Kaelin Consulting

Mark W. Kaelin

I have over 25 years of experience in the electronic publishing industry. I was an editor for CBS Interactive for eleven years, where I was responsible for acquiring, editing, and writing technical content for daily publication on CBS Interactive properties TechRepublic.com and ZDNet.com. My duties included the recruitment and development of contributing talent. Prior to CBS Interactive, I was an editor with ProQuest for 12 years, where I developed, designed, edited, and maintained an array of university and business school supplemental curricula products. Before ProQuest, I was a public accountant for five years, specializing in tax preparation and in compilation and review engagements. In addition, I have performed independent consulting services over the last 30 years for various business clients.

Gift ideas for the computer gamer

Originally published in December 2000.

To borrow a phrase – I feel your pain.  Friends and relatives on your holiday gift list who play computer games are notoriously difficult people to pin down on just what it is they want, or more correctly, just what they are willing to wait for.  It is particularly bothersome that many computer gamers, especially of the hard core variety, cannot wait a month or more to get their greedy little hands on the latest greatest game or joystick, or whatever.  I know I seldom can wait that long.

Oddly enough, the computer game industry may help you out with this problem during this holiday shopping season.  Many of the most anticipated gaming titles are being delayed until mid-December this year.  Some publishers may have taken to heart complaints and accusations from years past that games were being released unfinished in anticipation of the holiday rush.  Other publishers are probably trying to time shipments around the release and marketing hype of the Playstation 2.  Whichever is correct, this slight delay may provide just the opportunity you need to find a gift your computer gamer won’t be returning the week after Christmas.

The Games

Over the past year, I have reviewed several computer games and several pieces of hardware for the Louisville Computer News which would make excellent gifts for the computer gamer on your list.  The only question is whether your particular gamer has already obtained the title.  Of the games I reviewed, Deus Ex, developed by Ion Storm and published by Eidos, is probably the current top contender in the trade publications for “game of the year” honors.  This game combines role playing, strategy and first-person-shooter action into one compelling game.  Deus Ex would be a welcome addition to any game library.

The other likely award-winning title I reviewed this past year is Close Combat: Beyond Overlord from Big Time Software.  This is a groundbreaking strategy game title that moves the entire war simulation genre into the 21st Century and away from the board game era of hexagons cardboard tokens.  For war strategy game buffs, this game is a must.  The game is only available online.  And since you will be surfing the Web anyway, you check out Steel Panthers World at War.  This is the latest update to the excellent Steel Panthers series of tactical war strategy games and would compliment the genre bending innovation of Close Combat.  Most importantly, it is a free download so you can’t go wrong.

If you have a role-playing gamer on your shopping list, I have two suggestions for you.  The first is EverQuest: The Ruins of Kunark, a massively multi-player game published by Sony and developed by Verant Interactive.  This is your typical Dudgeons & Dragons role-playing adventure game set in the atypical environment of cyberspace.  Most of the other characters in this virtual world are controlled by online game players from all over the world.  This lends the game a considerable amount of uncertainty and increases the prospects of experiencing the wonderfully unexpected.  However, for the more traditional role-playing gamer there is Baldur’s Gate II.  This role-paying game continues the legacy of fine games from the development team at BioWare Corp. and the publishing house of InterPlay Productions.  Baldur’s Gate II, with its detailed environment and deep story line, is the epitome of stand-alone role-playing games.

Two new games have currently hit the retail shelves and they are generating good buzz from the game community.  Links 2001, from Microsoft, is the latest golf simulation game to hit the market.  It has been receiving rave reviews from the gaming press and the screen shots I have seen are truly remarkable.  With a total new game engine and an included course editor, golf game addicts may have found their own version of nirvana.  The other game generating an inordinate amount of gamer buzz is No One Lives Forever, from Fox Interactive.  This game gives players the opportunity to be a secret agent.  But more than that, it allows players to explore that wonderful spy life of the 1960s, albeit with that distinctive tongue-in-cheek attitude of Austin Powers.

Somebody on your list would probably enjoy one of the more quirky variety of computer games available.  The best example of quirky computer game this year would have to be The Sims and its expansion pack, The Sims Living Large, both developed by Maxis and published by Electronic Arts.  Sims are simulated virtual people that the player can control as they live their everyday lives.  The Sims get up in the morning, shower, eat, go to work, come home from work, watch television, fall in love, fall out of love, get married, have children, and die.  What happens to fill in the blanks between all that depends on how well the player manages their Sims.

The Game Gear

Computer game players require several peripheral pieces of equipment not normally included with the basic small office-home office (SOHO) computer.  For gamers partial to flight simulators or racing simulators, the quality of the input device, the joystick or the driving wheel, can make or break a title.  One of the best of the newer force feedback joysticks is the MS Sidewinder Force Feedback 2, from Microsoft.  An 8-way hat, push throttle, programmable buttons, and on-board power supply make this joystick a winner for any serious simulation lover.

In order to play the latest computer games, the gaming computer requires two enhancements not necessary for normal number crunching or word processing: 3D graphics and 3D sound.  The fastest video cards on the market are using the GeForce2 GTS chip set from nVidia.  These cards scream with raw power and will make any computer gamer salivate in Pavlovian anticipation.  Combined with a new Creative Labs SoundBlaster Live Platinum 5.1 sound card, a computer gamer could get lost in blissful game immersion.

A less glamorous, yet just as vital, piece of computer game hardware is the hard disk.  The price of these workhorses of the computer infrastructure has dropped through the floor and into the basement in the past few years.  Massively huge capacity drives are now available in retail boxes and sold as standard upgrades that increase the useful life of older computers by years.  As games become more richly detailed the demand for megabytes of hard disk space are going to increase geometrically.  The is no such thing as too much hard disk space for a computer gamer.

So Many Games So Little Time

Before we go any further, I want to acknowledge that I seldom spend time discussing children’s computer games.  This is mainly because I never play them and therefore cannot offer intelligent opinions regarding their overall merit as computer games.  That being said, I do think there are several children’s stories and characters ported to the computer game platform that warrant further investigation.  Sticking to established favorites from Disney, or new favorites like Blue’s Clues and Pokemon, should result in a good children’s computer game.  A children’s game that teaches kids reasoning skills while at the same time entertaining them, will do wonders for those children years from now.

Well that is pretty much all I can mention in the space provided.  Of course, there are literally hundreds of games and pieces of gaming hardware to choose from and this is in no way near a complete list of even the best of those choices.  However, these suggestions should give you a head start in finding that perfect gift for the computer game player in your life.  Happy Holidays.