Best Games to Play During Your Zoom Lecture

Graphic by Kapp Singer

The only thing that has stuck with me from AP Computer Science A—my first and last foray into computer science—is my CS teacher’s lecture that “college is going to be different” and that professors would “not tolerate any of my lazy shenanigans.” This lecture was repeated every time she caught me using an overheated desktop for less-than-productive tasks. Well, jokes on you Ms. T—I’m just as unproductive in college! Here are some of the best games that have been personally memorable for the past year. By the end of my overview, you will also witness the historical crowning of the inaugural “Game-to-play-during-your-lecture-because-of-the-pandemic of the Year.” Without further ado, here are some fun distractions to split-screen with your lecture when graphing investment and depreciation leaves too much of your brainpower unused.

Minesweeper

Most of us probably came across this game in our childhood—back when tech corporations weren’t bloodsucking ghouls, having not yet realized that the bits and bytes that they’ve collected were the lifeblood of the modern economy. In those good ol’ days, every copy of Windows XP came with a bundle of games that included Minesweeper. Back then, my unsophisticated mind preferred the flashy action of 3D Pinball for Windows – Space Cadet over the grey and dreary aesthetic of Minesweeper. But now, as a sophisticated Yale student, clicking to uncover virtual explosives using numbers is more my style. The numbered tiles describe how many of its eight surrounding tiles are “mines”—the game ends when a player clicks on a mine. The objective of the games is to uncover all of the safe tiles on the board. In case you’re worried that this sounds too much like math, don’t fret! The only skill requires is counting—no matter how advanced your math class, it never hurts to brush up on the fundamentals. 

My favorite place to play Minesweeper is on Google.com, where a simple search brings up a pleasantly-colored version of the game that is nicely integrated into the search engine. It’s like our tech overlords want us to play the game!

Tetris

The mother of all time wasters. The greatest Russian export since nesting dolls. Birthgiver of the first international gaming competition. I’m sure all of these pseudonyms bring to mind everyone’s favorite geometric game—Tetris! Even though it’s my personal favorite on this list—evidenced by the fact that I could name more “Tetrominoes” (the different shapes that the player receives) than actual polygons—I will try to remain as unbiased as possible. The object of this game is to move descending Tetrominoes horizontally on a grid 10 wide and 40 tall so that the pieces complete lines. The completed lines then disappear from the grid. The game inevitably ends when the player’s grid is completely overwhelmed with tiles. It’s the perfect end-of-semester game for students preparing to pack their bags and boxes during move-out; I brought 2 suitcases and a backpack last semester (I wouldn’t have needed the second suitcase if hometown friends didn’t criticize the clothes in the first suitcase). 

Among the hundreds of versions of the game (with varying respect for IP laws), my go-to iteration of this Soviet-era relic can be found on echalk.com—“Interactive resources from classroom teaching.”

Although I am biased towards Tetris due to  the sheer number of hours I’ve spent playing it, it would be wrong of me to crown Tetris the “Game-to-play-during-your-lecture-because-of-the-pandemic of the Year” because it requires too much cognitive attention. You want to leave some brainpower devoted to looking alert and making confused facial expressions when appropriate to demonstrate your engagement. Minesweeper and its hair-trigger mines also fail as my final recommendation because I resent the fact that Windows 10 machines no longer arrive with pre-downloaded games. Therefore, the “Game-to-play-during-your-lecture-because-of-the-pandemic of the Year” is . . . 

2048 

Also known as the “thinking man’s Tetris,” the thing that separates this game from the rest is the fact that it’s playable all along the entire spectrum of cognitive effort. It’s the perfect game for the burned-out Yalie who desires to  nonchalantly twiddle the arrow keys to make something happen. But it’s also the perfect game for the high-achieving (but distracted) student who is keen on reaching the 2048 tile with the theoretical minimum number of moves: 520. If this isn’t enough to motivate you to play 2048 during your lecture, let me give you one last push: the first link to the “2048 record holder” Google search is a Business Insider article written by Randy Olson; he shares the name with a Harvard-educated marine biologist turned filmmaker. Therefore, by the transitive property, Harvard is beating us at 2048. 

Come on Yalies, make me proud to be your classmate! 

This article, its author, and the Herald are not responsible for any decline in your academic performance. 
Think I missed a game? Send it to me at chanwook.park@yale.edu; but I will be holding you accountable for any decline in my academic performance following the arrival of your email.

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