Government Spending

State of Virginia Spends $3,500 Tracking Down $1,117 Worth of Video Game Waste


One. More. Turn. That's all. I promise.

Who among us hasn't found themselves so addicted to some time-consuming video game that he ended up spending more of his workday playing than working? Matthew Bolick, a land use engineer for the state of Virginia, didn't manage to avoid this fate. He apparently lost interest in real world land-use design and succumbed to the thrills of a virtual world-building game—and he did it on the taxpayer dime. A recent audit by the Virginia Department of Transportation revealed that over a two week period, Bolick spent 28 hours of on-the-clock time playing Sid Meier's Civilization IV, a turn-based strategy video game that, if my multiple highly addicted friends and family members are any indication, frequently seems to reduce otherwise friendly and productive human beings into a sort of trance-like state in which any communications attempt is met with the same mumbled, glassy-eyed response: "Just. One. More. Turn…"

I'm not a Civ player, but my life, such as it is, has occasionally been hobbled for short periods of time by digital dramas like Fallout 3 and Borderlands; so while I don't condone his, ah, dedication to the game, I do sympathize. My sympathy is magnified by the fact Bolick's auditors appear to be both humorless scolds (they also cite Bolick for browsing to the "questionable" yuks site and less-than-efficient workers themselves. Somehow they managed to blow even more taxpayer money tracking down Bolick's time-wasting than he did playing games during the audit period: According to The Washington Examiner's write-up of the state report, "the cost of the investigation totaled more than $3,500, while the amount of fraud, waste or abuse identified—28 hours of game playing at a $39.90-an-hour pay rate—was $1,117.20." Perhaps taxpayers would have been better off if the auditors had just spent their time playing video games.

NEXT: Radar Love

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Civ IV was the best. V is crap.

    1. Civ II beats all the rest hands down.

      1. I thought III improved some things from II but made others worse, and I thought IV blended the best parts of the previous two.

      2. No, Civ I was best. You could edit the text files to control what the computer player said.

      3. Only thing I wanted in CivII was a “Canals” function.

    2. Dude, Civ V is pretty awesome. If only I could find the time to play more than once every two weeks.

      1. Yeah but doesn’t it bog down worse than ever in the late game? My brother owns it, and he says he spends more time waiting between turns than actually playing in the late game.

        1. If you have a good computer it’s not quite so bad anymore, but if you’re at war you have to choose between turning off the animations or sitting there watching a dozen enemy aircraft attacking your units one by one, which can take a while.

          1. I actually preferred III to IV. Haven’t tried V yet, as I’m waiting to get tired of Galactic Civilizations II.

            1. I’m waiting to get tired of Galactic Civilizations II.

              Did you just install it like 5mins ago? (not enough tech options for me)

              1. I like to play on the huge map, with a lot of inhabitable planets. I enjoy the race to snatch up as many planets as possible (and using high influence to steal planets from other races without going to war). The tech is just a means to me.

    3. [flameshield]
      I personally liked CTP the best. how can you best beef vats, star ladder, eco-terrorists, dinosaur park!

      1. No flames here. I loved Call to Power, skipped III (PC at the time couldn’t handle it), and was disappointed when I got IV and found that it lacked some of the cool stuff CTP had. Never did try CTP-II, and I didn’t even know about Civ-V until reading these comments.

        Civ II is probably my favorite of all, though, just based on the ridiculous number of hours I spent playing it.

  2. Dangit Peter, I just got out of Civ IV rehab.

  3. Skyrim is coming.

    1. I like to stay behind the curve on new games. It saves a lot of money. Just got Dragon Age Ultimate a week ago for $20. And I still haven’t beat Oblivion.

      1. This here. I try to GOTY editions when I can. They’re debugged, and include the DLC (although I spit on Borderlands for not putting the DLC on the frickin’ disc, but making me clog up my hard drive by downloading it. The stupid, the stupid . . . .)

        1. I used to do that, but I’ve been buying new games more often, lately.

          1. Just wait for the deals on Steam. I got Civ V for $20 recently, and I often get stuff for less than $10. Even if I don’t end up playing, it’s so cheap I don’t care.

            1. Yeah, I’m finding myself trolling through the Steam deals more and more. That’s how I got DA for so cheap.

              1. Universe Sandbox. $10. Go Steam!

        2. And I’m the weirdo who prefers playing Scrabble and Go on the computer to playing things like Civilization.

      2. Dragon Age Origins was amazing… the sequel was just disappointing. I hope Mass Effect 3 avoids the same path.

        And I second Epi’s Steam love… the sales they run are insane enough that even if I only play the games for a couple of hours, it’s worth it.

