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Playing Games at Work

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"That man is playing Galaga! Thought we wouldn't notice, but we did."

Many people tend to slack off at their jobs, at least occasionally. For people who spend their workday at a computer, this can take the form of secretly (or not so secretly) playing a video game.

The most common choice is Solitaire, which was commonly found bundled with older Microsoft Windows systems. This is an indication that not only is the character bored out of their mind, they don't even have the means or the energy to download or install something cooler — they just play whatever comes pre-installed on their work machine. Later Windows machines require you to download games yourself, which might lead to something a bit more involved like Tetris or surreptitiously playing a phone game like Angry Birds.


The person playing may be a Surveillance Station Slacker. Often doubles as a Funny Background Event. Compare Pirates Who Don't Do Anything.


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  • One British press recruitment advert for a management consultant company challenged the reader to spot how you could tell a lazy colleague was lying when he said he was too busy to help you. (His monitor screen was reflected in the window behind him, showing that he was playing Windows Solitaire.)

    Comic Books 

    Films - Animated 
  • In Bee Movie, the director of the Honex Industries can be seen playing a hexagon-shaped Solitaire at his computer during Barry's motivational speech at the end. Justified in that at the time, the honey production was shut off and the bees had nothing to do.
  • In Big Hero 6, when Hiro leaves a police office after unsuccessfully trying to convince a bored policeman about a supervillain being on the loose, a game of Solitaire can be noticed on the policeman's computer screen.

    Films - Live-Action 
  • The Avengers (2012): After Tony Stark comes aboard the Helicarrier, he gleefully points out that one of the bridge deckhands is playing Galaga at their desk. Shortly after the scene ends and the heroes leave, the deckhand turns their screen back to Galaga again.note 
  • The 400 Blows: When Antoine is locked up at the police station for the night, the police officers on duty are seen playing a dice game.
  • In Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, Benji is briefly seen playing Halo 5: Guardians at the CIA and flipping screens when anybody important comes where they could see.
  • In Office Space, lead character Peter Gibbons, having taken a more casual attitude towards his job following his hypnotherapy session, is at one point playing Tetris on his office desktop as his Pointy-Haired Boss Lumbergh comes in.
  • Dante from Clerks closes his store early so he can host a hockey game on the roof.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Night Court had an episode where the staff is filmed for a documentary crew. In the intro, Mac shows off his computer and says that he can easily bring up a file by pressing a button. He presses a button to demonstrate and brings up a game of Super Mario Bros.
  • In the first episode of Psych, Gus is doing this when he's introduced. Shawn notices immediately due to his hands being on the keyboard in the proper position for playing a First-Person Shooter.
  • In The Office (US):
    • Dunder Mifflin Scranton employees, particularly Creed, can be seen playing games like Solitaire and Hearts on their computers as a sign of their apathy towards their jobs.
    • Stamford branch employees spend a lot of time playing Call of Duty on their work computers and take it very seriously. Jim's lack of skill at the game causes a lot of tension.
    • Dwight, fighting a bout of depression, spent an episode playing Second Life at his desk. Also, when he created Mega Desk while Jim was away on paternity leave, he dedicated one section for gaming between sales calls.
    • Stanley spends most of his days drinking coffee and solving crossword puzzles.
  • Brooklyn Nine-Nine introduces the mobile game and Candy Crush Expy Kwazy Cupcakes—spelled "Kwazy" with a K and, oddly enough, a backwards W. Gina quickly gets addicted to it, and when she introduces it to Capt. Holt, even he gets addicted to it—Foreshadowing of his characterisation in later seasons as a gambling addict.
  • In the Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode riffing on the film The Undead, Mike mentions that before he was sent to the Satellite of Love, he had a really good temp job where he mostly ate bearclaws and played Doom. He has no idea why he got fired, though.

    Newspaper Comics 
  • One Doonesbury strip has Mike tour his software company, and happen upon one of Kim's hires playing solitaire. The testy fellow claims he's developing a new paradigm.
    Mike: Red queen on black king.
    Jerkass: Yes, I know. Do you mind?
  • This Dilbert comic.
    Dilbert: One month to build the product and five months to play Doom on my computer.

    Video Games 
  • Before multitasking became as feasible as it is today, many older PC games had a function hotkey for either instantly quitting the game, switching to another program or covering up the game with a fake spreadsheet, often colloquially dubbed the "Boss Key."
  • In Invisible, Inc., the first heist has the team break into an executive's office and hack his workstation to get data needed to plan future heists. The game has several descriptions of the workstation that it rotates through, one of which notes that the executive is in the middle of a game of Solitaire.
  • In the cinematic trailer for Overwatch, a guard at the museum can be seen playing Hearthstone on his tablet instead of monitoring the security cameras. Hearthstone can be found on various tablets and monitors throughout the maps, mostly at research stations and consoles where important work should be conducted.
  • In the Sam & Max: Freelance Police series, the Shambling Corporate Presence plays "Mimesweeper" when accidentally sent to Santa's workshop, and again when he's sent to his proper office in Hell.
  • In The Darkside Detective, examining Officer Murakami's workstation at the precinct house results in McQueen remarking that Murakami has achieved a new high score in "whatever he's playing" (and Dooley complaining that he's never going to catch up when McQueen keeps making him work during work hours).
  • In The Stanley Parable, on rare occasion you can stumble across some office worker's abandoned workstation whose monitor has a game of Solitaire still opened.
  • In XCOM: Enemy Unknown, you can hear Bradford complain about someone doing this in the Situation Room:
    Bradford: Are you really using our tracking terminal to play Civilization?! I at least hope you're going for a Military Victory.

  • "Can't You See I'm Busy!" was a website with games specifically designed to look at the first glance like normal Office programs, allowing one to play them without being detected (as long as nobody is looking at them too closely).

    Western Animation 
  • Non-adult example: In the Hey Arnold! episode, "Suspended", after Arnold and Harold get suspended from school, they go to the public library do some research on an appeal to the school's constitution. However, only Arnold does any actual research on his computer, as Harold is seen playing a Rampage-like game on his computer, until an unamused Arnold sees it and shuts the computer off.
  • In the The Amazing World of Gumball episode, "The Signature", at the town hall where the Wattersons, Granny Jojo and Louie sort out their Relative Errors before Richard's dad Frankie would possess their house, they go through an long and tedious process of lampshadedly slow bureaucratic transactions. One transactions has them seeing an employee playing Solitaire and surfing through an expy of Facebook.
    Nicole: We're here to get a marriage licence!
    Employee: Uh uh, one minute. [Clicks on his computer, Beat]
    Nicole: Are you playing solitare? [Employee still clicks] I can hear you watching cat videos.
    Gumball: [hears a 'ping'] What the?! That's the sound of ElmorePlus Messenger!
  • Regular Show: Mordecai and Rigby do this on an very frequent basis, much to the frustration of their boss.