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Online Gaming

(category: Computer-Games-Systems, Word count: 625)
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For Mom and Dad...

Have you ever wondered what your child was rambling on about at the dinner table when he or she started saying things like "VR" or "RPG"? If so, you're not alone. "VR" and "RPG" aren't new text messaging acronyms - they're acronyms for gaming and this article is going to introduce you to some of the more common forms.

If you at least thought of the Internet when you heard "VR" or "RPG" however, you're on the right track. Exclusive to the online environment, "VR" or "RPG" - which consequently stands for virtual reality gaming and role playing games - are just two aspects of a gaming world gone wild. The days of playing scrabble in front of the fireplace are over in today's generation, but we don't believe you'll hear too many people complaining about it. Today's generation is fascinated with online gaming - an opportunity to play games over the Internet with hundreds of people at a time.

Available to anyone with a computer and fast Internet connection, there are thousands of online games available to play by anyone... sometimes free and sometimes for a fee. They range from the familiar family board games to strange and more complicated games which require a hundred page manual to understand. One thing that they all have in common however is that they're fun to play.

The most common type of online game you'll probably run into is the Flash game - usually located on educational sites or Yahoo! for Kids for example. These games may or may not involve other players, but they're always full of color, they're fast to download, and they're fun to play. Since they run inside the web browser, no special equipment is needed. These are the simple games - more intriguing than checkers, but no more difficult to play than chess.

Another type of online gaming is more violent than the ones we described above and it's similar to the "shoot-em-up" type games found on the first Nintendo and Playstation systems. Designed from the first person's point of view, the player typically maneuvers around the screen as a weapon-clad hand - periodically changing weapons as the game's scenario permits. The violence in these games vary from mild to offensive, and as a parent, you're cautioned to monitor your children's access to them - especially since these games are played online with other people.

Next, in terms of complication or violence, comes the virtual reality gaming and role playing games that we introduced earlier. These types of games require an extensive amount of time spent online since players assume the role of a game character in play. Players work hard to build up an inventory of weapons or skills - none of which can be accomplished in a period of thirty minutes or less. They then go on to interact with other characters which extends game time even longer (if it even stops). Both virtual reality gaming and role playing games require and encourage strategic thinking, but as parents, you may not be comfortable with the violence that's prominent in some of these games. Nor may you be comfortable with the amount of time that playing these kinds of games can consume. Depending on the complexity of the game, any one person could spend at least six months at a game and having access to thousands of other players simultaneously doesn't exactly make them easy to walk away from.

Our best advice is to learn about these games right along with your child and make the decision to play them (or not play them) together. You can find some helpful advice about making computer decisions with children in our article entitled, "Protecting Children Online."

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Going Broke Playing Games

(category: Computer-Games-Systems, Word count: 579)
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You Don't Have To And Here's How

If you haven't looked at the cost of new computer or video games and gaming systems as a whole recently, you might be in for a shock. Today's games and gaming systems can run from a meager $30 all the way to a whopping four hundred dollars or more. To a loving mother of a game obsessed teenager, the costs can be astronomical and nothing short of frightening. Fortunately the cost of buying quality computer or video games (including the systems that they run on) can be significantly reduced once you know what to do and where to look.

One alternative to funding a gaming pursuit with a second mortgage is to "go old." By "going old," we mean buying last month's or year's games and game systems. If you could admit the one truth that we all know, but never readily face, you could literally save hundreds of dollars in an instant. This truth is that unless you're a millionaire, none of us can afford to buy the latest toy on the market. The ugly fact behind that truth is that within a relatively short amount of time (say, 60-90 days?), that latest toy will be replaced with a new and improved system, which consequently, grants access to what was wanted in the first place - at half the price! So go old and have a little patience. Within about three to four months, you will have made a tremendous saving.

When it comes to computer gaming, you could also come out better by upgrading games rather then an entire computer. It can take anywhere from a year or more for a gaming company to release a new version and chances are, the upgrade doesn't require new hardware - it just requires a new payment. Remember, the gaming industry can't really keep up with the computer industry either (no one can), so there's no reason to panic or worry. Concentrate on keeping your game current rather than your system. Only in rare instances, such as if your computer is archaic to begin with, will you need to upgrade your hardware. Shop wisely and you can catch a new soundcard, joystick, or graphics card on sale. But if you have a high gigahertz processor and Direct X 9 installed, you'll do fine for quite a while.

