I’m Wu Chengjie, the journalist from GQ magazine. Thank you so much for accepting my interview. Here’s the question list:
1. Experience of Minesweeper
Q: When did you start to play the Minesweeper? How did you contact with that? Why could you addicted to minesweeper?
A: I started playing Minesweeper for records in 2006. I got addicted because at that time I decided to become the best in the world in something, also I’ve watched a replay of Dion Tiu’s world record for Expert (38) that I found really interesting. So it was natural Minesweeper became my choice.
A: 我从2006年开始刷扫雷纪录。我沉迷扫雷的原因是，当时我想在某方面成为世界第一，同时我看了Dion Tiu的高级38秒世界纪录的录像发现很有趣。扫雷自然而然地成了我的选择。
Q: Could you talk about your progress?When did your score advance by leaps and bounds? When did you reach the top of the world?
A: I joined the world ranking on the 2007-01-12. At that time to join the rankings your Beginner+Intermediate+Expert scores sum had to be lower than 100s. Then it took me only 9 months to get my 1st world record on 2007-10-11 (Beginner NF 3BV/s of 6.135). Next year I broke time and NF time world record on Intermediate level with 9.015s on 2008-03-17. To break the most important record I had to play 1 more year - on the 2009-03-27 I solved Expert level in 35.702s, beating Dion Tiu’s former world record of 36.775s and becoming world #1. I was still improving for over a year, breaking own records. I think I reached top speed in 2010.
A: 我在2007年1月12日加入了世界排名，当时加入排名需要初级、中级、高级成绩之和低于100秒。在仅仅9个月后，2007年10月11日我就获得了我的第一个世界纪录（初级NF的3BV/s纪录，6.135）。第二年我又破了中级的时间和NF时间纪录（2008年3月17日，9.015秒）。又过了一年我才打破了最重要的纪录：2009年3月27日高级35.702秒，取代了Dion Tiu的原纪录36.775秒并成为了世界第一。我在接下来的一年多仍保持进步并打破自己的纪录；我认为在2010年达到了自己的巅峰。
Q: How long do you play the game every day as usual? When and where? Does it disturb your daily life?
A: I used to play 2-3 hours daily at the beginning and later (since 2009), when I went on studies and got my own laptop - about 4-5 hours a day from Monday to Friday and up to 10 hours on weekends. It didn’t disturb my daily life – usually I didn’t go for non-mandatory lessons, so I had a lot of time almost every day. I had time for everything – Minesweeper, speedcubing, studying and partying. I didn’t play that much for 2-3 weeks before exams.
Q: You are called “the alien” by Chinese Minesweeper enthusiasts, which means your world record is the climax of human. What’s the secret of getting the highest achievement?
A: Playing a lot and enjoying what you are doing are necessary to improve, but most important factor is talent/genetics. Also, it wouldn’t be possible to get the highest achievements without luck. For example, from the beginning I had got very good computer mouse. Now imagine I had worse mouse instead. Probably I would get discouraged and stop playing. Maybe I wouldn’t even think about that I should get better mouse, and even if I did, it was still possible that other models also weren’t good enough. It’s very difficult to find good mouse for Minesweeper.
Q: Do you think you’re a hardworking player or a talented one?|
A: Both, but working hard isn’t enough. With practise you can improve, but only to a level that your body is capable to reach. For example, about 1 year after I started playing Minesweeper, I took up another discipline – speedcubing. I’ve spent similar amount of time for cubing as I did for playing Minesweeper in years 2009-2013, with very poor results. My average time is 14.5s since 2012 and I can’t improve anymore. My body limits me greatly and I’m unable to turn fast even with the best cubes. Some people can do the same sequence of moves more than 2 times faster than me (it takes me 2-3s for OLL and 2-3s for PLL). So, in Minesweeper it is talent that lets me click fast and precisely.
Q: Are there many Minesweeper enthusiasts In Poland?What kind of people are they? How do you talk to each other?
A: There are 58 Polish people in the ranking, but I’ve talked to only 2 of them on Messenger. One of them lives in Warsaw too and we meet sometimes. We have many common interests.
