'Tis the season to be jolly--and, with their users off on extended holiday vacation, LAN administrators are among the jolliest. At long last there's time to upgrade and test hardware and software and perform preventative maintenance. Or to simply relax and kill some time with an old favorite game--or a new one.
If you're intent on being professional and proactive this holiday season, you can tune back in next year. If, on the other hand, you're looking for a good time and you're getting a little tired of Windows solitaire, welcome to the only @internet column of the year that aims to entertain, rather than to inform.
One of the best places to troll for games is the Center for Innovative Computing Solutions' ftp archives. In the /pub/pc/win3/games directory, you'll find everything from adventure and arcade games to classic board and card games to roleplaying games. For instance, there are no less than three versions of backgammon, two versions each of hearts and spades and freeware and shareware versions of, respectively, bridge and euchre. There are also innumerable variations on blackjack, poker and, of course, solitaire. In the arcade category, there are several versions of the venerable Asteroids, Breakout! and Tetris games. For a full list, get the file INDEX from the /win3 directory of any CICA mirror and use a text search utility to find the listings for the /pub/pc/win3/games directory.
A similar resource for Macintosh users exists at the Info-Mac ftp archives at sumex-aim.stanford.edu in the /info-mac/game directories (there are subdirectories for Adventure and Role-Play, Arcade, Board, Bolo, Cards, Commercial, Word and Text and Young persons' games). Get the file 00game-abstracts.txt from /info-mac/game for a complete listing with much more detailed descriptions than the CICA index provides for Windows gamers.
There are any number of game resources available on the World Wide Web. One of the most exhaustive is Lord Soth's GAMES ON THE INTERNET WWW Page, (http://happypuppy.com/games/lordsoth/) which is hosted by the Happy Puppy Games Onramp, (http://happypuppy.com/games/link/index.html). Lord Soth's page, which links to more than 1,000 games, is one of the most popular addresses on the Web and is, consequently, hard to connect to (if it's too busy, you'll get a "The server may be down or unreachable" message). It's much easier to get a connection to the Games Onramp itself, although it, too is extremely popular. The Onramp features not only the Hot Hit PC Games Collection on its opening page, but also everything game-oriented from a list of game company FTP/WWW addresses to cheats (a hallowed tradition for hard-core gamers), patches and solutions and a game developers page, as well as PC Ace reviews and links to game mags and information. There's also a page of links to games for younger players where you may find a suitable stocking stuffer for the little users on your list.
Happy Puppy also offers a page of links to Games You Play on the Web (http://happypuppy.com/games/w3games.htm) and to Zarf's List of Interactive Games on the Web, (http://www.cs.cmu.edu/afs/andrew/org/kgb/www/zarf/games.html) a similar resource. Both offer a rich assortment of links to multi-player and/or interactive games of all descriptions, all of them playable over the Web. Some examples include Stellar Crisis, (http://www.lenox.com:8000/games/sc) a multi-player game where you build ships, explore the galaxy, discover other players' star systems and, naturally, engage in warfare with them, Universal Access, Inc.'s Blackjack Server, (http://www.ua.com/blackjack/bj.html) which allows you to play Blackjack against the virtual house and the Illuminati Online War Games (http://www.io.com/help/wargames.html) which includes multi-player, Web-based versions of strategy/war classics like Dominion and Empire, as well as Trek (yes, the same Trek that's been around since the Arpanet!) and an online version of Avalon Hill's Wooden Ships & Iron Men© called "Sail". Most of these games require your Web browser to support CGI forms (although there are very few modern browsers that don't support forms, this can be an issue for many older ones).
If world conquest isn't your cup of tea, The Puzzle Post Home Page, (http://iquest.com/~pinnacle/index.html) specializes in, reasonably enough, puzzles of all kinds. As for me, I've been a science fiction fan since I was six years old. I don't have the reflexes necessary to avoid terminal frustration with arcade-style shoot-em-ups, such as the wonderfully-twisted Inner Space (http://www.cadvision.com/inspace) from Software Dynamics (where you design and fly a spacecraft through the directories on your hard drive to capture the evil icons hiding inside your programs and occasionally battling your Inner Demon). I'm mostly a fan of strategic space exploration and combat games. One of my all-time favorites is Jeff Johnson and Jeff McBride's Stars!, (http://beast.webmap.com/stars%21/) a multi-player, (in the registered version) networkable (again, in the registered version) highly-complex game in which you must allocate resources and scientific research, explore the galaxy, expand your sphere of influence and, of course, conduct interstellar warfare. The freeware version of this game is extremely complex and rich in nuance. The registered version is even more so, offering modem and network play and the ability to customize the advantages and traits of your starfaring people. Both feature an excellent tutorial which will teach you everything you need to know to run the game.
Of course, no overview of Internet gaming can overlook the wildly-popular Descent, the 2.6 megabyte shareware version of which (http://www.interplay.com/website/dnload/desc14sw.exe) from Parallax/Interplay, stands heir to the legions of fans created by the seminal first-person shooter, Doom!. This one offers two-player modem gaming and up to eight-player gaming over IPX networks, much more flexibility of movement and fabulous graphics as you wend your way through up to 30 levels of Lunar base mazes and battle the merciless alien invaders.
Finally, don't neglect the myriad of game-oriented Usenet newsgroups. These include alt.games, alt.binaries.games and bit.listserv.games-l (the Usenet echo of the Bitnet games mailing list), as well as many other, more specialized gaming newsgroups. And, if you can't have a happy holiday with all these resources, maybe you should consider doing that preventative maintenance, after all!
(Copyright© 1995 by Thom Stark--all rights reserved)