Here's a whopper of an idea and one that probably won't take as much of an effort to convince younglings to do as you might think. But to curb the costs of gaming, perhaps a group of families could pitch in and share the finances together. Depending on the number in a group, the cost of a new gaming system - and 5 or 6 of the most popular games - could diminish to 20% or more of their original costs.

And since gaming consoles are getting smaller and smaller, there's no reason why a group of families couldn't band together and trade gaming space within their homes every week or two. This way the kids in the neighborhood can enjoy one or two of the new systems on the market that they could never otherwise afford, and they can enjoy them without their parents having to shoulder the burden of funding them alone.

Seeing that kids generally play games together anyway, a group effort of this sort satisfies game cravings at a significantly reduced cost and it keeps everyone happy.

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This Game Sucks

(category: Computer-Games-Systems, Word count: 584)
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A Guide To Giving New Games a Chance

It's hard to get into a new groove once we've settled into a favorite pattern of doing something and that includes playing new games or trying a new game system. It's important to remember however that just because you're not used to the way a new game plays or the way that a new system runs - it doesn't mean that there's something wrong with it. The following offers some advice on how to get over the hurdle of giving new games a chance.

1. Accept the errors of your ways. Nothing is perfect and that includes video games, the system that it plays on, and dare we say - even you! While trying a new game, you're bound to trip all over the place and make even some of the most goofiest mistakes that anyone could ever make. Try to remember that flaws are inevitable and the even the master of all masters (that's you) can blunder your way through a new game. Mistakes don't make you a terrible player. On the other hand, they don't make the game stupid or dumb. In fact, it's quite the opposite. If you find yourself making mistakes during a new game, it's time that to slow down and give this game a second and more serious look. If something in the game tripped you up - you, the master of all masters - then the game couldn't be as bad as you first thought.

2. Play a new game when you're "in the mood". What a fast-paced world we live in! So fast, that we mistakenly expect to understand a game within the first 5 minutes of putting into the console! Then when we're not sure of what to do, the game becomes confusing, or just dumb. Never try a new game when you're not in the mood to or when you're in a rush. New games require patience and a thorough read of its manual.

3. See the positive. There's something good about every video game - even the more violent ones (although we're not prepared to defend violent video games). While checking out a new game, think about what you like about the game as opposed to what you can't quite figure out what to do yet. A positive attitude will carry on to other aspects of the game and before you know it, you'll be encouraged to carry on with it and make some real progress.

4. Don't be such a know it all. In other words, don't be blinded by your own conceit or skills in a particular genre of games that you close yourself off to new ways of accomplishing tasks. The biggest room is the room for improvement and your room is no exception. Understand that the game you're playing may have something new to teach you about gaming as a whole. Then revel in it.

5. Continue to play. It's highly doubtful that anyone will like a new game in one day. Keep playing a new game until you're absolutely sure that you don't ever want to see it in your console again.

6. Play by yourself. It's quite possible that if you play a new game with a friend, you'll be vulnerable to accepting your friend's feelings about the game as your own. Play a new game by yourself so that you can interpret your own feelings about the game and not anyone else's.

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Your Own Virtual World

(category: Computer-Games-Systems, Word count: 588)
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Play God - Be God (Even If It's Only Electronically)

Part of the appeal of video games is the visual eye-candy that splashes across the television screen. But even the addictive imagery is only half of the equation. The remaining half is the magic bestowed upon our eyes when this imagery comes to life. Animation that's controlled by a gamer is all it takes to escape into a different time and place - a time and place brought to you by virtual reality.

As you can imagine, virtual reality is a hypothetical three-dimensional visual world created by a computer. Players can enter and move about in this world and interact with objects as if inside it.1 Some of the games that are already on the market give a pretty good idea of what virtual reality is and can do. Video games like Zelda, Halo, or Harry Potter allow players to enter into an environment and interact with objects, but they don't allow the player to create an environment and that's what virtual worlds are all about.

