Destroy time in a Flash with online games
For many college-age Digital Slobs, Labor Day represents a transition from pretending to work at that summer job to pretending to study during fall semester.
That's why many degree-seeking Slobs driving back to campus make sure there's room for their Xboxes before they let their girlfriends ride shotgun.
But for all the virtues of gaming consoles, they have one fatal flaw: When you're playing them, you can't fool anyone that you're studying -- not even yourself.
You can do almost anything in "Grand Theft Auto" except break into a library, slaughter the librarian and cram for that trigonometry midterm.
But Web-based Flash games are just sitting there on the Internet, peeking out of a browser window behind that Microsoft Word document, ready to instantly gratify you on a whim with no extra cords, gear or software required.
Go ahead, play them. No one's watching -- God's just listening for clicks and keystrokes to make sure you're busy.
For gaming addicts, Flash games are like methadone -- the come-down drug pointing the way toward a more pseudoproductive life.
Here, then, are some highly effective online games that are sure to make the most out of your procrastinating.
They work. I know they work. I started playing them to research this column on Sept. 2 ... Sept. 2, 2006:
Blix (shockwave.com): Test your stress-resistance levels (i.e., your sanity) with this basic put-the-ball-in-a-cup-before-time-runs-out bumper game. As the levels progress, balls, velocities and obstacles escalate. Pros: You get a password after every five levels so you don't have to start at the beginning each time you log on. Cons: Monotonous soundtrack seems designed to hypnotize you into a brainless zombie for purposes unknown.
Deanimator (artscool.cfa.cmu.edu/~lee/deanimator.html): Speaking of zombies, this third-person shooter allows you to save your own silhouetted life by re-deading the undead as they climb out of their graves. Aim and fire with the mouse, hit the shift key to upgrade to a shotgun, but be sure to keep track of your ammo, and time your reloads with the rhythms of the advancing hordes. Pros: You can't help but chuckle at the creative ways you're disassembled once you are inevitably overwhelmed. Cons: You have to start at Level 1 each time, long after you need the practice picking off the "special needs zombies."
Tank Wars (shockwave.com): Not all Flash games are locked in 2-D. This first-person shooter puts you inside a tank patrolling an urban setting, with missions to destroy increasing numbers of armored vehicles and helicopters that are also out to unload their ordnance on you. Raise and lower the turret, aim, avoid land mines, find that tactical nuke you'll be needing later and, along the way, run over a parked car or two just for fun. Pros: You can pimp your ride for more speed and more armor. Cons: At no level can you clear the streets well enough to foster a political solution.
Next week: More Flash games.