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Now, let the computer games begin

As well as being an invaluable business tool, the modern PC can be fun as it makes a perfect platform for computer games.

As this is the last Money Marketing issue before Christmas, we have asked some leading industry figures to review a game of their choice.

Today&#39s PC-based games are a far cry from the earliest computer-based version of arcade games of a few years ago. The multimedia capabilities which come as standard on the majority of new computers mean that rich graph- ics and sound can also be incorporated.

However, as can be seen from many of the reviews below, installing a powerful games program on a business computer is probably far from wise. It is all too easy for the game to affect the set of the machine and you run the risk of disabling other essential functions.

The focus of these games is increasingly to produce true to-life simulations. For example, Renault Sport engineers advised on the design of the F1 Racing Simulation from Ubi Soft. This does mean that it can take some time to get even the basic results. Many of the other games are designed to be played over an extended period. The quick- start session in the iF22 flight simulator runs for about five hours, hardly something you can use to fill the odd 10 minutes.

As with all computer technology, the hardware available keeps getting better and better. There are some fascinating accessories you can buy to maximise your enjoyment. Microsoft has launched a special version of its Sidewinder joystick which actually has a built-in 25Mhz processor.

This produced lifelike effects that feed back to the user as you are using it. Fire a cannon or a machine gun and you actually feel the recoil through the stick.

The only problem is that not many games can presently support these features although most of the main games&#39 producers have committed to adding the necessary functions during the next few months

At a list price of £120 this is hardly a cheap add-on although I have seen it adverti sed at around £80 in the computer press, so if you want really to feel the force of a game it is worth shopping around.

At the moment, it is almost impossible to miss Lara Croft, the heroine of Tomb Raider, with her exaggerated form leaping from billboards and magazines almost everywhere.

As pointed out below by Martin Greenwood, to get the best out of the game, you really need a keyboard extension and, for true Lara fans, it could well be worth investing £49.99 in a PC Dash console. This plugs into the keyboard socket on your computer and can be pre-programmed to carry out single or multiple keystrokes far more rapidly.

From a single keystroke on the Dash, you can make Lara jump, roll, draw her weapon, look and fire simultaneously. PC Dash also supports games from a wide range of other providers, including Edios, Activision, Digital Integration and Virgin Interactive. This summary covers only a tiny selection of the hundreds of games available.

There really are games to suit all tastes but it is important to be aware that many can be fairly violent so it is probably best to have a good look at any software yourself bef ore allowing young children to play.

Overall, with some dedication, you can get hours of fun with the latest breed of games but you are going to need a high-spec PC and certainly these should be kept at home rather than being allowed to creep into the office. Have fun.

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