Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Slackin' on the Internet

First published in the Iron Times.

There's so much more to the Internet than just boobies. The Internet is overflowing with metric tonnes of information. Unfortunately, most of the information is useless dribble with crack-pots making baseless claims, celebrities yearning for attention and emo-kiddies whining about how their dads don't understand them. If you want to know more about almost anything, there's probably someone else who has already posted it on the Internet for all the world (and extra-terrestrials) to see. Now, I'm assuming that you already know about most of this stuff. You're smart and you've made it this far which is probably in some part due to the Internet. No, I'm not here to lecture you about this new-fangled Internet thing, I'm here to sift through all the crap and show you the gems - the diamonds in the rough.

The thing that the Internet is most often employed as is a time wast- err.. free time filler (because we have so much of it, right?). One of the great time fillers is web games. These can be deceivingly short and simple until you realize that you've been playing the same damn game for the past 2 hours instead of starting that lab report.

The current popular favourite seems to be Dolphin Olympics 2. Now, I try not play it for personal reasons - my mother was brutally attacked by pod of dolphins while we were snorkeling in the Caribbean. She didn't survive. But, my friends seem to enjoy the game despite my concerns that the dolphins are brainwashing them to make them think that dolphins are lovable sea mammals, frolicking in the surf. Anyway, the game is based on the idea that you have two minutes to make the digitized dolphin accrue as many points as possible. Points are gathered by performing tricks such as flips and rolls. Find a video of a high scorer to see an example of how to get similar high scores.

Another game that was a favourite was Portal: The Flash Version. If you've played the Half-Life Orange Box or Portal, you already know the premise. This is basically a 2D version of the first person puzzle game where the player has to create portals to move between parts of the level. Don't worry, there's an in game tutorial if you don't really understand. The reason that this game is no longer a favourite is that it doesn't quite have the re-playability of other web games and the game gets a little buggy after level 30. It's still pretty fun to find your way through the levels and it will give an hour or two of continuous enjoyment.

A great game for those word nuts in the audience is Text Twist. I played this game all through the spring exam period last year while I was studying or not, as the case may be. The game itself is pretty simple and you've probably seen it before.You have to make as many words of three or more letters using only the six letters you're given. You are awarded points for each word found and if you can't find the six letter word, your game is over and your points are reset otherwise, you repeat the process with six new letters. Sure, you could probably write your own version of the game, or better yet, a program to solve each puzzle for you, but then what would you do with your time?

The final game I want to highlight today is the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - The Adventure Game. It's a crazy hard to text based adventure game originally written in 1984. Graphics have been added and it has been ported to the web by the brilliant minds over at the BBC. The game keeps the humour of the original work and if you've never read the books or listened to the radio shows, either go to the library and borrow the books or drop out of school and retreat to your mud hut away from the civilization you shun. But I digress, the game is really fun. You can sign up with the BBC's social wiki for all things Hitchhiker's, H2G2, and you will be able to save your progress. Trust me, you will want to. It's very unforgiving. However, there is a page for hints on the game which can point you in the right direction.

So what if these games don't quench your boredom? Well, you can start by trying to find your own damn games quitting your whining. I mean, seriously. Here I am sticking my neck out for you and finding these gems and you tell me that I'm not doing enough? Well, I'm probably playing games or finding other time wasters which I can tell you about next time. If you find anything, let me know and I'll write up about it and steal the credit.

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