The life of a programmer can be very mentally taxing – having to read and update code while constantly fixing errors that you’ve never seen before in your life. The amount of time and focus it takes can be quite demanding, so a good programmer must keep his mind in tip top shape. And one of the awesome ways of doing that is playing a game on the side.
Don’t take this the wrong way. You shouldn’t be spending half the day fragging people in the latest FPS or grinding in an MMO. The games that you should play at the office should be small, easily put to the side, and require some but not a lot of mental thinking. The idea is to keep your brain fresh, reinvigorating it whenever it starts to get a little tired. Think of it as a smoke break for your brain minus the cancer.
So here is a good list of mental exercisers. Each from a different genre and of a different type. Just don’t blame us if you get in trouble with your boss!
- Dice Wars – If you love Risk or any other territory strategy games, this is the perfect brain break for you. Gradually capture territories and compete against up to 7 computer opponents to conquer the entire board. The great part of this game is that a turn takes less than a minute, and then you can go about your programming while the game is handling the turns for the computers. Very colorful, easy to learn but hard to master, and should work in your favorite flavor of browser.
- Zilch – For those that love the luck of the dice, Zilch is the side game for you. A variant of Yahtzee, Zilch challenges your guts and patience. As certain combinations of dice are rolled, your bank gains points. Before your roll, you must decide to take all of the points in your bank and end your turn or roll the dice. But beware, if the dice you roll doesn’t fit any combinations, you lose all the points in your bank and the turn is over. Great for 1 or 2 people at the same time!
- Go – The greatest board game of all time! While this simple Java applet can get your teeth wet, there are plenty of sites online that let you play this classic against live players, even over email so there’s no time limit! This classic game is all about territory and position and no two games are ever the same. Quite possibly the easiest game to learn while taking a lifetime to master.
So there you go, three great games to keep your mind active and running as you are programming. All of them have one special quality – fast turns that you can leave alone. No multi-tasking, no constantly needing to keep track of, just pure take a turn and leave it alone. Which is perfect because you were hired to, you know, code… But who says you can’t have a little fun too?