G A M E S
When it comes to physical activity, there are strength and endurance training to keep the body fit and healthy. But to be able to apply such training, it's important to stretch first. This helps the body remain limber and able to respond to difficult physical demands.
Similarly, it seems that mental activity needs the same two approaches to exercise. While problem-solving skills aren't a perfect analog of "mental muscles," regularly working through difficult problems gives a mind practice at other kinds of difficult problems. Likewise, exercises in creativity give a mind the flexibility it needs to consider original responses to novel problems.
Playing games is a great way to retain that flexibility, whether physical or mental.
While I don't spend much time these days on physical game-playing, I have been known to enjoy various sports: football (the U.S. version), basketball, baseball and softball, and running. (Although my days of running sub-six-minute miles appear to be long since past.) Body games I don't enjoy include tennis, swimming, and golf (which has been described as "a good walk spoiled.") At any rate, I'm much more likely to follow the National Football League season on TV than anything else, including actually playing any of this stuff myself.
Intellectual games, however....
I've always liked puzzles. Even tests of knowledge and perception are fun. When everyone else in school was groaning about having to take yet another "standardized test," and worrying about how they'd do, I was looking forward to such tests as a way to test myself, to measure my abilities against my previous scores and try to improve every time.
Over the past decade or two I've found a new way to play around: computer games. Different genres of games offer different challenges: "twitch games" like Doom might seem to test only hand-eye coordination, but there's a little more here. Even in single-player mode, tactical awareness is necessary. You have to react quickly and correctly, but you also have to think about the best actions to take to achieve the short-term goal. Other games take a more explicit approach to problem-solving, but they all expect the player to exercise some degree of thinking. Taken together, they offer opportunities to try out new problem-solving skills.
One of the things that's occupying most of my free time these days is
computer game design.
The Best Computer Games (Reviews)
Everyone seems to have a list of what they consider the best computer games of all time. One problem I have with such lists is that they are often (not always, but often) highly subjective. In other words, "best" usually just means "my favorite."
I'll be doing the same thing, but -- I hope -- try to be a little more objective than the average reviewer. That said, I should mention that in what follow that I won't talk much about arcade games (Pac-Man, Defender, etc.) or console games (Playstation, Xbox, Nintendo DS, etc.) unless they highlight something worthwhile about PC games. I focus on PC games because PCs have the audiovisual and storage horsepower to deliver the deep gameplay experiences that advance the definition of what a computer game can be. With the next-gen consoles that may be changing... but we're still not there yet.
Here then are my candidates for "best computer games," grouped by genre and supplemented by the reasons for my grades.
Wargame Design-- by the staff of Strategy and Tactics magazine.
The Original Adventure... Online!Crowther and Woods's pioneering adventure game, updated to run on the Web.
AllAbout Games on-line game reviews
C|net Gamecenter more on-line game reviews
Computer Games Online yet more on-line game reviews