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Professional gaming – live on your PC

This column originally ran in ComputorEdge on June 17, 2005
(Issue 2324, Amateur Lawyer)

With professional poker tournaments all the rage on cable and satellite TV these days, I suppose it's no surprise to find regular folks wanting to get in on the action.

A reader wrote in wanting to know if I was familiar with any competitors to – cribbage was her game, and she wasn't finding enough competition there. At least not the kind of competition willing to pony up an ante, with the winner taking it all.

Heck – I wasn't even aware of GameColony, though, until I got her e-mail!

Being consistently broke (parenthood will do that to you!), the idea of playing cribbage as a wagering proposition doesn't have a lot of allure to me. I can't afford to lose much money, so I can't speak as to the actual experience of playing in a tournament on

I'm also unclear as to the legalities of joining tournaments with an entry fee and pool winnings. But is based out of Newport Beach, and not one of those mysterious Caribbean or South Pacific island nations with loose banking regulations, so apparently it's all on the up and up.

They claim more than $1 million has been won so far (easier to do when it's your customers' own money you're handing out, I suppose), but our reader was right: The number of people online seemed pretty low when I visited – the game counter showed 800 some folks online. Go to Yahoo! Games and there were almost 11,000 folks playing chess alone, for goodness sake. Over at (where paid subscribers can compete for cash prizes, too), there were 13,000 playing Poppitt and another 10,000 playing solitaire – and that's just two games out of dozens.

So whether GameColony's model is the wave of the future, or just one niche in the overall gaming community, isn't real clear yet. But it is an interesting niche.

eBay strikes again

Another reader has written in with an eBay horror story. This reader had their account suspended for placing an auction for a second-hand Jazzercise instructional video they'd picked up at a thrift store.

Now, Jazzercise (for whom I've done some contract work, in the interests of full disclosure) may well have contractual relationships with their instructors that all materials must be returned to the company – and so perhaps that tape should never have even been at the thrift store to be re-sold – but eBay's reaction in shutting down someone's account over something with as much gray area as this seems overly harsh.

This reader has been unable to get their suspension lifted – and yet, right now you can go on eBay and buy all the pirated software you want. I got burned this way once – thought I was buying a copy of "Delta Force," and it was nothing more than a CD burn with a printout of the serial number. When I complained to the seller, he said he'd explained in his listing that this was only a "backup" copy. Yeah, well, a backup copy doesn't need its own serial number.

That practice continues practically unchecked on eBay, while the above individual who violated copyright law (IF they violated copyright law) by accident – in that they had no realistic way of knowing what Jazzercise's relationship with its instructors regarding company videotapes is – can't get their account restored.

eBay really needs to put more emphasis on their relationship with their vendors.

Lanstorm closes

Inland North San Diego County lost one of its best gathering places for gamers and even just young people with the late-May closing of the Lanstorm Cyber Café. Located on Grand in the heart of downtown Escondido, for the past year and a half Lanstorm had been the place to gather in the Escondido area for the under-21 crowd.

While best-known for their monthly all-night gaming parties, where attendees would gorge themselves on pizza and sodas while playing Counter-Strike or Battlefield 1942 for 16 hours or more, Lanstorm had also served as host to poetry slams, live music concerts and even chess matches. The Xbox hooked up to the big screen television in the front was often in use, and other folks would stop by for coffee and conversation.

In the dozens of times I swung by, either to grab a sandwich on my dinner break, get some gaming in or just visit with the staff, I never saw Lanstorm empty.

Michael and Danielle Marinello provided an important resource to the community, and they are going to be missed. With the landlord looking to put a restaurant in that space, it's not likely to the under-21 crowd is going to have a replacement venue in Escondido anytime soon – and that's too bad.