I’m glad I didn’t buy anything on Black Friday this year — not because it means I can finally afford Apple’s mythical microfiber cloth, but because Microsoft just dropped a new ugly holiday sweater and I’m on the brink of spending $US75 ($106) on it.
I mean, isn’t it perfect? The ode to Minesweeper features a grid in the shape of a Christmas tree with mines acting as ornaments, the XYZZY cheat code Easter egg graces the back, and Windows control buttons are in the top corner for when you inevitably rage quit every millennial’s first brutally challenging game. It’s glorious. So glorious, you might even forget that these are the same folks who designed the Kin and Windows 11 (partly kidding).
Now, about this pullover. Yes, the sweater is offensively over-designed (elbow pads in 2021?!), Microsoft made some changes to the colours (the “2″ is supposed to be green, not yellow, but we’ll chalk this up to artistic licence), and this is $US5 (A$7) pricier than last year’s version (I blame the chip shortage). But none of this bothers me.
This sweater is the perfect amount of atrocious, and more importantly, it pays homage to a game most people had no idea how to play, if the 1.5 million people who have viewed the YouTube video tutorial on how to play Minesweeper is any indication (you’re welcome for that link). Only about nine people could actually beat the game, and I’m not one of them.
Minesweeper deserves the spotlight. The strategy game dates back to the ‘60s and, after featuring in the Windows Entertainment Pack in 1990, found its way to Microsoft’s OS in 1993 when it replaced Reversi in Windows 3.1. Now one of the most iconic computer games of all time, Minesweeper was a way for ‘90s kids to pass the time in class by randomly clicking squares and hoping they didn’t land on a mine. That’s not how you play, it turns out, but no matter.
Playing Minesweeper, a gruelling game where stepping in the wrong spot means blowing up, may feel like the perfect allegory to sum up living through a global pandemic throughout 2021, but I’d rather just take this at face value. It’s an ugly sweater, and it’s a damn near perfect one.
On the sweater’s product page, Microsoft announced that it is donating $US100,000 (A$140,832) to AbleGamers, a charity working to improve the quality of life for those with disabilities through video games, and the company is encouraging others to do the same. You don’t have to buy the Minesweeper sweater to donate, but really, why the hell wouldn’t you?