Are federal workers playing games just for fun?

Sens. Ben Nighthorse Campbell (D-Colo.) and Lauch Faircloth (R-N.C.) have decided to rid the federal government of the pestilence of computer games. Section 639 of S 1023, the fiscal 1998 Treasury, Postal Service and General Government appropriations bill, directs heads of federal agencies to remove computer games not required for official business from agency computers and prohibit their installation on such computers.

Sens. Ben Nighthorse Campbell (D-Colo.) and Lauch Faircloth (R-N.C.) have decided to
rid the federal government of the pestilence of computer games. Section 639 of S 1023, the
fiscal 1998 Treasury, Postal Service and General Government appropriations bill, directs
heads of federal agencies to remove computer games not required for official business from
agency computers and prohibit their installation on such computers.


Apparently word has gotten to the Hill that federal employees have been playing
computer games. They can be addictive time-wasters, something agencies can little afford
given the budgetary belt-tightening we've seen the past decade or so. Now supervisors will
have the force of law on their side.


The bill also amends the Federal Property and Administrative Services Act of 1949 to
prohibit heads of executive agencies from accepting delivery of information technology
loaded with game programs not required for official purposes. But the legislation waives
the prohibition if an agency head certifies to Congress that costs of compliance outweigh
the benefits.


It looks like Bill Gates will suffer his first software setback when solitaire and
Tetris become extinct in the federal workplace. Intended to educate computer-reluctants to
the joys of the Microsoft Windows user interface, these games have become mainstays on
bureaucratic desktops across government--and across corporations, too.


This legislative counteroffensive against lost productivity is certain to succeed. The
provisions are sponsored by two influential senators as part of a major appropriations
bill for several agencies, including the Executive Office of the President. Facing certain
ridicule, few if any agencies will attempt the cost-benefit analysis route. So prepare to
bid adieu to those trusty old friends that helped you wind down from those stressful staff
meetings.


Although the judiciary is technically not covered by this legislation, the
Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts tends to follow the executive branch's practices.
Apparently, only Congress will allow its employees to fritter their time away playing
computer games.


Not even powerful Microsoft Corp. would dare lobby on behalf of bureaucrats who goof
off while at work. Besides, Bill Gates has won the battle for the desktop over the more
intuitive Apple user interface. For a measly $150 million donation to ailing Apple
Computer Inc., Gates widens Microsoft's domination of the desktop. Even the Europeans with
their unique view of monopolies have been remarkably silent.


The European Community is more demanding than the United States that monopolies should
be opposed, even if they occur naturally. My guess is Microsoft will stop shipping games
with its operating systems but make them available free from its World Wide Web site.


Thus computer game addicts will be only temporarily thwarted. The smart ones will hide
their games while the novices will switch to the Web for ways to waste time. Supervisors
will still need to wander around to see what's on their employees' computer screens.


Soon we may see a new generation of educational software to replace the old standbys.
Here is a new market niche for Broderbund and others to cater to the desires of bored
bureaucrats. How could Congress object to games that teach how bills are made into law?
How could supervisors rail against software that taught English and writing skills in a
playful and entertaining manner? Even the Justice Department recently released a computer
game that teaches government ethics.


The boundary between computer games and computer-assisted education will become
increasingly fuzzy. Fortunately, the legislation does not define what a game is, leaving
that to the common sense of federal managers. So if solitaire is out, will Sim Health be
in at the Health Care Financing Administration? Will Tetris be shunned at the Air Force in
favor of Terminal Velocity? Will the Park Service try to subvert the commercial
proclivities of the Forest Service by sending free copies of Sim Park into the woods?


You can argue that computer programming is a game of skill between the programmer and
the computer with the compiler syntax as the rules of play. Others see the stock market as
a high stakes game. The automobile and entertainment industries have made their living
catering to the fantasies of otherwise sane adults.


No reason why the computer game folks can't respond to the senators with creativity and
enterprise.


Walter R. Houser, who has more than two decades of experience in federal information
management, is webmaster for a Cabinet agency. His own Web home page is at www.cpcug.org/user/houser.


X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.