294: Grandpa Holds the Cards

Grandpa Holds the Cards

Chris Plante's grandpa Norb wasn't quite sure what to do with all the free time he had after his retirement. And then he discovered FreeCell.

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I've yet to find a study that provides a rock solid percentage of solvable deals in Klondike, but there are plethora of people in solitaire forums and college math programs who put the number as low as 63% and others as high as 92%.

In my many thousands of games of Klondike (I'd never been aware of the 'proper' name until now, it's nice to know it) I tended to average around a 12% or 13% win rate. Obviously this is different to the amount of games where it possible to win, due to the choices you can make in-game, but I find massively strange that people would rather play such a luck-based game over something that actually requires thought (although I must confess never managing to grasp FreeCell myself). Maybe this says something about peoples desire to have it easy over actually challenging themselves (I state with my complete lack of psychology knowledge)?

"Because I do it, I would not," he said. "But the other thing is if you have the time, what you do with your time is nobody else's business. And if you have the time, why not do something you enjoy? To me, maybe I'm nuts, I don't know, but isn't that what computer games are all about? They're about something you guys enjoy ... I couldn't go back to work now, because I don't know anything about the company anymore. So what fun is going back and learning all over again after all these years? People say why don't you read more. I don't like to read. I don't. So much of what I did I had to read. Well it's a lot more fun to just play."

It's really nice to see words like this. I see people questioning the others spend their time far to often. I might start referencing this to them at it puts across a point much more eloquently than I could ever manage. Great stuff.

wow... that was an incredibly good history, i love that guy!!!

and yes, that IS the point!, why dont you read/exercize/go out more?? because i dont want to!!, so simple and jet so true, hehehe

Over the years I've watched my dad play countless games of Freecell, and although I could never wrap my brain around it to learn to play well, I also enjoyed watching him play. There was just something about the way he went about doing things and he would explain it to me if I asked. It all just made sense to him and there was nothing cooler than watching all the cards fly into the deck by themselves once he had reached the point where one move would win the game. Even though I wasn't playing, I was a great moment for me too, as I was sharing in his victory.

While my dad isn't into really any of the new games and prefers the classic puzzle games like Myst and his Diamond Mind baseball stat simulator, we are able to talk about the games we like and find some enjoyment through watching each other. It's funny sometimes, we almost seem to envy the others' skill at the games he likes. There are times I was more patient and could figure out Myst and I think he wishes he could hang with me to play games like Halo. Just one more thing that connects us.

I must show this to my dad - since he's a grandfather, he'll start getting better and better at this. Sure, his mind isn't as naturally organised as Norb's, but with practice comes finesse.

His problem is that he switches games - Solitaire, Freecell, Spider. All of them grab his attention from time to time and it does break the pattern and the practice.

GiantRaven:
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In my many thousands of games of Klondike (I'd never been aware of the 'proper' name until now, it's nice to know it) I tended to average around a 12% or 13% win rate. Obviously this is different to the amount of games where it possible to win, due to the choices you can make in-game, but I find massively strange that people would rather play such a luck-based game.

Skinner box maybe?

Reminds me of my grandpa when he still had his old computer. He'd play FreeCell longer and more often than most people play other video games. If I remember correctly he played about 50000 games of it... yes, that's 4 zeros. His win percentage was about 90%. He was damn good. Then screen started hurting his eyes so they got rid of the computer and he no longer plays.

This now makes me wonder what I will play when I'm retired. . . If I get to retire. Great article!

I must admit having a rather strong love of Free Cell myself. I have a roughly 95% win rate, where with solitaire it's rather on the lower end, probably 15-20%. Partly that is the style I play (3 card draw, Vegas scoring) makes it much harder to win, but that isn't the goal. My goal with solitaire is simply to just break even damnit. They each have their purpose. Solitaire for 5 minutes of turning my brain off and seeing how it goes, Free Cell for trying to think my way through the challenge.

Free Cell is wonderful because it embraces a simple rule set, with clear objectives, and challenges you with rather devious implementation. The fact that your grandfather enjoys it shows how wonderful games can be for crossing cultural barriers.

P.S. I am toatally going to try and beat the impossible game now, 11982 here I come.

EDIT: Yeah, when they said impossible, I should have known.

Hehe, really sweet article.

I work in a hospital and I met a 70something year old gamer. He was describing how much he enjoys sniping people in some FPS in a disturbing ammount of detail, funny guy though, shows you're never to old to pwn teh nubs!

