Fighting for What’s Mine(sweeper)

Listen, here’s the thing. If you can’t spot the sucker in the first half hour at the table, then you ARE the sucker.” –Rounders

**********

There are two types of people in this world; the kind that play Minesweeper for fun, and the kind that play it because they have no choice.  Oh sure, it started out as a simple office diversion for most of the world.  There’s that old story about a county that had to have the game removed from computers because productivity was going down.  Those are my kind of people.  They’re the ones that realized the sort of draw that that grid can have.  When the world’s serving up nothing but 8’s everywhere you turn, some of us stare the challenge in the face and defy it.  Some of us are up for the challenge.

Despite what your grandpa told you, there are plenty of ways to play Minesweeper.  I know, you think it’s just some little program that you can pull up and click away at your leisure.  If you’ve beaten the game once on “Advanced” then you think you’ve accomplished something.  Please.  Those folks will always be beginners to us.  Advanced is just the starting point.  There’re those of us that stay at home, designing custom grids, and running drills.  Any wrong box sends us right back to square one, yet we keep going for hours into the morning.

Pic from Wikipedia

The Minesweeper Underground Teams, or Mutts, started off with a simple challenge.  You set yours on Advanced, they set theirs on Advanced; the first person to clear the board wins.  And I’m not talking about the layout that they have now.  That stupid little sanitized blue-board with the countdown at the bottom of the screen.   No, I’m talking original, classic design.  We want the numbers ticking away in blood red and we want that little man in yellow to pop up and call you a failure.  Don’t bring that whitewashed, safe, welcoming game around us.  You’ll end up getting our typical treatment.  We truss you up, steal your watch, stomp on it, and shove you out the door with that watch superglued to your nose.  It’s the “Time’s Up” mark of shame.

Take Hanz, our inspiration.  No one knows his real name, but we all revere Hanz.  The man’s a legend.  Some say that he took the one hundred most called up permutations of the board and memorized them.  Others claim that they were present when he cleared the bombs in seventeen seconds.  There’s even a story that he knows the guy that invented the game, and the sunglasses are on that yellow face to hide the fear that the programmer had for Hanz.  I don’t know if I believe it all, but I do know that you don’t want to plant a marker on Hanz’s turf.

In his brilliance, Hanz hacked the classic MS and changed one factor.  For every bomb that you tag, another bomb shows up on your opponent’s counter.   It’s always a special treat for us when noobs play.  You should see their eyes twitch when three bombs add up on their total.  When we’re feeling bored, when the opponent is no challenge at all, we’ll spend a good thirty seconds just marking squares that are perfectly safe just to screw with their heads.  Watch a guy try to clear ninety-seven bombs in a one hundred square plot and you’ll know true joy.

I’m not saying I’m the best, but I’m no question-mark using poser.  I’ve tussled with Hanz and walked away with my dignity intact.  I have the standard calluses on the side of my thumb and at the base of pointer finger.  You don’t come around to the warehouse without being scarred by the game a little.  There’s a trick to it all.  If you’re walking into an unknown Minesweeper Club, or Miscy’s, you don’t want to play your hand early.  I mean that literally.  Any thug who’s guarding the door is going to check your hands.  If you walk in with some pansy wrist brace like a data processor that belongs in a button-up short-sleeved shirt and narrow time, you’re not going to get any play at all.  Yeah, hours of holding that mouse are going to do crazy things to your wrist.  Suck it up.  You gotta pay your dues and the game demands that you compensate all the way.

Don’t come around with any stupid ergonomics either.  Guys come in with their titanium cases pulling out their mice shaped like commas with buttons on the side and some trackball pimple growing out of the top.  “Best of the best”, they say with a grin.  “Allows for faster game play”, they gloat.  Not here it doesn’t.  Any self-respecting Mutt that sees that sort of garbage will slam their mouse against the wall, make the dweeb eat the trackball, and give them the proper “Time’s Up” exit.

So yeah, you gotta have a few bumps on your hand.  It comes with the life.  But if you got too many bruises, if your hand is too obvious, you’re not gonna be able to find a game.  Nobody wants to be the minnow to a shark.  We’ll take you down.  But at twenty bucks a bomb, the stakes add up pretty quick.  We Mutts save our bankrolls for real challenges.  Sometimes we just want an opponent that’ll make it easy for us to buy a new car.  It all depends on the player’s taste.