Without a single ounce of programming experience, anyone can create a virtual world and have loads of fun doing so. All one needs is an idea.

To begin, you'll want to construct a plan that maps your idea of the perfect world, the craziest world, or the oddest world that you can imagine. Some virtual world software will give you a template of sorts (a "starter" world) that lets you make additions and ultimately build a world that you've always dreamed of. A good example of template use is inside Maxis' SimCity or SimTown games. Both games provide pre-designed environments that provide plenty of space and opportunity to shape them into one that you prefer.

Of course, you could always start from scratch. The only problem with starting with scratch is that it takes more time and knowledge to add some of the features that virtual worlds provide. Either way (from scratch or from a template), most users build a world by adding objects and scenarios - even deleting some until they've reached the perfect balance.

A good place to find examples of what you could build in virtual world gaming is online. Every virtual world program available offers sample environments that players can download and install into their own system. Some manufacturers of these games even hold contests and award winners with free upgrades. Other suitable places to find ideas are from fiction books: -historical, -fantasy, -futuristic, you name it. Science fiction movies are a good resource for ideas as well.

Just understand that virtual gaming takes time. Rome wasn't built in a day and neither will your virtual world. There's no rush and this is a relaxing hobby. Take your time and have fun. Don't fret over not knowing how to build an object or lay down a map - you can learn how to do these kinds of things in due time. Your goal is to create a world of enjoyment and it won't help if you find yourself frustrated all the time.

When ready, you can add characters with their own unique histories, habits, strengths and weaknesses. You can even give them goals or small tasks to perform throughout the game. Giving your characters goals and tasks will help you give the game a plot.

To get started, look for RAD (Rapid Application Development) Tools. RAD tools will help you bang a virtual reality game together in no time and with little difficulty.

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What S Up With Playstation 2 And 3

(category: Computer-Games-Systems, Word count: 577)
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A Guide of What's Available for SCEA's Playstation 2, Playstation 3, and the PSP System

The Playstation Systems. As number three in a line of Playstation products, Playstation 3 ($599.99) boasts new parallel processing that enables broadband multiplayer action. It's built in Blu-Ray disc drive promises high definition gaming, tons of media storage, streaming videos, music and an online service leaving you little to desire.

It's predecessor, system number two, sells for only $19.99 and networks as well (just not as fast as system number three). With over 1,400 games to choose from, it's hard to argue against this bargain.

PSP is hot again ($169.99) and integrates 3D gaming on widescreen with high fidelity stereo music, full motion video, communication and wireless networking.

Playstation 2 Accessories. If you're still "old schooling" your Playstation, then you'll enjoy Playstation's Dual Shock 2 Analog Controller ($24.99), Wireless NERF controller ($29.99), or it's 8MB memory card ($24.99). But the music doesn't stop there. It plays on with the SingStar Pop game and accessory pack ($49.99) or the Guitar Hero II ($79.99).

Playstation 3 Accessories. What's required? The Playstation 3 system sports two different kinds of controllers: a standard Chillstream controller ($39.99) and a Sixaxis Wireless controller ($49.99). Combined with the Blu-ray remote control ($24.99), you can have complete domination over your system in no time.

PSP Accessories. Never interrupt your game play again with a 2GB Memory Stick Pro Duo ($69.99) or 4Gb Memory Stick Pro Duo ($109.99). Carry your handheld in a Platinum Pack ($19.99) or Traveler Case ($19.99). And don't forget a carry all for your media ($14.99). PSP's Media Manager ($24.99) will keep you organized as well.

Playstation Games. Looking for games? We've separated this part of our guide into two sections: one for children and one for adults. Use caution when purchasing Playstation games for players under 18 years of age.

