When trying to figure out protocol within a work environment, there are some things which are acceptable to ask your boss about, and there are some things which should never even be asked. When it comes down to installing Steam on your office computer and running it during lunch breaks and before and after work, is it acceptable to even ask your boss about it and/or draw your own conclusions from the employee handbook, or is this a particularly taboo activity that should never even be mentioned?

I did look over at this one question:

How can I determine if it is unprofessional to play games during lunch hours?

but ultimately there are many workplaces out there where you can go to Kongregate or somewhere and play Flash games during lunch hours. The question of whether it's allowed or not is something that you can sometimes get right out of the company handbook, and it can sometimes also be an approachable question in less bureaucratic office environments.

But there's something different about Steam. Putting that on your office machine is a bigger deal, and compared to Flash games and Gmail, it'll stand out much more while you're actually using it.

This question is not whether it's allowed, but whether I should even bring the subject up altogether when you trying to explore your company's protocol.

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    Your superiors will likely not care, but your IT guys WILL, and at that point you supervisors will take notice. It may be a possibility, but check it first before you do it. You should also check licensing on Steam/games etc, you may be violating the license by installing it on a computer that is not yours. Nov 19, 2014 at 19:28
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    This may have been worded with a lot of first-person language, but the question is not company-specific. Otherwise I would just handle it myself and not ask on Stack Exchange. Nov 20, 2014 at 1:51
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    You are right that some things are acceptable or unacceptable across the board, and some are company-specific - but I do think that this question definitely falls into the company-specific bracket. Nov 24, 2014 at 4:59
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    I don't think this is a question about company-specific policies. I think it should be answered in an IT-agnostic way; if a company has IT policies about installing software then of course that needs to be taken into account, but otherwise, is there a stigma about games? That's a reasonable question IMO. Nov 27, 2014 at 17:41
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    @Carson63000 I've gone ahead and rewritten the question. The meaning is a little more in the spotlight now. Nov 29, 2014 at 0:31

6 Answers 6


As I see it we have two VERY separate issues here.

Can I play games on my work computer on off time?

This question you've covered yourself generally saying they don't take issue with this. We could get into debates on whether you should or shouldn't but to be fair this behavior is actually encouraged in some businesses so we'll just assume it's all on the up and up.

Can I install non-work related third party software on my work computer?

Maybe, but generally it's a REALLY bad idea... Some companies won't make a big stink about this, others will, but even if yours doesn't I would advise against it.

Why shouldn't I if they are okay with it? Well several reasons, the first is you can't necessarily predict or control what that program might do to a computer. Steam is a perfect example here. Last fall (2013) Steam pushed out a really bad driver update for select NVIDIA devices, any computers who received this update became unstable and in many cases would leave you with a black screen on boot. This required people to go into safe mode and uninstall the offending driver and or do a rollback to prior to installing it... Now that mistake would waste quite a bit of your productive time plus likely involve IT, that won't make IT or your boss happy...

Admittedly that was a one time thing... the problem is almost everything out there has security and stability holes in it. Steam lets you load games based on tons of frameworks all of which have their own issues... XNA, Unity, JAVA, WCF, Flash, etc. When IT oversees the installation of programs they have a basic inventory of what's on their network. This lets them mitigate potential issues proactively, and in the event new attack vectors become known they can mitigate them reactively. They can only do this effectively when they know what's on their network, since Steam is effectively a program to download other programs and their dependencies it's really hard to know what ultimately ends up on your computer. (this is hard to deal with for IT and will not make them happy)

Not to mention you're putting your personal account on a company computer... that's just dangerous stuff should things go sour. (this is more dangerous in the hassle sense, but I've seen steam accounts get banned due to someone hijacking the account)

What can I do?

Throw steam on a personal laptop! If the people over top of you are all on board with you gaming on off time by all means do it. But keep that gaming from bleeding into work time in the means of causing computer stability and performance issues. In this case as well if something does go wrong you can keep working as if nothing happened than deal with whatever happened on your own time.