Then there’s this one chick; Celeste.  I’ve decided that when someone finally takes down Hanz, one on one, it’ll either be me or Celeste.  I’m good.  She’s art.  I’m not going to give away too many secrets, but I have my logical methods.  I operate off of patterns.  I know every move I’m making to at least three degrees.  Everyone has their favorite first-square to start with.  Mine has never failed me.  Nothing in life is completely random.  There are patterns.  And lemme tell ya, I’ve spent years finding all the patterns I can and using those to buy me some pretty nice swag.  That sports call with the shiny gray paintjob and the license plate, “ALLMINE”?  Yeah, that’s my ride.  Got a 60-inch, HD, 3D TV at home too.  You don’t get to carry around a wad of scratch in a leather jacket unless you’ve got the skills to bring ‘er home.  And I do.  I’ve taken my explosions, sure.  We all have.  Eventually life’s gonna blow up in your face; time’ll run out.  But I’ve taken my shrapnel and learned from my scars.

Celeste; she’s the opposite.  You look at her and you don’t see a threat.  She’s just around five foot, blonde, pretty cute with that whole glasses/librarian thing going.  She always has her hair pulled back in a loose ponytail.  Says she can’t afford to have it fall in her face when she’s in the zone.  For all her academic appearances, the woman’s an artist.

Celeste never plays it safe.  She plays recklessly.  I’ve seen her click through more failed screens than any four players combined.  But she’s fast. Wicked fast.  You should see her wrist.  She hides it well, wears long sleeves and has learned to hold it just right so that it doesn’t show.  But every once in a while, when she’s had one too many shots or she’s at the end of a forty hour session, it’ll come out.  Her right hand, especially her thumb, is permanently curved to cradle a mouse.

She’s fascinating to watch.  She claims that Hanz taught her how to play when she was a little girl.  It’s a nice story, just like the story of a guy who clicks once and the whole field of blanks clears away for him.  I don’t know if I believe the story.  But I do know that she and I have scrapped more than a few times.  We tangle almost every time we’re in the same Miscy together.  Once in a while we’ll tangle out in the parking lot too.  What can I say; we’re like oil and fire.  I’m slick, she’s hot; every once in a while we’ll let the inferno rage.  Regardless, she’s the one to beat.

You getting the picture yet, kid?  There are Miscy’s all around; you just gotta know where to look.  My suggestion?  Hang out around software and airplane guys.  It’s the engineers you want to tail.  What, you think engineers don’t want their kicks to?  You think it’s an accident that the fifteen biggest Miscy’s are all within two miles of airplane and computer manufacturers?  Those nerds with their pocket protectors are tougher than you think.  Their glasses make them look weak, but they’ll take you down and make you cry.

If the Miscy doesn’t fill up a hanger or a warehouse, then it’s a rookie joint.  You want that place to be filed.  There are plenty of us Mutts and if we avoid a place, there’s a reason for it.  Some guys, Landminers, we call ‘em, they’ll rig the games.  The SWAT leader at each Miscy is supposed to keep things on the up and up.  But sometimes the SWATs get greedy.  Sometimes they hack a game and give their buds a field guide.  We don’t deal that way, nor do we deal with those kinds.  There’s no planting for real Mutts; we play it straight up.  You want the high walls of an abandoned building to be constantly echoing.  If you aren’t distracted by hundreds of mouse clicks resounding off the metal walls, men hunched over computers as far as the eye can see?  Well then you’re dealing with Landminers and you should get yourself to an honest Miscy with real Mutts.  Don’t waste your time on those loser L-M punks.

You know those corners that cause you trouble?  You’ve got all your known bombs marked, you still have two bombs left, but there are five spots all closed in and you just walk away and figure some miracle will fix it all while you deal with an easier section?  Not us Mutts.  We barrel through.  We get it done.  You go ahead and work up a sweat.  You worry about time running out as your fingers start to shake in fear.  When you’re ready for a real game, you can find us.  We’ll be only too happy to take your money and shove you back out the door.

**********

(P.S.  If you’ve never watched this 2 minute fake trailer, you should.  It’s my favorite.)  😉

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About anecdotaltales
He's a simple enough fellow. He likes movies, comics, radio shows from the 40's, and books. He likes to write and wishes his cat wouldn't shed on his laptop.

4 Responses to Fighting for What’s Mine(sweeper)

  1. aparnauteur says:

    Wow! Never knew there’s so much to minesweeping, so much so that you have cult sounding names and all. I used to play the game when multimedia was a new thing. Never really liked it. But, the way you describe it makes me wanna try again!

  2. s1ngal says:

    “…when someone finally takes down Hanz, one on one, it’ll either be me or Celeste..” If not there’s always s1ngal who can beat Hanz hands down 😉

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