Q: For a long time, your score has been far ahead of other players in the world. I'm wondering whether your love for Minesweeper has ever diminished because of it?
A: No, it’s not a problem.
Q: When did quit playing Minesweeper? And why?
A: I stopped playing a lot in the middle of 2013, but for the next 2 years I played from time to time. There were a few reasons. The goal in Minesweeper is getting records, not playing itself. At some point, my records became difficult to break. At the same time, I got old and my speed has diminished. Yearly stats showed that my average time on Expert was 2s worse than in previous years. Also I could feel that I’m slower. I understood that I’ve reached my limits and probably won’t get records anymore.
A: Another thing is that in 2014 I finished studies and had to go to work. Breaking world records requires a lot of time and energy. When I started working 8 hours a day for 5 days a week, I had neither time nor energy. I had to get up very early to be at work at 8:00 (travelling took me 50 minutes and I couldn’t be even 1 minute late), so I was constantly tired and sleepy, even on weekends.
A: So, in general, life has forced me to retire.
Q: What is your interests now? Are you good at it as well as Minesweeper?|
A: For a few years after I retired, I didn’ have any special interests. At the beginning of 2019 I felt I miss some kind of competition and started playing chess. Usually I play 30+15 format. My ranking is about 1850 on lichess.org. I don’t play every day and rarely more than 2-3 games.
Q: Are you going to return to Minesweeper?
A: Probably not.
Q: If you are asked to share two or three stories about Minesweeper, what will be the first thing you can recall?
A: I don’t know if I can call it a „story”, but it’s definitely very strong memory. I remember getting my 1st Polish record on Intermediate with 12.34s. After that, I had permanent feeling of euphoria for 2 or 3 months. Even though it’s not really special and my later world records were much more important, this particular record made the strongest effect.
2. Minesweeper in China|
Q: In the top 100 of the world, the number of Chinese players is in an explosion. What do you think about it?
A: It seems Chinese players keep playing, while the rest of the world forgot about MInesweeper. I don’t what is the reason, I guess Chinese Minesweeper community does something that attracts new players – something that non-Chinese Minesweeper community couldn’t do.
Q: I heard that you have joined the qq group of Chinese Minesweeper players. Is that true? Why did you join that?And why did you quit QQ later?
A: I was invited to install QQ messenger and enter the chat, so I did a few times. It was years ago and I don’t remember details, but probably I quit because people were talking in Chinese so I didn’t understand most things.
Q: Have you ever been in contact with Chinese players in other occasion? What do you think about them?Please share some interesting stories.
A: I talked with some players by email or Messenger, but it was 10 years ago and I don’t remember details. Probably nothing special, just say hello or tell how’s it going.
Q: Guo Weijia and Zhou Dan are approaching your intermediate and advanced （译者注：应该是expert） records respectively, and breaking your record is one of their goals. Do you think the possibility for them to break your record? If they can, would you return to Minesweeper?
A: Even slower players have chances to break the world record if they get lucky board. When my record was 34.654s on Expert, Ian Fraser broke it with 32.95s. And he got his 1st sub40 only 1 week before. Guo Weijia and Zhou Dan are good and both are able to get sub32.
A: 其实更菜的玩家扫个好图也能破世界纪录。我的高级纪录是34.654秒的时候，Ian Fraser就扫了个32.95秒破掉了，但他当时才刚sub40一周。郭蔚嘉和周丹都有能力sub32。
A: If I lose any of my time records, I would consider returning. If my record was broken by 0.1s, probably I would try playing to see what happens (to check if I enjoy playing and if I can still play fast). But if my record was broken by 3s on fluently played extremely easy board, I’m sure I wouldn’t.
Q: Have you ever come into contact with Guo Weijia or Zhou Dan? Or have you ever watched their videos ? What do you think of their style and talent?
A: I’ve never came into contact with them.
A: I have watched both players’ videos, especially Guo’s. Definitely he’s better in getting high NF 3BV/s scores than me. On the other hand, I don’t have any good NF 3BV/s scores because for 90% time I played with flags. If I spent as much time playing NF as he did, for sure I would have better scores than my current records and probably I would have chances to compete with him. I mean, he is faster NF player now than I used to be in, but if I spent 10x more time playing NF, I would probably be better than I was, so my speed could reach his speed.
