VGT – How A Microsoft Surface Saved Me from the Brink of Death

Today is a special day!  My blog is also being posted on another great website: theologygaming.com.  Check out some of the many great entries that Zachary Oliver has been writing!

There I was, laying on the couch and struggling to breathe.  Congestion clouded my brain and fever raced through my system.  Well, maybe I didn’t have a fever – but I did feel extremely horrible.  It was just a bad cold but I know that there seems to be some flu and cold bugs floating around lately.  How was I on the brink of death?  I wasn’t able to find or play any video games during my four days of sickness!

At first it didn’t matter but after a two days I had viewed every movie or TV show that I ever cared to watch on Netflix.  I even watched two episodes of My Little Pony for goodness sake.  That doesn’t make me a brony.  I didn’t have the mental aptitude to play Assassin’s Creed 3.  Conner is trying to save his village from destruction (again) and that requires careful thought, planning, and various skills with blades – so that game was out.  Then I thought, “My iPhone, maybe that will save me.” – but the screen is too small and isn’t everybody getting tired of their iPhone these days?  It’s kind of funny but now when I see someone using the new Samsung Galaxy phones – at first I thought it looked ridiculous with such a large phone, but now, I look at my iPhone and it looks so small, so insignificant.  That’s marketing for you.

My Windows 8

My Windows 8

Then I saw it on the corner of my ottoman, my Microsoft Surface sitting there like a neglected friend.  Sure, when I bought the Surface I was just curious and I wanted to experience Windows 8.  It’s been a largely positive experience and I love learning new operating systems – seriously, I do.  But I just haven’t been able to love the device.  There’s nothing wrong with it, I just feel like Microsoft is trying to catch up to Apple iPad and they have a long way to go.  At first there weren’t many apps in the Windows 8 store, but the amount of downloads have picked up lately.  So I explored the Windows store and came across two old friends – available for free download.  My old friends were Microsoft Solitaire Collection and Minesweeper.  They were the perfect types of game for my Dayquil addled brain to play – and I was able to at least move one finger. Why weren’t these two Microsoft game staples already on my Surface?  Well, they just weren’t ready yet.  Perhaps the developers needed some extra time to make the games work better with Windows 8.  But now, both games have grown up since the days I played them on a 386 running Windows 3.1.  Both games instantly connected me to my Xbox Live account. Even though I don’t play online with my Xbox 360, I still have an active account and it is nice to know that I can earn achievements while playing these simple games.

No solitary confinement here

No solitary confinement here

For Solitaire, you are given the option of selecting from a wide variety of themes.  I chose a Western theme.  While the game was dealing from a deck of worn cards, I even heard horses neighing in the background.  I have always enjoyed the standard Klondike version but recently have started playing Spider.

Spider with a western theme

Spider with a western theme

Controls are simple and sensible – you use your finger to drag cards to where you want them to go.  The Daily Challenges are a lot of fun too.  There are three per day, and they are all challenging but solvable  – and there is no limit on attempts.

More than just a facelift

More than just a facelift

But Minesweeper saved my life.  Arkadium games  somehow took this simple game and gave it a facelift.  You can play it the same way you always have, but I was sucked into the Minesweeper Adventure.  In this game, you are a little explorer in a dark, treasure-filled cavern and you need to get to the exit.  The cavern is filled with gold, treasure, maps, weapons, enemies, and mines of course.  I played that game for a full hour without even noticing how miserable I was feeling. That’s the magic of a good game.  That’s the magic of a good movie or a good book as well.  Stories, games, and adventures take you away from thinking about yourself for a while.

More than just minesweeping

More than just minesweeping

As many of you know, I am a seminary student.  I still have a full-time job working in computers and technology, but I decided almost two years ago to work on getting a Masters of Divinity.  I take one or two classes per semester.  What am I going to do with it?  I don’t know exactly, but throughout my life I have often found myself working with children.  I enjoy preaching to kids.  It is a lot more challenging than you may think and I often use games and stories to teach them and get a point across.

Wild Man Ted leading a children's church

Wild Man Ted leading a children’s church

When I think about it, I’m doing for children the same thing that Minesweeper and Solitaire have recently been doing for me.  For a short time, I want to get the listeners to stop thinking about themselves – to set aside their own lives for a moment and think about something new and different.

I think Jesus was a master storyteller.  People loved to listen to him because he talked about subjects they could relate to.  Imagine how a farmer might have felt, sitting on a hillside and listening to Jesus talk about a sower throwing seeds on the ground – what a great story!  Or perhaps to be a shepherd and hear Jesus tell a story about a shepherd leaving ninety nine safe sheep to go and search for that one lost lamb.  At the very least. a listener with the hardest of hearts would come away feeling entertained.  However, for those who “had ears to hear”, how much more did they gain as they heard words of life coming from the lips of Jesus?

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