Viral Games: Nice work if you can avoid it

Thousands of working hours are lost while slackers play viral games. Richard Gillis identifies the most addictive
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The Independent Online

Alien Hominid

www.newgrounds.com/portal/view.php?id=59593

Colourful and loud Flash animation game. Involves moving a yellow "being" sideways to avoid being shot by the FBI. Hugely popular with young, poorly supervised first jobbers. Transports you from your grey out-of-town business park to a south coast amusement arcade, only without the menacing local hoodies and the strange man at the change counter.

TIME-WASTING POTENTIAL - 5/10

Motherload

www.miniclip.com/motherload.htm

New, incredibly compelling game featured on Miniclip.com, the world's biggest online games portal. The aim is to use your digger to excavate as much ore as possible. Use the money you earn to upgrade your digger and move deeper underground to unearth the mysteries that lurk below. To master this game requires a great deal of time and probably a degree in geology.

TIME-WASTING POTENTIAL - 8/10

Typer Shark

www.popcap.com/gamepopup.php?theGame=typershark

It seems that playing games while skiving off work is not just the domain of shy, inadequate young men. It's great for intellectual slackers too. Word and puzzle games are very popular online (you can play Sudoku on Miniclip.com) and this is an early example. The instructions include the sentence: Type the words on the side of a shark, then zap them.

TIME-WASTING POTENTIAL - 6/10

Yeti Sports

www.yetisports.org/

A classic of the genre, one of the most popular viral games ever. "Smack the Penguin" has spawned endless sequels. No hidden layers here, just try to belt a penguin as far as you can with a big club. It is hard to describe the sheer joy you feel when you get it right. Probably not one for the eco lobby.

TIME-WASTING POTENTIAL - 4/10

A Murder of Scarecrows

www.theskeletonshop.com/

A genuinely unsettling website housing a game that is very simple but beautifully designed. The gothic visuals are set against a haunting soundtrack and interspersed with poetry that is a peculiar mix of Tim Burton and Pam Ayres. A game for horror film buffs, or a junior advertising execavoiding the queue for the photocopier.

TIME-WASTING POTENTIAL - 7/10

Park Life

www.skivedomain.com/archive/SonyEricssonParkLife/

Platform games go back to the first Spectrum computers, but if done well, they are incredibly user-friendly. Skive Creative has added some skate-themed features and progressively more difficult levels. Park Life was built to promote the Sony Ericsson T310 mobile phone, which came bundled with Tony Hawks Pro Skater 4.

TIME-WASTING POTENTIAL - 8/10

Spooks

www.bbc.co.uk/drama/spooks/games/index.shtml

Award-winning series of great-looking games to promote the BBC's hit spy drama. It requires a fair bit of thought and more time than most people who are not on a freelance contract could justify. Once the initial signing up procedure is done it's easy to dip in and out. Would suit someone working in the corner of a large office.

TIME-WASTING POTENTIAL - 9/10

J20 Toilet Training

www.viralmania.com/online-games.htm

Good example of a branded viral game, passed around on email due to its slightly risqué content matter. "Ever been accused of splashing the paintwork when you've had a few?" it says. We are encouraged to aim the white cross inside the bowl and "keep your trainers dry". Make a mistake and you have to down a J2O drink (geddit?).

TIME-WASTING POTENTIAL - 3/10

Jaguar Urban Golf

www.jaguarurbangolf.co.uk

Skive leads the market in creating innovative branded games for such companies as Starburst, Dyson and this one for Jaguar. Part of a new product launch, the new S-Type R is embedded into the narrative of playing nine holes on the streets of London. A clever take on the image of Jag's traditional golf club constituency.

TIME-WASTING POTENTIAL - 8/10

Stan James Free Kick

www.stanjames.com/gamesroom/freekick/

Funny retro football game sponsored by the Stan James betting shops chain. Players try to beat the keeper from outside the box using variety of aiming devices. A major justification of this type of game is data capture, with users encouraged to pass over personal details in return for a prize, in this case a free bet.

TIME-WASTING POTENTIAL - 2/10

Couronne

www.miniclip.com/couronnedeluxe/index.htm

Good example of a multi-user or peer-to-peer game which is helping to create a network of work-shy idlers across the industrialised world. Research by Shockwave.com suggests that women are as hooked on work avoidance as men. So when once you thought that the bloke in IT support was a bit of a loner, worry no more.

TIME-WASTING POTENTIAL - 7/10

RSVP

www.popandco.com/popsite/home/start.html

Great retro design and presentation for a lovely puzzle game for Lifetime Television in America. Irritatingly addictive, one to dip in and out of if you value your job in any way. Indeed, if you find yourself still playing after three minutes you might try some form of counselling.

TIME-WASTING POTENTIAL - 9/10

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