Start Here for Fun
It is harder than you might think to find great sites for fun and games on the Web. Fast Company suggests three hard-copy directories to start you on your search.
The Web After Work For Dummies ($19.99, IDG Books, 1997), by Jill and Matthew Ellsworth, reviews sites devoted to hobbies, shopping, crafts, and fitness. Like many of the volumes in the "Dummies" series, parts of this book are, well, dumb. On the other hand, its lists of things like the weirdest Web sites are fun.
Michael Wolff's NetSports: Your Guide to Sports Mania on the Information Highway ($6.99, Dell, 1997) reviews Web sites and other online resources for more than 100 sports, including baseball, basketball, cricket, fencing, skateboarding, and volleyball. Wolff pulls few punches as he evaluates what each site offers and how well it works.
Finally, Barbara Moran's Internet Directory For Kids & Parents ($24.99, IDG Books, 1997) identifies hundreds of safe, entertaining, and educational Web sites for children and their parents. Like the Ellsworths' book, Moran's directory includes beginner sections of dubious value. But its reviews and top-10 lists are plentiful and useful.
Back to the Future
Sure, the Web offers new and exciting ways to amuse yourself, play with friends, and otherwise have fun. But can the Web compete for entertainment value - or for that matter, sentimental value - with the classic board games on which you were raised? Thanks to Hasbro Interactive, the high-tech unit of the toy-and-game giant, you no longer have to choose between playing on your PC and playing your favorite games.
Hasbro - the company behind such classic games as Monopoly, Mastermind, Sorry!, Scrabble, Risk, and Battleship - has begun to update these old favorites for multimedia computers and for long-distance play over the Web. The high-tech version of Mastermind, a mind-bending game of logic and deduction, incorporates dazzling graphics and even artificial intelligence to make the game more colorful and more challenging. It can be played modem-to-modem, on a LAN, or over the Internet. The updated version of Sorry! gives the playing pieces distinct personalities, which they demonstrate whenever they bump, slide, or "sorry" an opponent.
Both games sell for $19.95 and are available from Hasbro Interactive (www.hasbro-interactive.com). To play the Internet versions, go to Microsoft's Internet Gaming Zone (www.zone.com).
A Virtual Way with Words
Personal computers are to offices what refrigerators are to kitchens - the obvious place to attach family photos, free-form doodles, and other fun musings. The current rage in kitchen decoration is Magnetic Poetry, word magnets that you can arrange and rearrange to express whatever sentiments move you. These little white magnets are being sold everywhere - even (in a special format) on the Lilith Fair concert tour - and have worked their way onto countless refrigerator doors.
Magnetic Poetry, the Minneapolis-based company that started the refrigerator mania, has introduced ElectroMagnetic Poetry. As words drift along your computer screen, you "grab" the ones you need to convey your thoughts. The software is available on CD-ROM, and you can order it through the company's Web site (www.magpo.com) for $25. The site also offers an anthology of poems and a place where you can submit your own poetry.
Meanwhile, aspiring poets who visit the Web site of Prominence Dot Com (www.prominence.com/java/poetry), a Java developer based in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, can use a Java applet to compose poetry in their Web browser. They can also contribute screen shots of their masterpieces to the company's online poetry gallery.
A version of this article appeared in the October 1998 issue of Fast Company magazine.