Short attention span gaming for the minimalist

Last week I got tired of my usual games. There was a monster I just couldn’t defeat in Drakan, so I took a break from that. I could only play Counterstrike for an hour or so before my eyes started bugging out because my monitor is too small. My Sims family had stagnated because they couldn’t buy any more stuff and they had somehow alienated all their friends, and I wasn’t giving them the attention they were demanding from me (they’re worse than the cats!). I found myself playing Minesweeper for entertainment, but that quickly lost its appeal once I had high scores in every level. I needed to find something new to entertain myself with, so I went on a quest for the ultimate in short attention span internet gaming.

Long ago (well, actually four months ago) when my computer was a Pentium 100 and couldn’t handle most of the games on the market, I had to find alternative forms of entertainment. I had a small collection of classic games released on CD that would run fine on a 486, but I went through those relatively quickly. I also had a net connection… and that’s what saved me from playing Minesweeper until it got burned into my retinas. I became a master at finding java and shockwave games of every imaginable genre – short attention span gaming at its best. There are people online who have a lot of time on their hands, and use that time to entertain anyone who might be interested.

This past week was spent revisiting some of my old favorite sites and checking out new ones for games that I could play without having to download anything. Not everyone has a fast computer up to the standards of some of the new games on the shelf, so I tried to limit myself to games that I might have been able to play on my Pentium 100. The first site I visited was one that I first discovered in 1996, the year I ‘got connected’ – The Centre for the Easily Amused, or C*E*A*.

C*E*A* is basically a jumping point to other sites, and it’s always offered me minutes of entertainment with their lists of Sites that Do Stuff: Games, Random Silliness, and Short Attention Span Site of the Week. Within each category (and there are more than these three, these are just the ones that I visit most often) is a list of various forms of absolutely silly but generally amusing games, giving you amusement at the expense of celebrities, strange versions of classic arcade or paper games, quizzes, trivia challenges, and anything else that people have come up with and posted on their homepages somewhere. C*E*A* has too much for me to even try to describe it all… everything from links to the Alanis Morrissette Lyrics Generator to an Air Traffic Controller game, and whatever you can imagine in between. I can’t vouch for the quality of the games individually – you’ll find some gems, but they’ll be hiding in with plenty of complete time-wasters. Half of the entertainment I got from visiting the Centre for the Easily Amused was the chance I took clicking each link – that I could either be thoroughly amused by a site, or completely unimpressed. I’ve been going back to C*E*A* for four years now so they must know something…or it just proves that I’m easily amused.

When I tried to play a shockwave game, my computer was kind enough to let me know that I needed an updated version of the shockwave plugin. Logically, the next place I went on my quest for entertainment was the one that would supply me with that nifty plugin – Shockwave. It was there that I found retro heaven…also known as Frogger. It was half an hour before I tore myself away from Frogger and took a look at the other games available on the site, and I was impressed. Classic arcade games that I hadn’t seen since my Atari days, sports games, card games, adventure games, game shows, jigsaw puzzles, I didn’t know where to start once I’d got Frogger out of my system. I drifted from game to game, sampling them all like a trip through the food department at Costco on a Saturday afternoon. Shockwave had something for every mood I could possibly be in, and more.

My next voyage in the quest for cheap gaming took me interactive. I wanted to be social and play against other people, so I went looking for something simple – card games. It was Yahoo! Games that came to my aid. Armed with my Yahoo login name I entered the social lounge for Euchre and sat down at a table that looked like it needed a fourth player. Not having played Euchre since college, I had to relearn the rules, but it wasn’t long before I was playing as well as I had back in the college cafeteria (which isn’t necessarily saying I was good in college…) After a few nights, I phoned my mother in Vancouver and asked her if she wanted to play a game of Euchre with me. Her response? “What’s Euchre?” So, over the phone and online, I dragged her into the games lounge, sat her at a table across from me (across the country), set up a couple of Robots to play against, and taught her how to play. I think after about an hour and a half of it, she was getting the idea, but I haven’t played her since… (*note to self, email mom a request for a game sometime soon – see if she remembers how to play, or if I traumatized her for life…)

Euchre isn’t the only game at Yahoo! Games, though. Blackjack, bridge, poker, and go fish are some of the other card games they have, as well as crossword puzzles (great for breaks at work), chess, checkers, go, mahjong, and the incredibly addictive (or so I’m told, I’m afraid to try a game when a friend tells me that they’re already addicted to it…) Yahoo! Towers. There’s more, but I’ll stop listing them off now. All of the games I tried were Java based. And I thought Yahoo was just a search engine…

It’s a known fact among my friends that I am a wellspring of useless information, so my next experience quite simply had to be trivial. I looked for a web-based version of my favourite restaurant trivia game, NTN trivia, and was rewarded with BuzzTime. To my delight, it was the same as NTN from the restaurants, only online, and you played against people online instead of the ones sitting at the other tables. The site isn’t done yet though, there are only a few sample games to try out, so I’ll have to wait and see what else they have when they launch. Until then, there’s always the old standby, the You Don’t Know Jack netshow at Bezerk – this site also hosts Acrophobia (fun with acronyms!), Get The Picture, and Cosmic Consensus. I ran out of time before I could try Get the Picture and Cosmic Consensus (okay, I admit it, I fell asleep at the keyboard), but I’m going back to try them this weekend because they looked like fun. For the Bezerk games you need to download some stuff and install it, so make sure you’ve got hard drive space – I didn’t, and didn’t realize it until I was 3/4 of the way through downloading.

And so it was that I had a week of minimalist gaming. Great fun was had by all (well, by me anyhow), and I found some entertaining sites for when I’m sick of the games I own, am between paychecks, or waiting endlessly for a much-anticipated game that keeps getting pushed back. Not only that, but I can play a lot of these games with one friend of mine who I never get to play games with, because she won’t complain about her computer not being good enough to deal with them! Of course, now she’s teaching me how to play (and subsequently getting me addicted to) a strategic card game called Sanctum… but that’s a story for another day.

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