Minesweeper - Criticism

In 2001, the Italian "International Campaign to Ban Winmine" voiced strong concern over the game, contending that it is an "offense against the victims of the mines" and those who risk their lives to clear them. They created their own "Winflower" game, and lobbied Microsoft to use it in place of Minesweeper in Windows 98. As a reaction to this criticism, the version of Minesweeper included in Windows Vista and Windows 7 offers a mode in which the mines are replaced with flowers.

Mines are Bad

I'm sure everyone is familar with Minesweeper. This has been a classic Windows application, and has been in Windows forever, largely unchanged from the Windows 3 version.

There have always been a small but persistent group of users who disliked minesweeper as a concept because they felt it trivialized the problem of land mines. For those of us living in North America, land mines are an abstract entity that you really only see in a movie, but in many parts of the world people are killed or maimed by mines on a daily basis. Over the years, these users have repeatedly asked us to either remove minesweeper or change the concept from landmines to something a little less obnoxious.

One of the realities of making something with the reach of Windows is that it is almost impossible not to offend someone somewhere with anything you do. (you would not believe how difficult it is to create default user tiles or desktop background images that are inoffensive to EVERYONE ON EARTH.) We do our best, but we also accept that we can't please all of the people all of the time.

In the minesweeper case, since we were doing a re-write anyway, we thought it would a good time to address these concerns. We added a preference that allows users to change it from looking for mines in a minefield to looking for flowers in a flower field. Now, personally I am not a fan of using flowers here - I mean, you WANT to find flowers, right? - but this was an established alternative in the market and none of the other ideas we had (dog poo? penguins?) could pass the legal/geopolitcs/trademark/etc. hurdles.