Games: to play or not to play

I gather that thanks to the international and enforced stay-at-home, there’s been a whole lot more game-playing going on.  Of one sort or another.  Or is there?  I have, before, nailed my colours to the mast about board games. The same applies to video games.  I don’t get them.  Well that’s not strictly true.  I do.  Thereby hangs a tale.  Of course.

Once upon a time…

A gazillion years ago, and in a past life, I lived with a computer geek.  He taught IT at the local school.  At the time, South Africa was still subject to severe economic sanctions.  No Apple products.  No graphic user interfaces (GUIs).  The mouse was a very recent addition to the then limited computer peripherals.

Even further back in time

Let me digress

When I was studying for my teachers’ diploma, some nine years earlier, Rhodes University was (probably still is), a world leader in computer science and was instrumental in bringing the internet to South Africa.

Part of my late mother’s job at the university involved the purchase of computers – from the hardware for mainframes to early Apples – in the 1970’s.  Then, in the 1980’s sanctions happened and every Apple-branded piece of hardware became obsolete:  overnight.

The university’s main building. My mother’s office was behind one of the ground floor windows – bottom right. I took this photo on a visit there, in 2010.

While all this serious stuff was going on, Pacman arrived.  As far as I know, there was only one “arcade” in Grahamstown where one could play the game:  at the entrance to Kaif (i.e. the café) where we would congregate for coffee, a natter and just generally hang out.



Pacman was rarely quiet.  I only ever recall men directing his gobbling.  Including after I started work in Johannesburg.  A colleague and I used to catch the same bus after work and each day we’d frequent the same corner shop.  I’d be getting something that needed a fridge (which I didn’t have – another story for another time);  he would buy the paper.  Not to read, but rather for change to feed Pacman.  A not negotiable task before heading home to his partner and infant daughter.

Back at Rhodes

My education course included an introduction to computers and their role in education.  And, while I’m digressing, those were the early days of the debate about the role of information technology in schools and learning, generally.  Most feared that computers would usurp human teachers.  That was thirty-five years ago.  Those fears – in some quarters – remain.  Unfounded, in my opinion.  Nothing about the move to online education has detracted from the fact that the most successful education and learning remain mediated by humans.

Dad, Mum and I at my 1985 graduation.

Anyhow, one of our assignments included designing a computer-based activity or lesson:  using Apple Pilot.  I struggled.  My really sophisticated lesson was a pathetic attempt at computerising the word game, Hangman.

The computer geek with whom I later lived, developed a Geography lesson that illustrated adiabatic lapse rates.  An arts major (male) friend developed a murder mystery in a ghost house with – for the time, and for a novice – the most amazing, ghostly green and black graphics.

Back to the Future (as it were)

Fast forward nine or so years to when I was the proud owner of an ICL Elf, and the height of economic sanctions.  Although Nelson Mandela had been released, the country had not been released of sanctions.  One day, the computer geek came home with a pirate copy of a very early PC, DOS version of SimCity.  He loaded it on to his PC, and introduced the game and I.  One game and the urban geographer in me was hooked.  It had to be loaded on to the Elf.  The game was as fascinating as it was addictive.


Alas, or fortunately, the game went the way of the Elf, and probably a good thing, too.  That said, in doing my homework for this post, I discover that one can still download it.  I desisted.

So, the closest I get to video games, now, is one or other game of Solitaire that comes, free, with Windows.

Oh, and for those not part of the same venerable generation as I, the reason that Bill Gates included solitaire in the first version of Windows (the first “non” Apple GUI), was to “introduce” the mouse.

As simple as apple pie – not

That mouse reminds me:  about a year before I moved in with the computer geek, I worked for an organisation that had strong ties with the US – notwithstanding sanctions.  A dedicated Apple PC had been donated to the development office.  Complete with a database and system for managing donor relations.


No user manual.  No help desk.  No support.

It was my first introduction to a mouse and my first serious interaction with a PC in a few years, with my previous Apple “pie” having been less than memorable.  It was only when I upgraded from the Elf and to a PC with a mouse, that I discovered why I’d never mastered the development office Apple:  I had been using the mouse on its head!!!

Back to games:  I have long thought that they are a guy thing.  I’ve said so before, that I have an unscientific theory about games and boys:

I have often been struck by the time that the male of the species will spend either on playing a game, or creating (a) game(s) and striving for perfection.  Frankly, I have too much to do – in the kitchen, around the house and just getting on with life.  It was one of my pet peeves that my ex-husband could would live in a pig sty and eat swill and spend all his spare time on a game.  I just didn’t get it.

So, my theory is that women actually have a whole lot less free time than men.  Whether we like it or not, managing the home and caring for children is still primarily women’s work – over and above what we might do to earn a living.  Time on their hands, and what do men who don’t have a hobby, play sport and who no longer hunt for food, or go to war, do?

Create and play games.

What, on earth, is she on about?

All that to say , again, that I don’t do games?  Well blame it all on the bunch on Hive that run the monthly Top 3 contest.  This month’s theme:  top three favourite video games.  Clearly, I have none.

As I keep on saying, I don’t participate to compete, but because it’s fun.  More than a year later, my participation continues with much egging on by the good folk that run it.  Because the topics get the “Fiona treatment”…

So, without further ado, this is not an entry, but I shall allocate the proportion of earnings from this post that would normally have been my  entry fee for the contest, to the @yourtop3 account.

I trust that this month’s “Fiona treatment” passes muster!

Until next time, be well
The Sandbag House
McGregor, South Africa

Photo: Selma


Post Script

In yet another aspect of my life, I offer

online English tutoring services

every day conversation and formal presentations
writing – emails and reports, academic and white papers
formal grammar, spelling and punctuation
more information here

And then there’s more:

  • If this post might seem familiar, it’s because I’m doing two things:
    • re-vamping old recipes.  As I do this, I plan to add them in a file format that you can download and print.  If you download recipes, buy me a ko-fi?
    • and “re-capturing” nearly two years’ worth of posts because of this.
  • If you’re interested in a soft entry into the world of crypto currency and monetising WordPress blog, use the fantastic Steempress plugin to post directly to the Hive blockchain.  Click on the image below to sign up
  • I’m still blogging on Steem with the occasional post on Medium.


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