        1. Origins was adequate to account for time spent playing it. I’m just glad I got it as a gift.

          Portal 2, while still short, was worth the money. I figure for the same price I could have seen 3 “comedy” movies that wouldn’t have been as funny.

        2. I don’t think it is possible for ME3 to meet how awesome I hope it is. At this point I don’t really view them as different games, but they are a single game that could be, and should be, played from start to end.

          I would have enjoyed DA2 if it was a stand-alone game, or if it had been the first game in the DA series.

          I really like the story-telling that Bioware is putting in to their games.

        3. I’m really enjoying Dragon Age Origins right now. It’s the first game in a few months I’ve really gotten sucked into, the last one being Portal 2, and before that the incredibly brilliant Mount&Blade;.

  4. Alttext is perfect.

    1. Now if only Suderman could have used a jpg, and a thumbnail. You don’t need a 1.2MB picture to illustrate the point.

  5. I miss Alpha Centauri, that was crack.

    1. Lemme guess, you only played as CEO Nwabudike Morgan too?

    2. I enjoyed that one, too. More than IV, actually.

  6. the state *began* [emphasis added] monitoring his activity in February. From Feb. 16 to March 3, he spent ….

    With all due respect, why wasn’t he called on the carpet on *February 16*?

    Gotta “build a case”, I suppose.

  7. Well, yeah except the $1117.20 would have surely turned into much more if they hadn’t found it.

    Sorry, Suderman, I think the investment in this case is worth it. Of course the link doesn’t say what was done about it – only that they found it. Great.

    1. If the guy is salary exempt, I don’t see a problem.

  8. $3500 investigative costs is nothing compared to what they pay this slacker.
    Too bad he’s a government worker and not easily fired.

    1. That’s what I think this boils down to — the headline might have read “Government spends $3,500 to fire employee because they have no discretion to fire them otherwise.”

      1. Does it say he got fired? $3,500 to fire a slacker seems like a good deal for a unionized government employee.

        If he only got a slap on the wrist, WTF? Just send an email and/or stop by his desk and give him a brisk talking to for a couple minutes.

  9. “Perhaps taxpayers would have been better off if the auditors had just spent their time playing video games.”

    We would all be better off if most government employees did this rather than use their offices to strangle our freedoms.

    1. This.

      Civ4 or determining blighted areas ripe for some eminent domaining?

  10. Is Gandhi’s finger a bit more phallic than it usually is?

  11. The online Cracked is sooo much better than the magazine ever was.

  12. […] “the cost of the investigation totaled more than $3,500, while the amount of fraud, waste or abuse identified?28 hours of game playing at a $39.90-an-hour pay rate?was $1,117.20.” Perhaps taxpayers would have been better off if the auditors had just spent their time playing video games.

    This only makes sense if you assume that Bolick was only engaging in his games during the exact period that the auditors were examining his conduct, and was a model employee at all other times.

    Is that what we’re supposed to assume?

  13. In this case it is worth spending more money than saved as a deterrent to other state workers who may do the same thing. There were probably thousands of man hours over just the next week as state workers thought twice before logging on to CityVille.

  14. Seriously, a two-week investigation? As soon as they saw it, they should have cracked off an email to the guy, telling him to knock it off and they’d be watching. That would have saved the entire cost of the investigation and and the time he spent playing while he was being investigated.

    The mindset that seizes on a weeks-long investigation rather than just sending a frickin’ email is more of a problem than employees wasting time on-line.

    1. Maybe we should audit the audit?

      1. I propose we form a committee to consider the feasibility of this audit of the audit.

      2. But then who is going to audit the auditers that audit the original audit?

        Now you begin to see the logic of my ideology, everyone can have a govt job investigating everyone elses performance of their govt job. Its brilliance

    2. “knock it off??” Where’s the “respect my author-i-tie!!” in that? I think this is standard operating procedure for much of government. If you want to do something, you need to conduct an investigation first.

  15. Anybody played Brink, yet? It’s getting some hella mixed reviews.

    1. There’s a good reason for the mixed reviews. The game is fun, but there are a lot of shortcomings as well. First off, this game is meant to be played multi-player, or co-op in the very least. Playing this game as a single player game with 7 bots on your team vs. 8 bots on the other team is fucking terrible. So right there if you don’t have a full friends list I’d pass.

      Unfortunately, the versus games lag terribly – not magic bullets that get you around a corner lag; this is “sorry, completely unplayable” lag. In a MP only game. Yikes. You will most likely spend twenty minutes bouncing in and out of lobbies until you find one that isn’t laggy.

