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Information Technology
Leicester MA

The Politics of Minesweeper

Joe Conley on Wednesday, 25 October 2006. Posted in Co-op


So in case you didn't hear, I've been working at Microsoft for the last 3 or 4 months. While I've been contributing to a product that is used all over the world, it is an internal application only used by about a hundred Microsoft employees. Working in Microsoft IT, I've certainly had what they call around here "Product Group envy." Everyone wants to make Windows or Office or the next big xBox game.

But designing the next Windows certainly isn't easy. It's become such a massively pervasive product that questions and issues about it's design start to mirror real world issues. For example, take Minesweeper, everyone's favorite little time-killer. Did you ever stop and think about how some areas of the world actually have a serious problem with land mines and consider making a game out of them offensive?

How do you handle something like that? How do you ensure everyone that knows and loves minesweeper is able to continue playing it, and at the same ensure that people who might have had a friend or a family member killed by land mines don't have to see it?

This was a real problem faced by the Windows team recently. How did they solve it? Hint: it involves localization, geopolitics and flowers: