DLTK's Crafts for Kids
Trends in Technology:  Are You Game?

By Lisa Yamanishi

Games date back in time so long ago that no one is sure of exactly how many thousands of years ago, nor do they know what the very first games actually were.  The first known game, however, is an ancestor of Checkers or Chess, presumed to have been played 4000 years ago in ancient Egypt.  The games of the millennium, our times, however, have evolved much farther than the reach of our ancestors’ imaginations -- like those of today’s technology.

We have your standard video games in your nearby arcade, the big impressive games that work in conjunction with your television set, and computer software games.  While you can peruse endless titles of software at your giant sized neighborhood department store, there’s no way of knowing if you’ll even like the game before you purchase it.  Another way to acquire these digital diversions is from the comfort of your own home, buying them online, then downloading them directly using your computer and the Internet.

This type of game software is called “Shareware” and more and more parents prefer this to store software simply because with shareware, you’re able to try it out first for free before you buy it.  It gives you a sense of what the game is all about, and then you have the option to buy or pass.  Unlike store products, shareware is simply more convenient because you easily download a demo, then buy online if desired.  Once you buy it, you're given a registration code that "unlocks" the full version.  The games are then directly installed on to your computer, bypassing the trip to the store.  It’s also more environmentally friendly, because there is no actual CD-Rom; the game lives on your computer (hard drive) in its digital format. (This is where you would have had to install it anyway with store bought CD-Rom games.)

With all the countless variety of games out there, it's becoming increasingly difficult to sort out the good from the bad, the nice from the ugly.  One of the best ways to know what your children are getting their hands on is to try it out first.

For those unfamiliar with the shareware world, get your feet wet and try out some of the shareware sites like http://www.versiontracker.com (macs and pc's), though if you do a basic search, you’ll find many more smaller shareware sites, like Phelios (http://www.phelios.com), a shareware game site dedicated to producing non-violent games.  The larger sites have databases of game demos and other software from many shareware developers, and users can rate and review the shareware, which may be helpful for parents to read.  Perhaps from browsing one of those sites, you’ll find other sites you can then add to your favorite links.  You may discover that you’ll prefer to visit just a few sites regularly.  It doesn’t have to be a needle in the haystack situation; there are some gems out there just a click away waiting for you and your kids!