      Oh, and there’s no actual party support. So to play with your friends you have to a) start a game; b) see if there’s lag; c)find a match with acceptable quality and then spam your friends d) hope the server doesn’t tell them the game is full (which happens often enough even with bots on your team).

      The game isn’t without it’s charms though. The gunplay is balanced and feels great. And the free-running really opens up the possibilities – running up and over obstacles, wall jumping, sliding while blasting a shotgun – you can do all this without thinking, and being that mobile feels awesome and sets up some really fun kills.

      The character classes are also well balanced and fun to play, and you get rewarded with XP for pretty much doing anything that is appropriate for the class you’re playing. All the different classes are useful, and as long as you play to their strengths you can help your team and score a lot of XP.

      One other problem – there are only eight maps, and the objectives play out the same way. Day 3 as resistance will always be hack A, repair B, escort C, plant D. Day 3 for security will be prevent the resistance. I don’t know how long this is going to last, but I can imagine after a few weeks you are going to be sick of doing the same exact shit.

      Rent it if you have a console and want to play a shooter with some interesting twists. Otherwise I’d pass.

      1. Thanks. The crap solo play kills it for me. I hate co-op with random people and getting a game together with friends is like herding cats high on meth.

    2. No, but I saw the movie on the Disney Channel. Go team pup n suds, soul skater for life!

      1. Fuck yeah, I had the biggest crush on Erik von Detten because of that movie!

  16. You know, when I first saw this last week, I was thinking, “only 28 ot of 80 hours means he really wasn’t all that into it”.

    1. He probably took some leave days and over 2 weeks there was probably a state holiday.

  17. FWIW Civilization games, with their emphasis on micromanaging every single aspect of economic growth and private enterprise, might be the worst possible game a government employee could play. It could give them ideas like, “Communism isn’t so bad. It helped me tamp down internal strife during my conquest of the Mongols.”

    1. I don’t know how many games of Civ III were won by going to fanaticism, declaring war on everyone, kicking the shit out of everything, then going back to a republic or democracy.

    2. I sometimes wonder why someone doesn’t come up with a more accurate realistic civilization simulator based on a basic understanding of economics (e.g., supply and demand) and trade-offs (e.g., state power vs. individual rights). The I remember that as a nominal libertarian, I would be paying money to take an inactive role in ‘leading’ my civilization.

      1. Civ IV Colonization should be required playing for government employees like this — the rulers are all dicks who keep increasing taxes until the fed-up colonists revolt.

        I would love it if the Civ tech tree had a “libertarianism” tech to research, where your maximum tax rate was maybe 10%, but all sorts of stuff gets built for free.

        A more realistic game engine would have productivity go up as happiness went up, so that by cranking up the luxury rate the government took in a lower percentage of income, but that income went through the roof over time, and private banks and stuff got built at random intervals with the luxury cash.

        1. Sim City 4 is the ultimate learn how to be a statist central planner game.

  18. I can’t believe I am going to say this, but I am going to stick up for this guy. A little.

    If he’s a land use engineer, he is probably assigned discrete tasks that have to be completed by certain times. If those tasks are completed on time, who cares what he does?

    It’s not like they could have had him vacuum the office in his spare time.

    If there was work that was going undone, that’s one thing. But I don’t see how a land-use engineer can make his own work.

    In the private sector, I have ABSOLUTELY employed people who would accomplish great things in small bursts of work and then would dick around with their profile. Trying to force people like that to work without stopping for eight hours would actually decrease their productivity.

    I think it’s pretty likely that the state investigates cases like this not because this engineer’s work wasn’t done, but because they’re afraid “State Employee Plays Civ IV All Day” headlines will get into the paper. And managing to avoid embarassment is no way to manage.

    1. Just think, if he wasn’t playing Civ he’d probably be acting a typical pain in the ass bureaucrat, making people’s lives miserable. We may actually be better off this way.

    2. As a bursty productive slacker, I agree. However it’s really dependent on local office culture. But I’m private sector so I tend to actually have stuff to do.

      1. Right.

        If you are managing someone and you have the combination “employee has all assigned tasks done” and “employee plays Civ IV five hours a day” it’s your failure, not the employee’s.

        1. I might need to anonymously forward this comment to all of the managers and supervisors at the company where I work.

      2. As a bursty productive slacker, I agree.

        I originally read this as “BUSTY productive slacker”. =)

    3. Couldn’t be more right. Some people, myself included, will produce more efficiently (and accurately, which the importance of can’t be understated) when granted some slight measure of dicking off time between tasks. Besides, at 28 hours over two weeks, its under a few hours each day, not particularly significant if his work is getting accomplished at or ahead of schedule.

