yes, CO2 isn’t what rises freshwater pH levels, etc. etc. I’m not saying cars or bikes are worse or better (I own and use both) just that it’s dangerous to make the assumption that motorcycle == less pollution because it’s just not true.

    Especially when you consider the growing trend of mid-life crisis Harley/etc purchases which have no cats, poor tuning from the factory, and are anywhere from 1 – 1.8 liters out of the box. If you were to stand an 89+ CI Harley up against a comparable Civic (pick one) the Civic wins in all but fuel economy, and even there it’s within 5 mpg.

    This awful trend (spurred in no doubt by the 500 "hardcore biker" shows on TLC, Discovery, etc) has also seen a marked increase in motorcycle-related deaths in the last 5-10 years after a prolonged (almost 20 year) drop in fatalities annually.

    I ride a motorcycle a lot (15k+ miles a year) and this kind of stuff just drives me up the wall.

    Not trying to pick on anyone, just food for thought.

  40. Nary A Thought Put Into This says:

    If they wanted to be really insensitive, they would have made Minesweeper kinda like Dig/Dug, where the object is to rescue trapped coal miners.  That they of course, have to *find* first.  That’s the "sweeper" part.

  41. Jeff says:

    @Nils

    Nope, There are several current models of motorcycles with catalytic converters. They’re required to meet the same emissions levels that passenger cars do.

    Since the smaller motors inherently emit less pollutants per miles, they can use cheaper methods of meeting emissions regulations.

    Catalytic converters are not a requirement even on cars, they’re just one means of meeting regulations.

    Be sure you’re correct before you get pedantic.

  42. N. Velope says:

      I wish the Minesweeper algorithm would avoid the situation where there are 2 mines left in a 2×2 box and perfect play still leaves you without enough information to know where they are and you have to guess.  I demand that the OS team provide an upgrade patch!!

  43. JamesW says:

    @Tim

    ‘But it also annoyed me because of the "We would have had to rewrite the whole game" excuse.  This just after explaining they had made the appearance/theme entirely hot-switchable, so all they needed was to remove the preference option/UI and force the game to use the flower theme.’

    That wouldn’t work. All the evil mine-loving code would still be in the executable. Just inaccessible during normal usage. However, nasty hacker types could release patches to free the banned content. It would be just like the Hot Coffee GTA mods. But without the sex.

  44. Gabe says:

    I can’t understand how Minesweeper could be offensive to anybody that isn’t a mine. For example, I can understand how a German *might* be offended by playing Wolfenstein 3D, but I cannot understand how an American or a Jew would be offended.

    Actually, I would expect that Minesweeper would be more popular in places with lots of mines, much as I would expect toy guns would be more popular with children in places with lots of gun violence. Heck, you could use it as an educational tool to help teach children the importance of staying out of minefields.

  45. Thomas says:

    I think anyone in Cambodia that has enough money to own a computer running Windows and enough leisure time to devote to playing computer games would best spend their time working to clear up the mine fields for real instead of clearing them from foreign made computer games.

    Whether the person(s) work within the political system, through fund raising, by charitable donations, or by hard labor that directly or indirectly supports clearing mines THAT would be a sane and responsible action.

  46. Kuwanger says:

    @JamesW:

    ‘That wouldn’t work. All the evil mine-loving code would still be in the executable. Just inaccessible during normal usage. However, nasty hacker types could release patches to free the banned content. It would be just like the Hot Coffee GTA mods. But without the sex.’

    A few comments.  One, no one is talking about banning minesweeper or the minesweeper graphics.  So, any hack, in that scenario would be merely unlocking offensive (to some) material.  To that end, minesweeper’s developers could simply remove the offensive material completely, if so driven.  That leads to two, the reasonable people* weren’t upset with the fact that the GTA3 could render the Hot Coffee mod.  They were upset that the Hot Coffee mod was in GTA3 already (which a simple hack could enable it) and Take2/the ESRB never bothered to mark the game as containing sexual content.  Ie, there was a feeling that Take2 intentionally lied** to get a lower rating and the ESRB didn’t do an adequate job rating the game.  To put it in perspective, if MS were to disable the mine theme but say they removed it, there’d be a problem.  If MS were to remove the mine theme but say they disabled it, there’d also be a problem.  Ie, the problem is in the lying.  It isn’t in the actual material.  Certainly it has nothing to do with the material being banned or not.  It’s about making/keeping customers happy.

    *In this context, reasonable people mean those who recognize the freedom of others to do as they please, so long as it doesn’t harm others.  Those who wanted GTA banned before, during, or after the whole Hot Coffee scandal don’t qualify.  And, at some point, the threat of boycotts can make you unreasonable; it’s one thing to organize and show one’s distaste in something.  It’s another to use it more as a weapon to try to censor something out of existance.

    **Obviously, this is more a feeling than a fact.  At some level, disabling the code to run the Hot Coffee mod was an attempt at honestly trying to comply with the wishes of the consumer (or, more specifically, to avoid an AO rating so their game could sell more readily to consumers).  But, there was a serious lack of QA/judgement/whatever that allowed the code to remain in the game.  Given everything that has happened, I’d guess it was several of those things, and not an actual lie or attempt at deception.

  47. I dig windows mine sweeper. I dig it so much that i wrote a program that plays minesweeper. You can dl the program and the source code from http://www.codissect.com/downloads/MineSolver.zip

    I wrote it just because my little brother kept beating me in this game :)

    Watching this program at work is really addictive. PS i did not try to run on Vista.

    Also, the algorithm i use to play the game is sub sub optimal. The code is written so that a new algorithm can be placed easily. I CHALLENGE YOU! to write a better algorithm for my program.

    Enjoy

    Comments: avivgr hosted on gmail.com

  48. peterchen says:

    More than "people offended by anything" I am very suspicous of someone proclaiming that nothing should offend me.

    Thomas: by that reasoning, noone should ever play minesweeper. Or read blogs.

  49. Igor says:

    Those who are easily offended by the game content, obviously do not have adequate mental capacity to grasp some vital life concepts.

    You are offended by Minesweeper? In a world ruled by me you would have the following options:

    1. Don’t use Windows.
    2. Start|Settings|Control Panel|Add or Remove Programs|Add/Remove Windows Components, select Accessories and Utilities, click Details, select Games, click Details, select and uncheck Minesweeper, click Ok, click Ok, click Next, then Finish.

    If you need more options, then you are not different, you are mentally ill. To hell with all that political correctness.

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