Playstation 2 Games

FOR CHILDREN:

MLB 07: The Show $59.99

ATV 4: Off Road Fury $39.99

Meet the Robinsons $29.99

Dance Dance Revolution: supernova $39.99

Durnout: Dominator $39.99

NBS Street Homecourt $59.99

FOR ADULTS:

Shadow of the Colossus $19.99

God of War $19.99

Gran Turismo 4 $19.99

Socum U.S. Navy Seals Combines Assault $39.99

Rogue Galaxy $39.99

God of War II $49.99

Destroy All Humans! 2 $39.99

Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories $19.99

Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas $19.99

Medal of Honor: Vanguard $39.99

Dawn of Mana $39.99

Elder Scrolls IV Oblivion $59.99

Resistance: Fall of Man $59.99

MotorStorm $59.99

Playstation 3 Games

FOR CHILDREN:

MLB 07: The Show $59.99

NBS Street Homecourt $59.99

FOR ADULTS:

Elder Scrolls IV Oblivion $59.99

Resistance: Fall of Man $59.99

MotorStorm $59.99

NOTE: Elder Scrolls IV Oblivion is works with all Playstations and is a game

COMING SOON:

Lair

Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2

PSP Games

FOR CHILDREN:

Ultimate Board Game Collection $39.99

Street Horizon $39.99

MLB 07: The Show $39.99

Rachet & Clank: Size Matters $39.99

Midnight Club 3: DUB Edition 19.99

Full Auto 2: Battlelines: $39.99

NOTE: Street Horizon brings both turn-based and real-time strategy game play.

FOR ADULTS:

300: March to Glory: $29.99

Socum U.S. Navy Seals Combines Assault $39.99

After Burner Black Falcon $39.99

Dragonball Z Shin Budokai Another Road $39.99

The Warriors $19.99

Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories $29.99

Prince of Persia: Rival Swords $39.99

Rocky Balboa $39.99

COMING SOON:

Dungeons & Dragons: Tactics

Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter 2

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Got Dial Up

(category: Computer-Games-Systems, Word count: 589)
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Forget Online Gaming

Computer games have come a long way since electronic checkers and the like. Today, we've got computer games that would put some 21st century movies to shame and interest in online gaming is catching on like some kind of crazy fever. Once dominated by males aged 25 and older, today's gaming generation includes mom, sis, aunt, even grandma and grandpa! If you think you've caught the online gaming bug, and you're thinking about becoming a participant, don't even think you can join in on this online fun using a dial up Internet connection!

Part of the fascination with online gaming lies in its speed. During play, online gaming becomes a virtual world and in order to project a sense of reality into the mix, its games are fast, its movements are smooth, and its sounds are as realistic as we hear them in the natural world. Sitting in front of an online game, and actively participating in one puts the player in another world - a world that's so different, so cool, and so real.

No, we're not talking about a super-fancy version of checkers or backgammon. We're not talking about a visually rich game of tic-tac-toe. We're talking about full-fledged networked or multiplayer gaming that allows anyone to entertain themselves and hoards of others across the world at the same time. Multiplayer games play over online but trust us when we say any old Internet connection won't do.

If you want to get in on this craze, you're going to have to ditch the old dial up connection that you might have and get into broad band. A broadband Internet connection will give you the ability to send and receive highly detailed and realistic imagery at an appropriate speed. It will give you the means to watch videos in real time, and it will allow you to experience speech as if each and every other player were speaking to you directly.

A dial up Internet connection just can't handle this kind of fun, but you can get a broad band connection just as easily. For the techies out there, broadband is a type of data transmission in which a single medium (wire) can carry several channels at once. 1 For the rest of us, broadband is an Internet connection that allows several people to send and receive data at the same time. A dial up connection doesn't do that. A dial up connection can either send or receive - but it certainly can't do both. Let's talk about Broadband ISDN for a minute.

ISDN stands for integrated services digital network and it can transmit transmitting voice, video and data over fiber optic telephone lines at about 64 Kbps (64,000 bits per second).

Most ISDN lines offered by telephone companies give you two lines at once, called B channels. You can use one line for voice and the other for data, or you can use both lines for data to give you data rates of 128 Kbps, three times the data rate provided by today's fastest modems.2

Broadband ISDN - a combination of regular broadband and ISDN can transmit voice, video and data over fiber optic telephone lines at about 1.5 million bits per second (bps). It's a much faster connection than either broadband or ISDN alone! If your ISP offers Broadband ISDN, ask for it - your online gaming adventure will be the better for it.

