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Computer Games

Culture

Issue: "Who'll be king of the Hill?," Oct. 7, 2000
1
MADDEN NFL 2001 Electronic Arts; $41; Playstation
OBJECT
Play virtual football.

GIST
This year's version of the popular NFL simulation with play-by-play announcing by John Madden and Pat Summerall.

NOTE
Has a sequel's strength and weakness. The artificial intelligence has been improved, and other changes have been made, yet the game remains similar to previous versions.

2
MARIO TENNIS Nintendo of America; $50; Nintendo 64
OBJECT
Play cartoonish tennis.

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GIST
The familiar Mario and company take up rackets and challenge each other on both standard and some unusual courts.

NOTE
The game-play becomes repetitious when played in single-player mode. Playing with friends and family makes the game much more interesting.

3
AGE OF EMPIRES 2: THE CONQUERORS Microsoft; $30; CD W95/98
OBJECT
Manage resources, develop armies, wage war.

GIST
The original game has the player become a historical figure and lead campaigns. This expansion pack adds more units, maps, controls, and other elements.

NOTE
The campaigns are historically based but do not fully represent historical facts.The expansion pack requires previous purchase of Age of Empires 2: Age of Kings.

4
CHRONO CROSS Square EA; $42; Playstation
OBJECT
Change history.

GIST
Search for the "Frozen Flame" that enables the hero to go back in time to save himself from dying 10 years ago in a parallel dimension.

NOTE
Re-playable since the player can make choices that will change how the game progresses and even how the game ends.

5
THE SIMS: LIVIN' LARGE Maxis; $29; CD W95/98
OBJECT
Live a life.

GIST
This expansion pack adds new careers, homes, neighborhoods, and furnishings to The Sims and requires that game's prior purchase. Maintains the pleasure-centered approach of the original game.

NOTE
Added elements such as a vibrating bed are suggestive. An extensive online community has developed around this game, with some amateurs creating elements for free download that show Sims in gross perversions.

IN THE SPOTLIGHT
Diablo 2 by Blizzard Entertainment can be approached from two sides: structure (how the game is controlled, how the plot is advanced, etc.) and content (images displayed, plot, worldview). Diablo 2's structure is excellent: It's a game that is easy to control, yet not so simplistic that it becomes boring. Role-playing elements greatly increase re-playability because each decision about a skill to develop affects the game. The game's content, though, features disturbing cinematic scenes and occult images and themes. The combat part of the game is bloody, and background images become bloodier as the game progresses. The plot holds together for a video game, but Diablo 2's theme is typical within this genre: In the battle of good against evil, evil has frighteningly powerful forces, while on the side of good, there is only the player, at best given minimal help. God is little or nowhere to be seen. In this Deistic worldview, God sets things in motion and leaves us to sort them out. Meanwhile the powers of darkness work with a free hand.

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