Free Cell, Cheating, and Philosophy

Posted on March 20, 2009. Filed under: Games, Philosophy, Spirituality |

playingcards Have you played the game Free Cell? You most likely have if you have a Windows-based PC, as it comes with your computer. It’s a Solitaire game in which you must form four stacks of cards by suit, by moving cards around from “free cells” to spaces in the layout.

I had a discussion with my best philosophy-discussion mate about this game. He asked me if I had any strategy for Free Cell. (I’m not sure why we were talking about this as our discussions usually tackle such topics as “Is there really free will?” and “If two particles can communicate at infinite distance, what does that say about the nature of our own consciousness?”—you know the sort of thing.)

I said that I usually win this game, so I guess my strategy is to keep trying until I do.

“You usually win?”, he asked?

“I do. Rarely do I resign a game.”

“But, what do you mean you keep trying until you win? How do you do that? Once you get stuck, you lose!”

“Whadduya mean?”

“Well, have you looked at your stats?”

I replied that I hadn’t looked at my Free Cell stats in years. (Unlike my WordPress stats, which I look at, like, 27 times a day.) ;)

“Why not?” he wanted to know.

I don’t like what the statistics say, is why. The stats record a loss just because I get stuck once! I have the opportunity to replay the game and move different cards in a different order each time. He told me that the game records each re-start as a new game, therefore each time I did that it had recorded a loss.

Well, exactly. It wasn’t a loss to me; therefore why would I want to look at statistics which said that it was?

Years ago, I remember thinking that a game that branded me a “failure” after only one attempt at solving a “problem” was no fun at all. Also, it didn’t reward persistence and strategy. It required someone to see the big picture right from the first move. I am not good at that. But I will plug away until I work through all my “issues” with a situation.

To me, each time I win a game of Free Cell using a particular random dealing of cards—no matter how many times I have to restart the game—counts as One Win; No Losses. I like to win! So I don’t look at rules and recordings that tell me I haven’t done.

My companion says this is cheating! There are rules! I should have read and acknowledged them if I wish to play this particular game! (Honestly, he did put in all those exclamation points!) My position, however, is this: MY computer; MY software; MY game; MY rules. If following the developers statistics doesn’t please me, I’m free to ignore them.

Of course I AM a stickler for agreements. If I engage in an agreement or contract with you, I will adhere to it under all but the most adverse circumstances. And I won’t like breaking it even then. Most software comes with lengthy license and legal information, which we tacitly “agree” to, in exchange for using the program. Once we open up that game and start playing, we have “agreed” to many, many provisions. In the case of Free Cell; nowhere did it say I must consider myself a failure; a loser; a big fat zero if I don’t win the game at the first go—I looked it up :!: In the interest of full disclosure though, I’ll state here and now that I WILL NOT make a copy of my Free Cell game and distribute it to you, nor will I SELL YOU the game in any form, no matter how much you beg! I did in fact “agree” to those provisions. Just so we’re clear. :cool:

Sometimes, following rules just makes the most sense. It would be confusing if I were to enter a race, say, and instead of starting at the start line, I just walked to the finish before the official start and said “I’m here! Isn’t that the point, to get to this line?”

In many instances, probably most; the journey is the point, and if that results in an award-winning finish, then fine. If not, then I’ll bet I’ve learned something along the way.

If neither of those things are true, than why not rewrite, reconfigure, or rewire? After all, it’s MY life, and I am free to create it as I wish. {Remember the Kobayashi Maru!}

Am I cheating? Or am I just molding the clay to form my own vision?

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28 Responses to “Free Cell, Cheating, and Philosophy”

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Ohhh, good post, Muse. You are like my brother. He never gives up and will repeat things over and over until he gets it right or wins. I can see you are a very determined person! I’m the type who just clicks ‘new game.’

Probably because when I play a game it’s my wind-down, don’t want to think time. But I have never been very competitive to the point that I honestly care if I win. It is nice when I do though!

What does that say about me? I don’t know. Maybe I don’t want to know. ;)

I find free cell is a hard game to win. I have played it but not often. After your post I thought maybe I don’t play it because I rarely win. But I don’t think it is the case because I am addicted to minesweeper on expert level (or the one with the most bombs) and have never freaking won! I love the challenge. One day, I tell you!