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Word count 568

1 Source: Mecklermedia Corp.

2 Source: Mecklermedia Corp.

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Video Games In The Future

(category: Computer-Games-Systems, Word count: 656)
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A Gamer's Plea

With video game technology advancing so fast and so far from where it started, one can't help but to entertain the idea of where it's going to go from here. After all, that is part of a larger creative process and we'd like to think that our writings contribute even in some small way. One of the earliest video games that we can remember is Commodore's "Pong." But never did we think the industry would have reached the point where it is today. One thing is for sure however, and that's the gaming is pushing full force ahead.

Today we did a little fantasizing to see where our imagination and desires would take us.

The following offers some suggestions of what could be done short of a little thing called, "impossible."

We're a little intrigued with the "Sun Game Glasses" idea. Wearing a pair of dark sunglasses and using the technology implemented by Nintendo's "Wii" system, we could literally watch a game take place right before our eyes and then interact with it using a device that's about the size of a pen. Since this isn't exactly a new idea, we're curious to watch what develops from University of South Australia's 'ARQuake' project1 - a springboard for this kind of gaming to develop in the near future for sure.

Another cool idea we'd like to see erupt within the gaming industry is the ability to talk to the characters inside a game. Some games allow players to textually speak to game characters already, but we'd like to see this pushed a little further. We'd like to be able to orally interact with characters: ask questions, joke around, warn and speak to them as if we were speaking to another human being. And we'd like to hear these characters talk back! It's the ultimate artificial intelligence opportunity and although it would probably be years before this technology would be available on a wide scale, we're sure it would be a hit.

Will we ever get to the point where we can play inside a simulated environment the way the characters in Star Trek: The Next Generation could play? Virtual reality is getting close, but the reality of the simulation is gone the moment we put on the silly-looking goggles and gloves. In order for simulation of this sort to work, there has to be as little a barrier between gamers and the game as possible. We don't what to just think we're inside a game, we want to feel that we're inside a game and to be honest, we don't want to have to go somewhere outside our home to do so.

The television or computer screen will suffice for now, but in the future, we're going to want to be surrounded with the elements that make gaming the wonder that it is today. We're going to want to transform our dens or bedrooms into a virtual alien ship or simulated jungle. In short, we want a new world.

One possible obstacle to bringing this fantasy into our living rooms is public acceptance. Would the public be ready for such a high level of entertainment? And could the public handle it? Immediately following Nintendo's Wii release, customers were ready to complain that they wanted their old controller back! So as with any new development, there will surely be unintended consequences and although we're gung-ho for these types of advances, we also share concerns about the impact it would have on an audience that isn't "virtually ready."

As a result, we can certainly envision a few laws introduced that restricted the use of our fantasy gaming. We already have some laws that attempt the same now and in our opinion, that's a good thing. The last thing we want to encounter in gaming is physical harm - especially when we're trying to enjoy virtual entertainment!

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Getting New Ideas For Video Games Part 1

(category: Computer-Games-Systems, Word count: 652)
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A Springboard for Video Game Developers

Creating video games is an art, no doubt. The problem is that it isn't easy to come up with ideas for video games. And even when we do get an idea, it doesn't seem as fresh or exciting as we want it to be. The following offers a few ways you can generate some creative ideas to keep your video game as fun to play from beginning to end.

1. Make it funny. Humor has a wonderful way of transforming the seemingly dreadful boring into something that's not only tolerable, but engaging as well. And if boredom is an illness, laughter is its cure. If you can inject jokes, funny imagery, or goofy characters into your game, your players will relax and associate your game with good feelings - a definite formula for success.

2. Let your mind wander off the beaten path. Since much of our thinking is associative anyway, there's no reason why you couldn't manifest this association into your video game. When one idea makes you think of another, include it as part of a video game no matter how illogical the connection is (at first). Remember that video games are your platform for creativity. It's time to be a little wild and a little unconventional. Without this free-form thinking, we surely wouldn't have the creative gems that we have today. You can always restore a sense of logic back into the game at an appropriate time.