      1. I once spent a couple hours learning SQL queries that cut my data input time for a few hundred entries from about 6-8 hours to ~10 minutes. After that, and a few other similar achievements, my boss pretty much doesn’t care how much I goof off.

    4. ^^THIS^^ (@Fluffy)

  19. I played civ 4 for a bit. I don’t think I “got” it. All my citied were always rioting and on fire at all times. I prefer Medieval 2 Total War…where I would just move my troops out of the city, let them go full Spartacus, and then move back in and exterminate the populace.

    1. Cities don’t riot in civ4. Unhappy citizens just don’t work and continue to eat their rations. You must be thinking of civ1-3 or civ5 with your ENTIRE EMPIRE malfunctioning when its unhappy. btw civ5 blows.

  20. Love how the story incites more passion about Civ than civics. One thing not touched on by the story, though, is the reason. He’s a public employee and may have taken the time to play because he had nothing better to do and local rules/bureaucracy prevented him from taking any initiative. For that reason, I’ll give Suderman a pass.

  21. If he’s getting his work done, I don’t care what else he does. But if management wants to prohibit computer games at work, it shouldn’t be that hard to prevent and detect. Just check his hard drive at random intervals for unauthorized software, block him from going to unauthorized websites, and take a glance at his monitor from time to time.

    A good employee who is getting his work done doesn’t need this kind of monitoring. A bad employee should be fired. Now if an employee says “I couldn’t complete Assignment A because of Problem B” then management has a right to see if Problem B was a factor, or if the employee was goofing off. I have a lot of trouble believing that it cost this much to detect misuse of a computer.

    1. Just check his hard drive at random intervals for unauthorized software

      Or, you know, just setup your workstations so people can’t install shit in the 1st place. Unless you really like having your IT department spend most of it’s time removing spyware…

  22. In some ways, he was the ideal government employee. He was creating work for other government employees, right?

  23. Your math is off Peter. The appropriate rate to use for Mr. Bolick’s cost would be the fully burdened rate:
    39.90 for wages, 2.40 for employer FICA, let’s say 10 for benefits, and don’t forget the cost of the equipment and real estate he was using. Put it all together, and I’d imagine that Bolick was costing us over $100 per hour, even though his portion was only $39.90.

    Doesn’t change the conclusion though.

  24. Civ IV taught me that Gandhi was a real fucker.

  25. 28 hours? Jeez, he didn’t even get to finish his game.

  26. 28 hours is nothing in Civ IV, but quite a bit in life.

    Damn you, Civ.

    I think I’m figuring out how to make Civ V fun. The scaling of things is a bit off but with advanced game setup I can make it work.

  27. 28 hours is nothing in Civ IV, but quite a bit in life.

    Damn you, Civ.

    I think I’m figuring out how to make Civ V fun. The scaling of things is a bit off but with advanced game setup I can make it work.

  28. While I agree we shouldn’t waste money, and these allegations to seem soft compared to other finds, I’m not going to criticize the auditors for pursuing waste. This is there job, and I’m glad they did it.…..,_Virginia

    1. Sure, sure, but criticize them for doing a dumbass job of it.

      Don’t get all hoity-toity with me about waste when you spend two weeks investigating something that could have been handled with an email.

  29. I’ve heard bad things about Civ V for Macs — anyone here tried that combo?

  30. Colonization is a kick ass game.

  31. A recent audit by the Virginia Department of Transportation revealed that over a two week period, Bolick spent 28 hours of on-the-clock time playing Sid Meier’s Civilization IV…

    Unlike Reasonoids, who spend 28 hours of on the clock time every pay period sniping and snarking.


  32. ^^AND THIS^^

  33. Isn’t having a gov’t drone safely playing in an electronic world MUCH better for the citizenry than having the little despot ‘regulating’ the real world?

  34. My favorite game of this genre, after Civ-II, was probably Europa Universalis. It was fun playing the modded version and conquering all of Europe from a home base of Wurtemburg or Navarre.

    I wish there was a better way to port those obsolete games over to Windows 7. The older ones don’t seem to run right on emulation.

  35. The worst thing about civ 5 for me (and there were a lot of flaws) was the fact that one has archers from ancient times being able to shoot at cities from hundreds of kilometers away.

  36. Although it is not brand name,wholesale lingerie can be very sexy. Most companies offer a variety of lingerie including bridal lingerie, chemise, thongs, bras, garters, corsets, panties, and others. Wholesale lingerie companies generally provide products for resale businesses. Some companies will not sell to you unless you give them proof that you have a business.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.