If you don't have a personal laptop that is able to play Civ, perhaps you could pick up less resource intense titles for your "at work free time" (besides I've personally found that when I was allowed to game at work during lunch quick games were far more desirable at work, games like civ you barely get enough time to get much out of over a lunch break.)

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    Great answer - the important point here isn't "What can I do on my lunch?" - it's "What can I put on my work machine?". Your lunch hour is, in theory, your own time (although the culture in many companies doesn't agree), but the machine doesn't become yours for an hour at lunch.
    – Jon Story
    Nov 28, 2014 at 11:55

I don't think we have enough information about your workplace to fully answer this, but it probably isn't a good idea:

  • Steam requires modifying your work computer. It needs to be installed and it needs to be updated. This could introduce security risks if Steam is not properly patched. Also what happens if your company gets audited? Companies typically want clear paper trails of where pieces of software came from, who paid, etc.

  • Listening to music or reading the news (or even a flash game) is seen as more of a time waster. It is acceptable largely because of the fleeting nature of the activity and it is understandable that people need short breaks from work. Installing Civ would be seen as a new activity that competes with work time, even if you are only doing it during lunch. At this level, you're not really just taking a short break. You're probably engaging in something that requires a fair bit of time and is not as easily put down as reading Facebook. It's irrelevant if it actually is a distraction to your work or not. That's how it may come across to other people in your office.

  • Are you looking for justification from the internet? I think you already feel this is probably not a good idea otherwise you would just ask your boss outright.

Personally, I would suck it up until you find a better job or find something else to do with your lunch break. If you really want to play, bring your own computer and play outside or in your car.

  • "Find a better job" - he's already at one where they're happy for him to play flash games in his off time, that's a fairly relaxed company. There aren't many who are happy with you playing full blown gaming titles for an hour a day in the office... there's a distinct difference
    – Jon Story
    Nov 28, 2014 at 11:52

This is just bad across the board.

Even if you are "on break," your coworkers aren't, and seeing you play video games while they're working is going to get under their skin.

I had a "Boss's nephew" assigned to my department this summer who did exactly this. I didn't know until about 3 weeks after it happened, and there were some VERY upset people in other departments who were working overtime on a tight-deadline project.

Video games in the office are never a good idea. Unless, of course, you work at a game development company.

  • I dunno about never a good idea. I've played games during break time with coworkers at a few places that weren't game development companies, though they were very laid back sort of places. Still, it's usually not a good idea.
    – Telastyn
    Nov 19, 2014 at 19:45
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    IBM Research had a game room, at one point -- a couple of PCs hooked up direct to the outside network (NOT to IBM's network!) running a couple of favorite multiplayer games. Can't see that being approved at most IBM sites.
    – keshlam
    Nov 19, 2014 at 19:47
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    If your workplace has a dedicated "game area" or breakroom, by all means use it. But putting games on your workstation sends a bad message in every direction. Nov 19, 2014 at 20:11

Note that most companies insist that you not run ANY software that has not been approved by the IS department, and that personal machines never be connected to their network (or at least that they meet stringent security requirements if they do) for very good reasons that range from possible network load to possible malware attacks.

I strongly agree with the advice that you keep your gaming to your own machine and on your own network.

This is a case where, if you don't know you're allowed to do it, you know that you aren't allowed to do it.


Depends on the company culture. If the company is easy going and you are getting your work done on time it's probably OK. If you are eating a sandwich and playing a game during your lunch break, I would imagine most places will be OK with that.

Still I feel reluctant to installing non work related apps on my work computers. If the company gives you a wide discretion on what to install, then maybe.

The fact that you are asking probably means that's better if you don't install anything. Playing a flash game during your lunch break should be OK though.


Depends on the culture, default towards no.

By "shouldn't be mentioned" I presume you mean after you join. Observe the culture, observe what is considered ok, and who tells you what you can do (boss/management/IT/HR/handbook/etc), which of those depts bosses which around.

As mentioned by others, Steam is different because it raises IT, IT security and legal issues about installation and frequent updates. So I'd default towards no, and don't ask, unless the culture seems permissive or other people already do similar.

"Whether I should even bring the subject up altogether when you trying to explore your company's protocol" is really just something you have to observe and call.

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