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Online tournaments, polls

This column originally ran in ComputorEdge on October 26, 2007
(Issue 2543, Witches and Monsters and Freaks, Oh My!)

From online poker tournaments – for real money – to online virtual golf tournaments, there are all kinds of folks willing to offer you open competition in the game of your choice.

For a price.

While the U.S. government has passed laws and regulations prohibiting any credit card company or bank that wants to do business in the U.S. from processing transactions for online gambling sites (something that seriously cut back the number of entrants in the latest round of the World Series of Poker, which is a buy-in tournament with both real-world and online qualifying rounds), other online tournaments operate under no such restrictions.

Which means it's buyer beware.

World Golf Tour

The World Golf Tour doesn't seem to have tournaments or much else going on right now – it seems to be more of a demo. There's a free contest going on right now, sponsored by Taylor Made (with a Taylor Made driver as the grand prize) built around a nine-hole closest to the pin contest.

The graphic are gorgeous, if 2-D (basically a high-resolution photograph with the game action put over it blue-screen style) – but fully integrated into the browser experience with as intuitive a playing interface as you'll find.

The game play is fun, although the actual animation is fairly unimpressive.

Still, right now, the free demo is worth checking out if you're a PC golf fan.

This site had a large, full-page ad in one of the PC gaming magazines this month. What it doesn't have is a free demo or trial version, like World Golf Tour.

And you have to install outside software, as well as a plug-in for your browser. (And I can't remember the last time I had to install a plug-in for any of my browsers!)

You can buy as few as $20 worth of credits, which I'm assuming is enough to enter at least some of the tournaments.

But without installing all that software, I didn't have the option of finding out the entry price for the tournaments.

There is a video tour you can take, which shows a more dynamic play environment than in World Golf Tour – albeit with much choppier graphics.

Will it work?

Whether either of these sites will become a financial success will depend on how well they can recruit players. The low-tech game play (World Golf Tour) and graphics ( aren't necessarily fatal – the massively multiplayer online game World of Warcraft isn't nearly as graphically impressive nor as immersive an environment as similar games that aren't played on servers - Quake 4, for instance.

And in fact, EA's Tiger Woods golf simulator that runs on your PC has far better graphics than World Golf Tour, far better gameplay than the video shows having.

What it doesn't have is the ability to play in large tournaments in real-time online. As with World of Warcraft, gamers will put up with slightly behind the curve graphics and gameplay for something unique - like running around in a virtual world with millions of other people.

And if either golf tourney can create a fun, online experience, they might find a niche.

More pay to play

Yahoo Games has always offered free gameplay – I'm addicted to cribbage and backgammon there, myself.

But for those with a slightly more competitive nature, Yahoo also offers tournaments for those who sign up for what it calls its All-Star Package. Starting at $8 a month (cheaper if you buy a longer package), you're eligible for its members-only tournaments - earning virtual trophies displayed in your profile.

If you're good enough to win.

Picking your candidate has an online poll that helps you pick your best presidential candidate – or at least the one that supposedly best matches your own viewpoints.

Of course, as with all things political, it's all in how you ask the questions. And so asking if you support "abortion rights" is a bit of a loaded question, particularly if you view abortion as a violation of an unborn child's rights. And the Kyoto Protocol? How many people know that that's the global-warming treaty the U.S. has yet to adopt?

Let's just say that the candidate who supposedly agreed with me the most (at a paltry 60-something percent) is someone I'd never vote for in a million years.

But results may vary, as the TV commercials say – try it at for yourself.