What is so funny is that I do play another card game. I play on expert level and at first I sucked. I hardly won a game. Then I caught on to a good strategy and win quite a bit. The stats are public for all to see. I seriously considered starting over again with a new name because the stats seemed so low, because of all the losses before. If I made a new account, I could have a higher stat level. Oh, how vain, isn’t it? In the end, I thought I would rather see if I could even it out by continuing with the same account. Was my image that important to change my account? I think it will be ages to even it up, but I’ll get there. ;)

winner, loser? blah.

i hardly ever win freecell! hearts and solitaire are more my sort of games. :D

well, technically, how can you be cheating when you’re playing by yourself??

i think you are free to determine your own rules when you’re playing by yourself!

When the craze of the Rubiks cube first came among us mere mortals I tried it.

I took a hammer to it and put the pieces back in the correct order – now, did I cheat, or did I just use some out-of-the-box thinking?

I really haven’t worked that one out – I say the latter everyone else tells me to feck off – CHEAT! But who am I to go with the, erm, flow?
:D

I’m terrible at card games, full stop. If I were to play to win, I think I’d be stuck doing nothing but Free Cell for a very long time.

It’s not always clear what the boundary is between “cheating” and “thinking outside the box”. I wouldn’t call ignoring the Free Cell stats cheating so much as following your own rules.

I love Free Cell — and Canfield! I can kill so much time playing those. I don’t even start unless I know I can spare a couple hours. Haven’t played in ages. Now I want to!

:) I liked this post :) I love freecell. I do look at my freecell stats (I doubt if I look at my WP stats :D ) I found using vista, if I get stuck, all I do is undo my previous moves till the start of the game and play till I win. So, the s/w does not record a loss :D I have been told I am cheating!!
@ Will Rhodes : A friend of mine, took all the stickers out and restuck them to solve the cube :) Guess he was also thinking out of the box eh? :)
Thanks for making me smile you guys…needed that very badly!! :)

I don’t think it is chaeting. It is a perspective. I too sometimes restarted, rarely do I resign. And I like to remember the number of times I won for my motivation.

I think it is justified more so it is not a public test of ability like Kobayashi Maru. There could be various reasons why we may have played this game: stressbuster, motivation, fun and so on. It is ok to decide you were good at it. :)

I play Free Cell like you do. If I happen to make a move that gets me stuck, I like to replay the same game. I never have liked that about the stats. IMO, they should not count a restart as a loss, but when you quit one w/o winning or ask for a new game.

Interesting personality analysis, BD! So, you don’t have that plugging away, persistent type of personality! We are all different; for instance I eventually win almost every game, but you get to go on to play new and different games more often! :) MINESWEEPER!!! That one is evil! I see where all the onesies and twosies are and then BLAM! KABLOOEY! I don’t play that one much, because I lose too much! :razz: I admire you, though…I’ve never played beyond the beginning level as my odds are not good. :) Oh, tricky—a new user name and new stats! Good idea. I usually don’t play games where my score is online/in public, but if I do, I’ll remember your tactics. :mrgreen:

Ah, good point, sulz! I’m not cheating anyone else—still my friend thought I was cheating myself! If I look at Free Cell as a metaphor for life… :? I play Hearts sometimes, and I like it, but I get mad if I get the Queen of Spades very often, bleh!

Did you really, Will? You had me laughing!!! I would have considered that cheating, but now that you’ve mentioned thinking “outside the box” —in this case, literally! Go with the flow? Nah, that would not be our beloved Will! ;)

I find it so fascinating that each of us has a different take on these games, B0bby. I am glad you don’t force yourself to play games like Free Cell until you win; otherwise we wouldn’t get to read your great stories! So, ignoring stats is OK? It’s not as if I reprogrammed the game so I’d win more, is it? :)

Ohhh, hope I’m not in trouble, ella, for reminding you about the card games! ;) I had not heard of Canfield! So, I had to look it up. The first thing I saw on Wikipedia about it is that “it has a very low probability to win”. No wonder you have to set hours aside. Me, if I don’t get to win after 5 or 6 games, I’m outta there. I guess I’m not a very good Casino gambler, either. :razz:

Glad this gave you some smiles, Apar! From the smilies you put in your comment, it looks like you had quite a few! ;) :) :D I’d forgotten that in the VISTA version of Free Cell you can undo as many moves as you want! I’m still running XP, and I can only undo my most recent move. Oh well, next computer. Then I won’t be cheating at all! :razz: My Rubik’s Cube was solid plastic; didn’t have stickers; but I like your friend’s attitude. I’ll have to get one with stickers. :D

Ah, good point Poonam! I must examine my own motivation. You are right, sometimes I just want to play as a stress-easer, and I wouldn’t want it to be a test of character! ;) Yay! I get to be good at it without guilt! Thank you! :)

Alright, Shane! Thanks for being on my side about this! Perhaps we should start a petition: “Dear Developers of Free Cell…” :D

I’m a game and puzzle addict Muse so I see what you mean. And this quote:

‘Well, exactly. It wasn’t a loss TO ME; therefore why would I want to look at statistics which said that it was?’