On a sidenote this guy was at a loss with what to do with his time because he was moving to a senior village place and he wouldnt have a garden to work in so i suggested building a PC, dunno if he took it up or not. True story.

Back in the 90s at my father-in-law's place of work they got a whole bunch of new computers and upper management had all of the games removed for fear that people would waste company time playing them. However as my father-in-law pointed out many of the employees who got these computers weren't computer literate and card games like solitaire and freecell are great ways for people to get used to using a mouse and other simple operations.

Upper management didn't listen but I always felt like he had a really good point here.

I love the winning graphics of solitaire.

I play freecell my win% is like 20% on 4 suit, i cannot even imagine playing 2 suit. the game to me seem more random dumb luck than any skill tho. course i am one of those that goes for high score so mean not a bunch of obsessive undos, when things start going wrong.

but it is a fun game to kill a bit of time with and hype your self up to do something as it makes you angrier and angrier as the massive fail deals the game gives you.

did try with a real deck of cars once and seemed to be alot easier than the pc game makes it out to be but also much more messy.

interesting fact grant hill of the nba pre game ritual is playing free cell in the lockeroom before a game.

Incidentally, that one "unwinnable" game in Windows FreeCell is, indeed, unwinnable. (It was proven by a computer program that went through all possible lines of play.)

Nice read. I'm 30 now, and with my ever-expanding library of games, one thing's for sure. When I retire, FreeCell isn't the only game I'll be playing... ;)

I worked in a retirement home a few years back, and have been involved in recreational activities in other institutions aimed at retired persons and the elderly as well, but the latter was not a full-time job. I haven't seen much in the way of "alternative entertainment" for this demographic, but have realised that they should be (to a greater extent) exposed to computer games. The only problem is that a lot of these people still see games as a form of entertainment solely aimed towards children.

This article reminds me of the time I introduced a 75 year old that lived home alone to the standard Windows game pack, starting with Minesweeper. The man had been a captain on a large merchant vessel before, during, and after WWII, so I found his enthusiasm for Minesweeper (and telling stories from the war) quite amusing. :)

GiantRaven:

I've yet to find a study that provides a rock solid percentage of solvable deals in Klondike, but there are plethora of people in solitaire forums and college math programs who put the number as low as 63% and others as high as 92%.

In my many thousands of games of Klondike (I'd never been aware of the 'proper' name until now, it's nice to know it) I tended to average around a 12% or 13% win rate. Obviously this is different to the amount of games where it possible to win, due to the choices you can make in-game, but I find massively strange that people would rather play such a luck-based game over something that actually requires thought (although I must confess never managing to grasp FreeCell myself). Maybe this says something about peoples desire to have it easy over actually challenging themselves (I state with my complete lack of psychology knowledge)?

Even more bafflingly, people play Clock Solitaire, a game with literally no skill component whatsoever. There's only ever one move to make, and you just keep going until it comes out or, most times, fails to come out. Yet people play it. What do they get out of it? I don't understand...

EmeraldGreen:
Even more bafflingly, people play Clock Solitaire, a game with literally no skill component whatsoever. There's only ever one move to make, and you just keep going until it comes out or, most times, fails to come out. Yet people play it. What do they get out of it? I don't understand...

I was actually going to mention that but it completely slipped my mind. I think the chance of winning is something like 1/200. It's completely insane.

My 60yo mum berates me for still playing computer games, yet I know for a fact she plays Solitaire for longer time periods than I play Battlefield. She considers me a games addict and yet sees no connection whatsoever to her gaming habits.
But I'm proud of her! She's getting better at computers almost by accident, soon I'll introduce her to point'n'click games... - before you know it she'll be able to control a camera with a mouse.

Freecell is the only card game on PC I play. To know that it is solvable makes a huge difference. It's simple, but requires a few mind-bending leaps of intuition, and always gives a sense of achievement on completion. When I sit down with a REAL set of cards to play "solitaire", I play Freecell.

Oh and I'll be playing games at my nursing home til the day I die, you can count on that. The other chumps better like the sound of gunfire, swords and sorcery.

My grandmother played video games until almost the very end. She had a NES and later a super Nintendo. She loved games of solitare, Dr. Mario, Tetris and a few other puzzle games that aren't coming to mind right now.

It's really cool that there are some games that bridge the generational gap. I like that the grampa also said you shouldn't care what people say about what you do in your free time as it's YOUR free time.

 

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