A: 他们俩的录像我都看过，尤其是郭蔚嘉的。显然他更擅长扫更高的NF 3BV/s，而我的纪录就比较菜，因为我90%的时间都在扫FL。要是我跟他一样花这么多时间扫NF，我肯定会有更好的成绩，也许能跟他打一打。我的意思是，他确实是最快的NF玩家，但要是我花10倍的时间，我肯定能扫得更快，那我就能干掉他。
A: Guo Weijia’s style looks more accurate than mine. I misclick more often in situations when I have to click multiple squares next to each other.
A: I’ve watched Zhou Dan’s replays of her Expert time and Expert 3BV/s records and I can see that sometimes she doesn’t put a flag in situations I would normally do. But on the other hand she doesn’t spam with doubleclicking where it’s not needed as I often do.
3. Minesweeper experience|
Q: What is the charm of minesweeper for you?
A: I like Minesweeper because of 3 things. The video of Minesweeper board being solved quickly and fluently is an artwork. It’s a pleasure to watch it, because it’s beautiful. The 2nd thing is that you can break records in this game and breaking a record gives you a sense of success. And lastly, you can compete with others. I love the feeling of victory.
Q: Does Minesweeper provide you with something that real life can’t provide?
A: Minesweeper let me know how it feels to be the best in the world in something. Real life can’t provide this.
Q: Do you think people who like to play Minesweeper have something in common?
A: Yes, most of Minesweeper players work in IT industry.
Q: Somebody has put it that Minesweeper is a lonely game which you have to fight alone most of the time. Do you agree with it?
A: Yes, usually you play it alone at home. It’s not a team game, so you also fight alone. You can compare scores or talk about Minesweeper with others, but you fight alone.
Q: Do your family and friends know how well you play Minesweeper? What is their attitude towards this?
A: Sure they know. Usually they don’t care, rarely respect or despise.
Q: Around the world, there seem to be fewer and fewer people playing Minesweeper. Would you worry about the prospect of Minesweeper?
A: I used to worry that Minesweeper will be forgotten, but this fact has already happened and nothing has really changed – I didn’t have any benefits when I was playing and when Minesweeper was popular, so I lost nothing when I and others stopped playing.
4. Life experience|
Q: What kind of person do you think you are?
Q: What major did you study in college?
A: Construction (civil engineering) – I’ve finished 5-year studies, but never worked in construction industry.
A: Databases and their applications – I’ve finished 1-year post-graduate studies.
Q: What's your job? Do you like your job?
A: Officially I’m a software tester, but I also program easier stuff in C# and Angular. My plan is to focus only on programming within half a year. In general I like my job - I don’t like testing, but while testing I can see changes in commit log, so next time I can repair similar bugs myself.
Q: Describe your daily life nowadays.
A: I set my 1st alarm clock to 9 a.m. and 2nd one to 9:15. I live 5 mins by foot from my workplace. I’m at work at 10:00. I’m back home after 18:00 and rest.
Q: Do you have the feeling that when you enter the work force, you are not having time to play Minesweeper or other games?
A: I don’t need to spend as much time playing games that I used to, so even though I have less free time, it’s not a big problem.
Hope this email finds you well. If you have any questions, you can contact me via mail at any time. Thank you again for your kindness. Can’t wait to receive your reply : )
A: Playing a lot and enjoying what you are doing are necessary to improve, but most important factor is talent/genetics. Also, it wouldn’t be possible to get the highest achievements without luck. For example, from the beginning I had got very good computer mouse. Now imagine I had worse mouse instead. Probably I would get discouraged and stop playing. Maybe I wouldn’t even think about that I should get better mouse, and even if I did, it was still possible that other models also weren’t good enough. It’s very difficult to find good mouse for Minesweeper.|
A: Officially I’m a software tester, but I also program easier stuff in C# and Angular. My plan is to focus only on programming within half a year. In general I like my job - I don’t like testing, but while testing I can see changes in commit log, so next time I can repair similar bugs myself.|