Gaming is one application that drives a whole spectrum of hardware and software. I have been an avid enthusiaist of video games for the last 25 years. Video games fulfill many needs - be it the curiosity of exploration - the need to socialize - or simply the ability to feel rewarded. The most important lesson I have learned is that time is a valuable thing. To that end - I have comprised a list of platforms and games that I feel are worth the time spent playing.
Online Multiplayer Games
Online gaming can be an immense time sink. The only online game genre I have found worth preserving are the original Multi User Dungeons or MUDs. The reason I support this medium is that unlike the contemporary gaming industry that underscores commerce as its objective - the original MUDs were a vehicle for education. Players would learn to explore and navigate an environment which would culminate in them gaining the ability to contribute meaningfully to that environment by adding their own coded areas and objects to it. There are two resources that are invaluable to aspiring MUDders - the Mudconnector site and a mud client of their choosing.
The Mudconnector site is basically like a phone book with links to many of the available online communities. A mud client is basically a piece of software that you install to your local machine that enhances your ability to connect to other servers. Many clients offer features such as aliasing, scripting, and auto-mapping which makes navigating a virtual world much simpler.
For people new to mudding - Aardwolf mud is probably the best resource to become familiar with this genre. It has an active community with many areas to explore and a myriad of player classes to choose from. Additionally the client is extremely comprehensive - the only down side is that the Mushclient is only available for the Windows platform.
My personal favorite is the Nuclear War mud site which can be accessed at 'nuclearwarmudusa.com port 4080' or by clicking here : Telnet to NuclearwarmudUSA
Multiplayer Access for Standalone Titles
Many standalone role playing games (RPG) and real time strategy games (RTS) now offer multiplayer support where you can compete toe to toe or in teams with other players all over the world.
The resource that I rely on to connect me with other players is Gameranger. Basically it allows you to connect to other people who are also looking to play the same games you enjoy.
Where to shop for games?
The resource I have found most useful for purchasing games for digital delivery is Gog.com. They have a large library and most of their prices are extremely reasonable. They are also in the process of building their own tool to connect people who wish to participate in online multiplayer sessions. They have frequent sales as well - and will always email you a link to whatever promotion they currently have.
I would caution people away from using Steam to purchase games as the versions they release aren't always compatible with updates and addendum. Also some of the multiplayer VPN's they endorse have created issues on my system previously. Additionally, you need to be online to run steam games which is silly as many of the games have no multiplayer features and if you are in an area with no internet access you will be unable to launch your single player games. I have included the link as a reference but I don't recommend its use.
Games that I recommend
These are some of the games that have stood the test of time - that are enjoyable to play and replay and share with others who have yet to discover them.
Spellforce - This is a great series with many expansions that continue to immerse players. It combines elements of RPG and RTS, with beautiful graphics and a storyline that is simple enough to follow. If you are looking for a title that you can play for 1-2 hours a day and make continuous forward progress then this may be a good candidate for you.
Age of Mythology - This is a great RTS for young and old alike. The gameplay is simple enough that it can be learned inside of a couple days and the multiplayer availability gives it endless replay value. It eases the burden of the rock/paper/scissor dynamic of many other RTS by introducing myth element creatures that add a unique flavor and dimensionality to the game. With 4 different civilizations and 3 custom subdomains for each civ - the game has extensive replay value. Its simple, fun, and educational.
Age of Wonders - This was my favorite title growing up. It currently comprises 4 volumes and I would gladly recommend the the middle 2 volumes for any new players. The original version is classic but new players may be dissuaded from playing it due to the differences between the supported resolution and the current level of available technology. I didn't like the direction the 4th volume took - while the graphics were updated to be inline with other contemporary titles of a similar venue - I wasn't happy with the newly created paths of unit development. Overall it is a beautiful blend of fantasy and strategy and a worthy addition to any library, although the fourth volume may be omitted freely.
Age of Wonders - The original - worth playing for historic value.
Age of Wonders 2 : Wizard's Throne - A slightly more polished version of the original with more races and units to learn.
Age of Wonders : Shadow Magic - Culmination of the first 3 titles with customizable leaders.
Age of Wonders 3 - A little overworked - long on graphics but I feel the game play was diminished.