Computer games don’t raise concerns

Goofing off: Computer games don’t raise concerns

DORIS HAJEWSKI

There was a time when office workers in search of some diversion had to resort to card games, crossword puzzles and magazines to relieve their boredom.

These days, personal computers provide a high-tech option for goofing off: the games that come with many software packages.

But only a few firms among those contacted here are concerned enough to make sure their employees aren’t tempted. They remove the games before anyone has a chance to get hooked, thereby heading off any problems like those in Virginia, where Gov. George Allen ordered that games be deleted from every state-owned computer.

A spokeswoman for the Virginia governor said the ban was conceived because Allen and his chief of staff, Jay Timmons, had received complaints from some state employees that their co-workers were spending too much time playing games.

Like their counterparts in Virginia, thousands of workers in state government and in the private sector here use personal computers equipped with a Microsoft Windows operating system. The software includes two games: solitaire, a card game, and Minesweeper, a logic puzzle made up of square tiles. Some versions of Windows contain other diversions, including the card game hearts. Designed For Training

According to Microsoft, the games are intended to help new Windows users become familiar with the point-and- click functions of the computer’s mouse.

For the most part, computer system managers here say the games are a big help in training. And they say their companies aren’t having problems with computer-game goof-offs.

Why not here?

“Maybe we have a different work ethic,” said James Klauser, Department of Administration secretary. “I don’t think it’s a problem.”

Besides, Klauser said, it would cost a lot of money to remove the games from all the state-owned machines. And the state already has a policy in place that forbids employees to use any state equipment everything from cars to computers for anything other than state business. Managers say that policy would make game playing on state computers a no-no.

An informal survey of some of the state’s largest departments last week found one Health and Social Services that had removed the games.

“We made a decision some months ago to remove the games,” said Mike Hughes, administrator of management services for the department. The decision was not prompted by any employees goofing off.

“It was more pre-emptive,” Hughes said, citing public perception. “We felt it was not appropriate to have them on there.”

Hughes said cost was not a factor, because his department’s 3,000 computers that use Windows run on a network server, a device that allows the software to serve many computers. No Productivity Problems

Ken Schindler, director of information and technical services for the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, said he had seen some lunch-hour use of the games, but no problems with staff productivity.

Even if the games were to be removed, Schindler said, employees who are determined to play them and are computer literate would be able to reinstall them with little difficulty.

“If a person is going to goof off,” Schindler said, “they can do it in other ways besides playing solitaire or Minesweeper.”

Systems managers in and outside of state government agreed. Many said the games were useful in acclimating reluctant new computer users to the software.

That’s the situation at First Bank and Firstar Bank, where the games remain in the software.

Others, like Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance and Robert W. Baird, remove the games.

It’s just policy, said Baird’s information services micro manager, Priscilla Kujawa. “We eliminated temptation before it got there. It’s a great tool that unfortunately can be abused.”

Copyright 1995

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