Friendly fire

A lot of people believe that gaming is really what drives the PC market, and, certainly from a consumer standpoint, this is almost certainly the case. Not that everyone will admit it. Sure - you say that the home PC is for sorting out the accounts and taxation, e-mail and surfing the Web, and really the kids are the ones who play games. But who are we fooling? Games are what it is all about!

And, of course, who can forget the thrill of mowing down your boss in an online game of Quake in the office - or outmanoeuvring a colleague in Upwords?

Most of us got into computers through games. I know my family certainly couldn't be pried from our ancient Atari come food or more Christmas presents. Recently, when reminiscing with other "techies" about the old gaming days, we all agreed that not only do we fondly remember our first gaming experiences, but we still own the much-loved consoles, including Amiga, Commodore 64s, or even the Aussie Microbee computer.

Console gaming continues to strengthen its position, and with the launch of Sega's and Sony's souped-up offerings in 2000, these continue to be the hot summer sellers - if you can get your hands on one.

Offering better performance and versatility, these new units have become more than a games console: they're closer to being an entertainment system. These game tools have replaced the pride of place in the lounge room once given to the TV, stereo or VCR.

Then, of course, there are the PC gaming fiends - the passionate and possessed gamers who live, breathe (and forget to sleep because of) gaming.

All around the country, games leagues have been set up to run online games over a season that culminates in a frenzy of finals which people drive for hours to set up and attend, where they can challenge the best gamers in the state across a weekend. Gamers take their sport very seriously indeed. Expensive 21in monitors and PCs are carefully transported from one end of the country to another - to enhance the gaming experience. With the rise of sponsorships, prize money and the growth of clans, club and leagues - PC gaming - is like any other sport.

So what fuels the passion and the drive? The fun of it all. Once upon a time, people who pursued gaming were perceived to be loners, toiling away playing solitaire - away from the pleasures of team games and sports. I am sure many of us have been gaming widows or widowers, as the trusty home PC has become possessed by the spirit of the loner gamer, locked in a weekend quest, where dialogue and verbal contact is reduced to a series of grunts and "shhhhhh - I am concentrating".

But, really, for the most part, gaming is a shared experience. Many of our readers over the past 12 months have repeatedly requested information on not the latest and hottest games, but on classic games, games for kids, Linux games and everything else in between.

That's why this month we decide to bring a summer games special - for all the gamers out there - designed to challenge your mind as well as your friends and family as you do battle on the small screen. Hey - it beats arguing over Christmas leftovers!

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