September 26, 2023

Brighton Journal

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You OS is a game that will make you feel your poor and tired system

You OS is a game that will make you feel your poor and tired system
Zoom in / If you click on “I/O Events” in the upper-left corner, some frozen processes may be unfrozen with a small hourglass. but when? Before the other deep red processes die? I can’t a job under these conditions!

Pierre Luc Brault

I spent almost twenty minutes this morning trying to be a good OS, but you know what? People expect a lot from their computers.

I worked hard to spin processes through the CPU slots, was quick to respond to I/O requests, and didn’t even allow memory pages to be written to disk. But the user—who I suspect is an idiot who keeps 32 shopping tabs open while working—continued to stop pissing off as the processes slipped from bright green to red to “red with a frozen face emoji”. It did make me want to get four extra cores or maybe even kill a process though. If they were a writer, like me, I’d kill the sandboxed tab with their blog editor open. Learn to focus, writer!

You OS! It is a browser game that combines stress, an appreciation for high-level computer design, and a panic-clicking exercise. Says the creator Pierre-Luc Brault specifically that the game was “not created with education in mind”, but might introduce people to principles such as process scheduling and memory swapping – “as long as it is made clear that it is not an accurate depiction”. Brault, a computer science teacher himself, wrote that they might use the game to teach about cores, lack of RAM, and the like.

You can click the How to Play button for step-by-step instructions, but the gist of the game is that processes keep popping up, and you have to process them. You have four CPU slots by default (adjustable settings in game), so you can click on processes to move them to the CPU and run them. The processes are green and smiling when they appear, then decay to orange-red, dark red, then red and freeze when you ignore them in other processes. Running each process also takes up memory pages in memory, and filling up your allotments can move memory pages to disk, which the process really doesn’t want to run through. And then sometimes the processes freeze until you click a small button to handle the “I/O events”.

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What this looks like when you’re actually playing is pure sorting, wiping and clicking and sacrificing processes you thought could last a little longer while you deal with other things. Do you click the I/O Events button and wait to see if it unlocks that red process in your CPU core, or immediately get rid of the locked process in favor of something else worthy? It’s your job to answer that question because, well, you’re the operating system.

When processes become irrevocably closed, your user gets angry. After 10 anger quits, they restart the system. You are the system, you are the one who restarts it. I’ve seen what it was like to be an operating system, and failed at it. How are you feeling now? Do you want to play again?

I did it for 6 minutes 25 seconds on my first attempt at Easy, then realized I needed to switch from my trusty trackball at work to a physical mouse. My second attempt was 7:19, and my wrist was really mad at me. It’s not entirely the game’s fault — I brought the carpal tunnel issues from the pandemic — but if you’re not ready to click a lot, I’d suggest either playing sparingly or trying the game in a mobile browser. It’s actually a very fun game to play with your fingers on a mobile device, especially a larger tablet or phone. I bookmarked this game on my home screen for my next subway ride.

Not a co-worker at Ars will be bookmarking this game. They said it’s “the kind of spin simulator I find kind of overwhelming. Well done! Just also a lot. “

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You are the operating system (which I first saw via Clive Thompson) is an HTML5 game licensed under GPL 3 and Works on Itch.io. You can also run the game as a desktop app or create the web version for mods, as detailed in The game’s GitHub repository.