You just simplified a deep philosophical theory:
You make your own reality.
Another 10 for you Muse :-)

I play FreeCell all the time and didn’t even realize it kept stats. I just looked: I win 41% of the time in abour 4000 plays. WHATEVER.

Muse, my mother taught me Canfield when I was just a girl. She was quite good at it.

IdeaJump made me curious, so I checked my FreeCell stats: 599 games played, 62% won. I should be so lucky when money’s involved…

Ah, so you *get* the metaphorical associations, poch! :) Yes, about the quote: I’m not about to let someone else’s observation dictate my reality! Thank you for the insightful observations! ;)

“WHATEVER”! Sorry I pointed out a game feature you weren’t participating in, yet, IdeaJump! :( ;) 41% is fantastic!!! …when you consider you are winning that many games with just one try! :D

My mother taught me Cribbage, ella. I don’t think she’d heard of Canfield, either. I shall have to check it out. 62%?!?! You must be some kind of Free Cell royalty, or something! ;) I didn’t realize there were people playing Free Cell who didn’t know about the stats…shoulda kept my mouth, um, pixels shut! :( :D

[...] so…So, at some point, I’ll usually open up another tab and start playing a game, like Free Cell or Spider [...]

ALl you have to do to not lose in Vista Freecell is before you get totally stuck, “X” out of the game and save it. It will not record against you and you will never have a lose. If you want to go back and try again from your stuck point just open it or leave it forever in limbo. You will never see the nasty lost number again. You can clear the stats box and begin a new campaign of Freecell with never a loss. Is that cheating? I call it smart playing.

“Smart Playing” I like that, James. Thanks for commenting on that, and for the tips! My only question is: How will I know before I get totally stuck that I’m going to get totally stuck? I guess I just have to play until it starts to look as if it’s not going well… :)

The problem with Freecell and most other strategy games is that it takes a few attempts to get into the ‘thinking’ of it. By then you are way down on the stats. The game does not give you a start. I am currently on 68% it has taken me a long time 229 games to fet that score. You can only cheat if you play Someone else, in solitaire you can’t cheat yourself only dissappoint yourself if you take the easy way out.

An excellent point,Ebo, about disappointing oneself rather than cheating. Yes, it does take some practice to get into the flow of it! Your stats are great! Thanks for dropping by.

How does one cancel scores on the game FreeCell?

Just a simple soul who likes to zero score at the month end!

My house rule is that you can only undo once per game as established by the old PC freecell
system. So yes you are cheating but I have to admit that I’ve been guilty of over — undoing
a time or two.

John, did you try clicking on Game>Statistics>Reset? It works on my version. I hear you; I like to start with a clean slate and not be confronted with all my “failures” :) Thanks for coming by!

“Over-undoing” That’s a good one, Bob! The temptation is great. I think it’s fine to establish ones own rules, if that adds to the enjoyment. After all, there really is no moral judgement here…..is there? O-0 :D

Woah, you just blew my mind.

I have never lost a game of free cell, it shows in my stats 100%. Don’t see how anyone could lose, it’s simply picturing your moves ahead. I can look at it and see them when first dealt. Solitaire though is another game and without the deal your winning percent will barely reach 10%

you’re not cheating but you are losing.

[...] Free Cell, Cheating, and Philosophy « MusEditionsMar 20, 2009 … “Well, have you looked at your stats?” I replied that I hadn’t looked at my Free Cell stats in years. (Unlike my WordPress stats, which I look at, … [...]

why do the game free cell keeps changing score.? been at 99% for three months!

If you ever do want to rack up good statistics on Free Cell, it helps to know that almost every deal can be won, and it’s best to assume every one can be won. It’s also helpful to know that you can win on every deal, and that a perfect score of 100% can be maintained. Since I realized those two things, I haven’t lost a game. I only have a streak of about 170 now and a percentage of 93% but I probably will not lose again. The way you do this is to undo any game where you come to an impasse, right back to the beginning. Then set off on a different tack, being a little more forward looking this time, and you will almost always win on this second try. If you don’t win, undo again. You will quickly get better at it and have fewer undos.


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