You're sitting at your desk on a Friday afternoon in the summer. The boss hasn't left yet and no one in your department wants to be the first one to head for home.

You're exhausted from the overtime you've put in this week and if you tried to do any more work, well, you'd just make mistakes. No one wants that.

You're itching to leave but face time counts and you sure don't want to be the leader as you exit the building. So you decide to clear your head a bit while waiting out your boss and co-workers. Time for some fun and games!

I'm not recommending you sit around all day every day and play games when you're supposed to be working. That's the fast lane to the unemployment line. But there are times when you need to escape mentally and can't leave your desk. Those are the times when you should know which games you can play while at work and appear to be toiling away instead of goofing off.

Ground Rules

For a game to be a good work game, the following criteria must be met:

  1. No sudden movements. Games like Fruit Ninja or Infinity Blade require intense, fast movements, a sure-fire give away that you're not editing a document or preparing a Power Point presentation.
  2. No long term strategic planning required. You have to be able to play the game in short bursts in case you get interrupted by a phone call or your boss appears suddenly in the doorway. Chess or other games where you have to plan three moves ahead do not fit the bill.
  3. The game must be playable on a computer or iPad, not just a smartphone. iPads are legitimately used at work. Mobile phones are too, but playing a game on a smartphone could make you appear to be texting, another way of goofing off. The idea is to look like you're working, not goofing off in another manner.
  4. No sound needed to play. A game with sound effects isn't a problem because you can always mute the game. But if the game uses sounds as alerts (for example, a noise warning you that enemies are about to attack), save that game for home.
  5. You must be able to exit quickly. If a game needs to be saved before closing, those extra few seconds may cost you your job.

Make sure to mute your computer and/or iPad before opening a game. No one will believe you are hard at work if sound effects are coming from your desk.

Let the Games Begin!

With those important ground rules in mind, I suggest the following games:

1. Plants vs. Zombies " while you're in a game-playing mood, why not do some good and save the world from a zombie invasion? Plants vs. Zombies is a fun shooting game that doesn't involve rapid mouse clicks, which could alert nearby co-workers that you are in game mode rather than work mode. The purpose of the game is to protect your house from Zombies by planting proper plants for your defense. The game requires strategy but is easy to close as the boss approaches. You can play online here or get the PopCap app from the iTunes App Store.

Pop Cap

2. Clue Secrets & Spies " Clue Secrets & Spies takes you around the world to Paris, Istanbul, Hong Kong, Miami, Moscow and other exotic cities for you to explore for hidden treasures. Escape from your office doldrums by becoming a spy looking for clues in far away places!

Sometimes you need to see the big picture and other times you need to find a needle in a haystack. Clue Secrets & Spies is a needle in a haystack type of hidden object game where you look to find objects hidden in plain sight on a busy screen. You can play online through Pogo here or grab the Electronic Arts iPad app, Clues Secrets & Spies HD, from the iTunes App Store. (Word to the wise: if you don't have the iPad app yet, wait until a holiday weekend when the prices of Electronic Arts game apps typically drop by about 90%).

Electronic Arts

3. Mahjong " this classic Chinese puzzle game is ideal for work because it's easy to learn but difficult to master. Mahjong is a solitaire game that uses tiles instead of playing cards. The tiles are arranged in various patterns and you try to clear the board by matching tiles along the edges of the board.

Sounds easy, right? Well, not exactly. Many of the tiles are inaccessible because they either aren't on the edge or are hidden by other tiles. Your job is to clear the tiles to access other pairs. What appears to be the easiest move is often the wrong move that will come back to haunt you later when you discover the tiles you need are trapped by other tiles.

You can play for free online or download the feature-filled Shanghai Mahjong app from the iTunes App store for your iPad (also compatible with iPhone and iPod Touch).


