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.

A holiday gift guide for computer gaming

Originally published in December 2001.

First off, I would like to take a moment to send everyone season’s greetings. December is a very special month in so many ways. For most of us the holiday season is a time of joy, spiritual renewal and peaceful reflection. Well, except for the chaotic shopping, planning, cooking, traveling and family conflicts we have to contend with. Who am I kidding, this is one of the most stressful times of the year. The last thing you want to worry about is what to get that computer gamer on your list.

And for computer gamers the holiday shopping season is marked by an over-abundance of new computer games. The multitude of desirable titles released this time of year is enough to make any gamer’s head spin. So many choices, so little time. I therefore, offer my gift ideas for computer gamers with the intention of reducing a seemingly infinite set of choices down to an almost manageable plethora of choices.

Let's get to the games

The best way to categorize games and the people who play them is by genre. Even for the hardcore gamer out there who enjoys all game types, there is a favorite genre. Find a player’s favorite genre and you can almost guarantee a well-received gift.

The most-hyped category every season is the action genre, which is usually defined by the first person shooter. There are several action games available this year that will please any action-freak, but the one most people are talking about is Max Payne. Using several new game-play techniques, particularly the slow motion “bullet-time” mode, and sporting a style-bending story line, Max Payne is likely to be named action game of the year and is a must-have for action gamers. Other action games to consider are Aliens versus Predator 2, Return to Castle Wolfenstein, and Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon. All of these games are distinguished by action, excitement and violence. This is not a genre for any pre-teens.

The strategy/adventure game genre is the computer game category that has been around the longest and it has therefore been forced to endure through several generations of hardware and technological innovation. That endurance is most often attributed to its compelling, mind-stimulating game play. Of course, many spouses would describe it another way – addiction. Strategy gamers can get so immersed in their games that the forget sleep, bathing, eating, and that they have a life outside the game.

Perhaps the most famous, or infamous depending on point of view, is the Civilization Series, whose current iteration is Sid Meier’s Civilization III. This is the consummate build an empire, take over the world game. Which may sound simple, but the game is notoriously difficult and confounding and when you play you will find yourself losing sleep, bathing less, and eating more pizza.

In the marked down bin this season you can find an excellent adventure game, The Longest Journey. This was released last year and is the best adventure game released in years and is much better than the more hyped adventures of Myst. For any adventure gamer on your list (and there are not too many of us around anymore) this is must-have game.

One of the hottest recent computer game trends revolves around the massively multiplayer online role playing game (MMORPG). These games extend the traditional RPG to a persistent online universe where most of the other characters are played by real people from across the United States and much of the rest of the world. The human aspect of players controlling their characters adds an unpredictability to the entire game and helps keep things interesting.

The second-generation of these games are just now coming out, but the older more-established game that sets the standard is Everquest. This game has been online for over 2 years and is still going strong. A new expansion that will add new races and a new world to explore is being shipped just in time for the shopping season.

One new kid on the block has garnered my attention and the attention of many gamers, Dark Age of Camelot. This game is revolves around the King Arthur legend with an emphasis on magic and knighthood. The distinguishing factor in DAOC is the idea of one realm fighting with another realm. Each realm is a separate universe controlled for the most part by the people playing the game. The gamers decide when their realm will attack another and, when attacked, the gamers have to defend their realm.

While I am not a big fan myself, sports games are the be-all, end-all for many. These games allow players to vicariously participate in their favorite sport in the cyber world. One of the longest running titles in this genre is the John Madden Series – NFL 2002. This is the ultimate football game for the personal computer and is always guaranteed to please the sports gamer on your list. Other sports covered by games in this genre include golf with Links Championship Edition, and soccer with FIFA 2002.

Unfortunately, good computer games for kids, age 12 and under, are few and far between. Most are just too simple for their intended audience. Kids are very sophisticated computer users and they get bored when computer game makers patronize them with simplified, dumb-downed game play.

One game that you will probably hear a lot about is based on the Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone book and movie. I have know idea how the game plays but you can be rest assured that anything with Harry Potter on it will be well-received this year. In addition, there are also plenty of educational titles that drill kids on math, English language, etc. I am not sure how much fun they are, and from a kids perspective they may be equivalent to underwear on the cool gift scale, but it might be worth a try.

There is one gift that you might consider for the nubile gamer just starting to get into the hobby. One of the best sources for information on computer games, besides this column of course, are the gaming magazines. Subscriptions to these magazines are relatively inexpensive and they often provide vital information on what game to buy and what games are in development. Computer Gaming World is the oldest publication and usually maintains a high standard of journalistic integrity. PC Gamer hasn’t been around as long, but is still considered to be one of the big publications in gaming. Other publications include Computer Gaming, Electronic Gaming Monthly, and PC Accelerator.

Well, this is just a sampling of possible gifts for the computer gamer on your shopping list. Computer gaming is a wonderfully diverse and engaging past time and I encourage everyone jump into this hobby. This holiday season is the best time to get started because of the number of choices available. There is sure to be some game that will please even the most discerning on you list. Again, Happy Holidays to all.