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Dear PC Gamer, I work the night shift, and without saying too much, I'm pretty much doing my job as long as my desk doesn't walk away. I have a laptop, and I'm thinking there have to be some games to help pass the time. I don't play a lot of stuff, so do you have recommendations? —Rob M.
Hey Rob! I don't want to get you fired, but I can't turn down someone in need. I've been there. When I was working in the ticket booth of a local attraction, the slow days were slow, and I was very tempted to sneak some floppies in to install games on our old DOS machines. If only you could print tickets in Doom.
Let's set some criteria. Firstly, I figure whatever game you're going to play needs to be lightweight: easy to run on any ol' laptop, and quick to Alt-Tab out of or exit. We also want something you can quit anytime without feeling like you've sacrificed a lot of progress—so no roguelikes. Secondly, I wouldn't choose anything with a lot of spoken dialogue, as I figure that if you're staring at your laptop with headphones on that's a surefire sign that you're watching YouTube videos or playing a game. Finally, you're on a laptop, and may or may not have a mouse, so I assume we don't want games that require precise control.
All those things in mind, my first suggestion is one of my favorite games ever: DEFCON. You are a general in command of one of the world's military powers, and nuclear war is upon us. Your goal is to cause as much death while minimizing your own region's casualties. It's depressing, nihilistic, and addictive. The only winning move is not to play, but I've probably played 100 rounds.
My second recommendation is SpaceChem, a properly challenging puzzle game.You become a sort of chemistry programmer, tasked with difficult problems that, if you're like me, you'll be so invested in solving you won't even notice an hour pass. Or two, or three, or that your shift ended two hours ago and you should really go home.
Now here are a few obvious ones: Civilization IV or Civilization V, two of the most perfectly engineered time-killers, and Solitaire, the bored office employee's security blanket. Solitaire is always there for you, and always more addictive than you remembered. In fact, while taking the screenshot for this article, I played for about 20 minutes. All I needed was one screenshot.
My final recommendation: LucasArts adventure games! If you haven't played The Secret of Monkey Island, now's the time. I can happily click away—sound preferred, but not required—for hours at any of the LucasArts classics. You might want to pull up an FAQ if you're easily frustrated, though.
Tell us what you recommend in the comments, or just tell us a story about gaming at work. Don't forget to map a boss key that turns this site into a spreadsheet, just in case.