Virtual Tennis, Anyone?
Computer Games Come of Age

People like playing games. Perhaps it’s the challenge that makes them so appealing to us. They can be very recreational. Computer games have become popular with both children and adults alike. Computers have brought games to a new level of realism and accessibility. I remember taking breaks while studying in school to play Minesweeper or Solitaire included under Start>Accessories>Games with all Windows Operating Systems. Much later, a family visited our monastery and the children introduced me to the included Pinball game as well. I was impressed by the realism of the game, having formerly played Pinball machines in arcades. Everything was there—flippers, lights that flash, bumper sounds, etc. You even had an option for “nudging the table” like in the real game to get the ball to go your way. Of all the included games with Windows, I liked Solitaire the best—perhaps that has something to do with my being a monk!

If you have children, I’m sure you have many additional games loaded onto your computer. A couple of years ago, my brother-in-law told me he was having problems with his home/office computer. It didn’t take me long to discover the problem. At least one of his three sons, either Austin, Brandon or Justin, had filled up the hard drive with computer games.

Now it’s not true that all computer games are purely recreational. Justin has a computer “game” for flying airplanes. He can specify all kinds of things like the type of plane to fly, airport designations for takeoff and landings, etc. He sees and controls most of what the pilot would see in the cockpit of a real plane. And as Justin is “flying” the scene out the cockpit window changes to reflect the airplane movements. He even hears the control tower talking to him! To make things even more realistic, Justin acquired a force feedback joystick so that he feels the vibration and resistance of plane movements through it. Now Justin may never become a real pilot, but he certainly is learning much about piloting a plane through this game.

When Hollywood has spinoff computer games and videogames from their movies, you know they must be popular and money-makers. The movie Matrix has a sequel called Reloaded. In it Jada Pinkett Smith plays the supporting role of Niobe, a hovercraft pilot. However, in the videogame spinoff Enter the Matrix, she is the star. Both game and movie were released at the same time in May, a first for Hollywood. Previously, a videogame would require actors to reread a few lines or submit to a scan. Smith had to memorize game scripts several times longer than their film equivalents and endure six months of extra motion capture, face mapping, and full-body scanning. She stars in an additional hour of the movie, which will appear not in a theater but as cut-scene interludes in the game. All this videogame realism is because the movie’s writers and directors, the Wachowski brothers Andy and Larry, are avid gamers.

The Internet has further expanded the use of computer games. Not only can you play games on the Internet, but you can play against someone sitting at his or her computer anywhere in world! I read an article some time back about some Asian country, I believe Korea, where people followed Internet computer game opponents like we would follow our sports playoffs. And it seems this is starting to catch on in the U.S. as well. In March of this year Samsung Corporation announced a series of over 300 qualifying events around the U.S. to kick off the American portion of the Samsung World Cyber Games, the world’s largest e-sports competition. Serious gamers can compete in qualifying competitions held at 20 CompUSA locations across the country from May through July. Samsung in their press release talk about bringing their World Cyber Games “closer to all of America’s 140 million gamers.” The national final will be held in August. Winners advance to the World Cyber Games (WCG) 2003 Grand Final in Seoul, Korea set for October 12-18. Don’t think this is all fun and games — U.S. finalists will win a computer graphic’s card and monitor valued at $2,000 along with a free trip to Seoul, Korea. And the WCG Grand Finalist will win a $400,000 prize pool, according to the competition website at wcgusa.org.

Given the popularity of gaming, it is a good draw to add them to one’s Web site. On our site I have Brother John’s Online Checker Match, Mouse Click Fun, Mystery Number, Paint a Picture and Five-in-a-Row games. My checker match draws people of all ages. I have rarely lost — even though I’m not really playing — it’s totally automated. These games not only provide fun, but they may be the avenue of leading people to other aspects of our site that are Faith building.

Some games I have modified to be Faith builders. They are: Saints’ Quiz, Patron Saints’ Quiz, Sliding Tiler Thingy, Jigsaw Puzzle, Unhangman, Catechism Quiz, Random Gospel Passage and a Crossword Puzzle. Now I know some of my readers are just dying to check these games out — at least for curiosities sake if nothing else. Just go to our main page and click on the Games/Stuff/Donations link to find them — don’t worry, donations aren't required to play, only appreciated!

We know playing games goes far back into human history. Playing games is here to stay. Computers and the Internet have brought gaming to a new level. Perhaps playing around some time is part of being Children of God. Will there be scrabble in Heaven? I’ll let the theologians out there ponder over that one!

Well since we are talking about games, let’s see what Catholic ones are available for this month’s picks.

Monthly Web Pics

Divinity Religious Publications at catholicgames.com have two free online games Bible Challenge and Catechism Challenge. You can buy and download the full version of the games here, also.

Catholic Doors Ministry has a number of interesting Catholic games at catholicdoors.com/games such as Ask Jesus!, Help Baby Jesus, Hidden Word, 3 puzzles, Tic-Tac-Toe and Wipe the Glass.

The Society of the Divine Word have made available some simple games just to have some downright fun at svd-ca.com/games.

The Memorare Web site has a games section called Catechism Funhouse at memorare.com/games/index.html. I like this quote from St. John Bosco found at the top of this page, “Enjoy yourself as much as you like - if only you keep from sin.”

The Catholic Community Forum has a couple of games: Who wants to be a Saint? and Bingo, a game most Catholics are familiar with at catholic-forum.com/games.html.

The Daughters of St. Paul have My Friend Fun & Games page at myfriendmagazine.com/games/index.html. Here you will find both interactive and printable games with three levels of difficulty: easy, medium and difficult.

For those who want more Catholic game software or online interactive games I suggest you type “Catholic Games” in a search engine.

Brother John Raymond welcomes
e-mail at john@aplusconsultingnow.com.

He is author of Catholics on the Internet: 2000-2001,
Webmaster of www.monkofadoration.org