From The Published Archives: Freebies At Your Fingertips

I love the headline.  Of the 9 submissions I wrote for The Hamilton Spectator – 4 YourPlace articles, 4 features in The Magazine and 1 Forum piece – this was the only one that didn’t require a title change.   (The Spec’s headline writers couldn’t come up with anything better.)  And it looked great in print. 
 
Freebies At Your Fingertips was my final published piece for the YourPlace page in the Spec’s entertainment section.  Sold as “entertainment news for teens”, YourPlace gave young, unprofessional writers a place to voice their passions and vitriol without being paid for their work.  It also featured articles from American journalists who weren’t working for free.  Right under my article, at the bottom half of page D7 of the entertainment section, was “Jennifer Lopez just can’t settle down”, by Charles Ealy of The Dallas Morning News.  (The piece also briefly covered the post-Friends film careers of Lisa Kudrow, Courteney Cox, Jennifer Aniston, Matthew Perry, Matt LeBlanc and David Schwimmer.)
 
Freebies was published on August 23, 2002 and it remains the only published article I’ve ever written about video games, which remain one of my passions.  Since I bought my computer in 2001, I’ve resumed playing online adventures at home.  (It had been almost a decade since I last played the old 8-bit Nintendo cartridges I owned.  I have long since given most of them away to charity.  The rest were sold to friends.)
 
I’ve decided to keep some of The Spectator’s edits while reinstating certain lines that had to be cut for spacing purposes.  Essentially, this is what ended up in the paper. 
 
The article was published with a large file photo of some chubby-fingered kid pretending to play a Playstation 2 game.  That was in the centre.  To the left was an open box of Dunkin’ Donuts (What?  No Tim Hortons?), an open bag of Oreos and an open can of Coke Classic.  (There’s something else in front of the Donut box but I have no clue what it is.) 
 
To the right was an open container of, presumably, peanut butter and an open bag of generic ruffles, some of which were on display on a plate (plus a couple that ended up on the table).  I thought it was a cool photo until it was recycled for another article later on.  (I don’t remember when this happened or what the article was, unfortunately.)    
 
A lot of the pieces I submitted to YourPlace were either about the movies or rock and roll, still my absolute favourite subjects.  Considering how much time I spent playing free online video games I thought it would be a good idea (and a nice change of pace) to write about the best sites that offered decent games that didn’t cost you a cent. 
 
All of the sites I mention in my article still exist today and, yes, the games remain free of charge.  (Although, some sites sell downloads at reasonable rates.)  I’ve decided to link to those sites so you can check those out and have some fun. 
 
Oh, and one more thing.  A year after I wrote the article, I finally solved Eight Legged Freaks after screening the movie.  Much to my surprise, there’s only two levels.
 
 
Freebies At Your Fingertips
Games don’t have to carry a big price tag
By DENNIS EARL
 

In 1972, the world’s premiere video game made its debut. Nothing more than a simple, electronic version of table tennis, the then-groundbreaking Pong started a revolution.

30 years later, video games are a multi-billion dollar industry thanks to decades of constantly evolving technology.

As any crumbling parent will tell you, with evolution comes big price tags. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Sure, games made for X-Box and Playstation 2, not to mention CD-ROMs for your PC, are top of the line productions. But what about the more frugal gamers who just can’t afford them? Is there something out there for them at either reduced prices or for free?

The answer is yes.

All you need is an internet-accessible PC with sound and video cards, plenty of free time, some decent sites to investigate and you’re off to the races.

A good place to start is gamespotter.com where you can link to specific free games and home pages of game sites. But read carefully. They have a legend of symbols to help you determine which sites are free and which ones gouge you. (Don’t worry. Most of them are free.)

Organized nicely into categories like sports, shooters and board games, it’s easy to use and you’re sure to find something to wile away the time. Not every game works when you want it to and the quality varies. But there are several good ones so the site is worth exploring.

One of the best freebie game sites is 3dgroove.com. They’ve created some fabulous Shockwave games like Tank Wars (also on shockwave.com) and my personal favourite, Nothin’ But Net, a well put together basketball game in which you have to make 7 baskets in a row from specific spots on the court, in order, before moving on to the next round, whether it’s a jumper or a jam.

If you miss, you start over.

You have your choice of being a dude with a fly ‘fro or a blonde lady with nice legs. Both work for me. It’s endless amounts of fun and you don’t need a joystick or cash to play. Just a functioning keyboard. Don’t throw too many misses or you’ll get goofed on. (“Are you gonna build a house with all those bricks?”) Great graphics and I love the funky music, too. While it’s downloading (which doesn’t take too long), I make up my own dope rhymes. Word.

3dgroove also designs movie and advertising tie-in games. Check out Eight Legged Freaks. It’s so well designed and challenging I still can’t get past level one. Based on the recent film, you have your choice of being David Arquette or Kari Wuhrer and as a nice bonus, you’ll get to hear amusing quips from their characters, especially after they kill another giant spider.

There are plenty of decent sport games online for free as well. Super Web Soccer is a good example. (radicalplay.com/socca) Although it doesn’t have the most advanced graphics, it’s probably the best free soccer game I’ve played so far. You can be one of 32 nations vying for the 2002 World Cup (each team is ranked by 3 different skill areas) or you can go for the Champions Cup as Real Madrid, Manchester United or one of 14 other teams. It’s remarkably challenging with good sound and the always enjoyable instant replay. And during the tournament games (you can figure out how to play using the practice game mode as well), if the game is tied after regulation, you go for the golden goal in extra time. Pretty cool.

There are so many cool freebie game sites you can check out like candystand.com which has a great pool game and Wiffle ball, miniclip.com which has some nifty terrorist action games, (in one, you can actually beat the crap out of Bin Laden) and so many more.

So, what are you waiting for, cheapskate gamers? Are you bored at work and need a break? Check out any of these sites (or do a Google search) and kill some time having fun. Happy hunting.

 
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Saturday, November 17, 2006
2:42 a.m.
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Published in: on November 18, 2006 at 2:59 am  Leave a Comment  

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