Q: I have an employee who plays social media games on his lunch break. Will playing these games slow down his computer or cause other harm?
A: The vast majority of computer performance issues and crashes occur when a computer runs out of available memory. Because many computer games involve colorful graphics and animations that consume large amounts of memory, playing certain games potentially can undermine a computer’s performance. (This explains why computers designed for avid gamers are usually equipped with larger amounts of high-speed RAM.) Performance issues alone are reason enough for me to recommend that CPAs refrain from playing online games, but there are other good reasons to avoid games.
As a rule, I never play any social media games because doing so grants permission to the game’s publisher to harvest my social media data, including my friends list, contact information, IP address, computer device ID number, and, often, much more. You may recall episode 106 of Star Trek: The Next Generation titled “The Game” in which the Ktarians attempted to take over the Enterprise by introducing the crew to an addictive video game with mind-controlling capabilities. In real life, the publishers of free social media games sometimes have dubious motives as well, and harvesting your private data may be their primary goal.
In addition to protecting my privacy, I also want to protect my productivity. (We all have more important things to do, both personally and professionally.) I’ve seen some of my own employees waste far too much time playing games on their computer, which is confirmed when I find their high scores exceed my own. ;-).