4. Bookworm " this puzzle word game is devilishly clever and will keep you fascinated for hours. Bookworm is a PopCap game that isn't your typical word search game. To get your highest score you try to make bonus words and use bonus tiles for extra points. Strategy is key as you form shorter words to move tiles into position so you can make longer words. Just be careful to avoid letting burning tiles and obscure letters (Qu, Z, X, etc.) get to the bottom of the board.

Bookworm is available to play online here. Make extra sure to mute your volume before opening up this site! This game is also available in the iTunes App Store as an iPhone game but plays well when you expand it onto the iPad screen.

Pop Cap

5. Farmville " this popular Zynga game on Facebook allows you to escape to the countryside even when you're stuck inside the four walls of your office. I wouldn't suggest scheduling your crops to be ready for harvesting during work hours, but you can visit neighbors' farms, collect gifts, grab collectibles that are posted, send gifts to neighbors and check on your trees and livestock from the comfort of your desk.


6. Sudoku - if you have been working with words all day, consider taking a break with numbers. Sudoku fits the bill by giving you a challenging game you can pick up easily and put down quickly. Sudoku is a combination puzzle and math game where you enter numbers 1-9 in a grid so that no number is repeated in a row, column or region. I like this online Sudoku game because it allows you to choose your level and enter pencil marks. Pencil marks are hints to yourself of possible numbers to enter into a square. These are always handy in Sudoku, but especially useful at work when you could be interrupted at any minute.


7. Scrabble " if you work with numbers all day, an escape to a word game might be just the ticket. You can either play Scrabble online at Pogo's website or play on your iPad with the official Electronic Arts app available at the iTunes App Store.


Another fun way to play Scrabble is with the app Words with Friends. Play against strangers online and take days to craft your response to their move if you wish. Words with Friends is available free at the iTunes App Store

8. Tetris " the original addictive computer puzzle game, Tetris, continues to be popular and is available in many formats. The idea is to drop shapes of four blocks down to the bottom of the screen to make a solid row. One the row is filled in, the blocks in that row disappear. If the blocks pile up to the top of the screen, Game Over. This game is simple to learn but a challenge to master. There are many sites to play online, but I recommend this one Tetris Friends as it provides different game modes so you can play by yourself, online one on one or against a group of players. I also like that the controls utilize the keyboard so you really can look like you're entering data when you're really just playing and having fun!


9. Peggle " this fun game from PopCap is a combination of Pachinko, pinball and skill. You take aim at colored pegs and shoot your ball at them to score points. You try to eliminate all of the orange pegs while also trying to hit the purple pegs for extra points. At higher levels you have the help of the Peggle Masters who give you extra powers to make your quest a bit easier. As the levels increase, you will need their help to overcome the Peggle obstacles because even a perfect bank shot won't work all the time!

There are too many fun aspects of this game to list, but do be sure to play the game at home once in a while as the sound effects are inspirational! You can play Peggle online here or grab the Peggle app from the iTunes App Store.


10. Angry Birds - You may have heard about this ber popular game but if you haven't ever played it, you should give it a try. The game is available online or as an app, in many forms. You have your choice of Angry Birds, Angry Birds Rio and Angry Bird Seasons. The games differ enough to keep you interested for hours on end. There's a reason that all three versions of the game are consistently in the top 10 in the  iTunes App Store, they're fun! Check out Angry Birds online here and Angry Birds, Angry Birds Rio and Angry Birds Seasons in the iTunes App Store.

 Angry Birds
The only problem with playing Angry Birds at work is the addiction issue. Many people start playing the game innocently only to discover they are hooked. To avoid this happening to you, please watch this important video:

One treatment and your addiction is cured!

Bottom Line

If you need a break, go ahead and take one, just don't get caught. These games will help you find a little distraction from the crazy work world so you can clear your head before returning to the job at hand or unwind before heading home.

Do you play games at work? Do you have any favorites you'd like to suggest? Let us know in the Comments section below!

* Image by Anshu

** Image by Ellen