3. Make your dreams come true. Literally, turn your dreams into video game scenarios. Had a nightmare lately? Include the scary thing in the game. Had a ridiculously stupid dream lately? Include it in the game as a detour or distraction. Sometimes dreams can be more interesting as life, and as a video game developer, you want your games to be the same. Keep a dream journal and write down those bizarre experiences you have at night. Your gamers will thank you for it.

4. Copy nature. Let's be honest - Nature is pretty weird. We have bees flying around and pollinating plants. We have water evaporating into the sky and then falling down from clouds as rain. Childbirth is a strange phenomenon itself, and germs - the smallest thing on the planet can bring down a herd of elephants. If you could emulate some of this crazy stuff in your own video games, you will have done what every man secretly wishes he could do himself. And that's take nature into your own hands and shape it into the reality you want! But don't copy nature faithfully. Twist it around. For example, instead of bees flying around and pollinating plants, your video game could have 3-inch aliens flying around and pollinating brainwashed FBI agents. Starting to get the idea?

5. Dig into History. Another good resource for video game material is our own history - but not the boring stuff. We're talking about the good stuff. The embarrassing stuff. Look for odd and weird news online and include the asinine things that people have done in the past as part of your game's plot. Your players won't believe what they're seeing!

6. Go Metaphor Happy. Metaphors are figures of speech in which expressions are used to refer to something that it does not literally denote. It simply suggests a similarity. We're not sure, but we're pretty convinced that a lot of the space ships in video games are based on what we call the "nuts and bolts" metaphor. If you look closely at the designs of some of these vehicles, and then look at some of the tools you have in your toolbox, you'll start to see a similarity among the two like we did. You can do the same in your video games to come up with some really unique imagery and situations.

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Playing Nice

(category: Computer-Games-Systems, Word count: 573)
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A Few Suggestions for Gaming Etiquette

No, it isn't Ms. Manners to the rescue, nor is it Polite Polly knocking at your noggin. We just know how easy it is to get frustrated or even angry while playing a difficult game, but if we're not careful, that anger and frustration could lead to some butt-ugly moments during a time that's supposed to be amusing. The following is offered in an effort to keep everything fun and entertaining during a session of group play.

1. Encourage each other. Even if you're competing with each other in a boxing match or car race, take time out to congratulate another player for making a smooth or cunning move. There's no need to be a kiss-up, but when tensions are high, and the desire to impress is high, you can help relax any stress just by throwing out a few compliments here and there.

2. Be patient. Your gaming comrades may not be as fast, as coordinated, or as smart as you. So when you notice your regular game pace slowing down, don't criticize. You could quietly plan your next move or you could offer to help if you notice that your buddies seem lost. This will encourage cooperation and relive some of the stress involved with playing a difficult game.

3. Take some breaks. Permitting that your group finds appropriate places in a game to pause, take advantage and get up to stretch, snack, use the john, talk about school, or catch a few silly commercials on television. A long stretch of game play is tiring and stressful at the same time.

4. Play an inclusive game. By that we mean to make efforts to ensure everyone in the group contributes to the game's completion. You never want to make another person feel left out or just hanging around to fill the space. Create opportunities for everyone involved to participate and help play.

5. Listen to others. You may think that you know all the answers about a game or game system, but listen to what others in the group have to say. You just might learn something new.

6. Invite the "weird guy." This bit of advice of course comes after the horrid Virginia Tech massacre. Tales circulating this news event indicate that the young man responsible was a loner and the victim of bullying during his teenage years as well. Sometimes, all it takes to prevent things like this is a simple effort to reach out to someone. We're not suggesting that an invitation to a gaming party would have saved the lives of 33+ college students, but we are suggesting that making an effort to make others feel welcome and wanted is a huge step towards eliminating the isolation known to cause these kinds of senseless acts.

7. Vow to keep the voice level and cursing to a minimum. That almost goes without saying, but to prevent arguments, agree beforehand to not cross the line when it comes to debating about a particular strategy or selecting a game to play. Some of the most serious fights stem from the silliest arguments. But you can prevent a flare up within your group just by maintaining a cool composure during the entire session.

Now see? That's not too bad a list. All the things that we suggested are certainly "do-able" and they really do work to create a calm and enjoyable environment.

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