The term computer game might have one more meaning than you realize.
You are familiar with one kind, games that run on computers? They are set in eras from prehistoric and Roman times up to the present, and into various wonderful and depressing future worlds.
There are also games in the physical world, played with pens and paper and imagination which involve the characters doing things in the virtual world of the Internet. Players, and the referee, sit with pen and paper pretending to be using computers. Instead of clicking a mouse to make a computer barbarian use his sword, these gamers roll dice to have their character ‘Google' their enemy's name, or hack into their computer.
Yes, this seem ludicrous even to me, and I've done it.
Remember, paper-and-pen role-playing games have evolved since their invention, just like personal computers and computer games. So, while the popular media is portraying the equivalent of ‘Pong', gamers are playing the pen-and-paper equivalent of Myst or Dark Age of Camelot.
One of the better game systems in my opinion is The Storyteller System from White Wolf Game Studios. Mostly set in modern times, they feature werewolves called Glasswalkers who are proud of being hi-tech and fond of mobile phones and personal organizers. Another game, Mage the Ascension, features a group called the Virtual Adepts who try to help humanity and change the world for the better using computers and the Internet: Just like some people in the ‘real world'. I'm sure Virtual Adepts would love the idea of giving African children wind-up laptops.
But remember, Mage is ABOUT computers, not ON computer. Players and the referee just pretend to be using the Internet, using dice and imagination.
Of course like the rest of the world, Mage exists in the virtual world too. The storyteller games, and White Wolf, have websites devoted to them, both official and fan-based. There is a remarkable amount of good information about Mage available online.
So, you'll find websites about how to pretend to surf the Internet, or create a website using a pen, paper, dice and your imagination. Or buy printed books online to help you play your Virtual Adept's online adventures. You can also probably buy the same books in PDF format. This is useful if you use your laptop instead of pen and paper, as my friend Jess does.
I'm amused to imagine someone using their laptop to play Dark Age of Camelot, swinging swords in a computer generated world, while waiting for their fellow Mage players to arrive at their house. Then, when their friends ‘physically' arrive, logging off and using their computer and a handful of dice to pretend to surf the web as a virtual adept.
By Allan T. Price
Allan T. Price is a creative writer working at M6.Net: ‘The web-hosting company for humans.' M6.Net is working hard to help humanity experience the power and freedom to develop their own part of the Internet, to share their information and connect with anyone, anywhere, anytime.