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InstantAction

I've always classified myself as a hard-core gamer, but I just don't have the time anymore. Do I get demoted or something, like, to casual-core? Naw, I just look for places that can give me some hard-core games without the strings attached. That's what I like about InstantAction. The general idea is that it's a self-contained community consisting of indie games. You make friends, chat with 'em, and play sophisticated 3D games in your Web browser. All it takes is one ActiveX install, and you're good to go. But what stands out here are the quality and sophistication of the titles.

Fallen Empire: Legions
Exhibit A: Marble Blast Ultra is a prettified version of Marble Madness where you roll around puzzles from a marble's-eye view. There's even a free first-person-shooter tribute to Tribes called Fallen Empire: Legions. That's right, it's a huge online multiplayer firefight, all within Firefox.

So what kind of Cray supercomputer will you need to get this working? Just about anything north of a hyperactive gerbil on a treadmill. I've been playing the games on a relatively low-spec machine (Intel Pentium 4 2.8-GHz CPU, 1GB RAM, ATI Radeon 9800 Pro GPU) in IE 7. It's still in beta and signing up is free--what else do you need to know?

Last, but Not Least: Facebook

I admit, this is an obvious one, but I just had to throw it in. I mean, how many Facebook games do you have? Me? Friends playing Mafia have made me an offer I...yeah, you know where I'm going with that. I've also taken a stand in the ages-old Pirates vs. Ninjas battle (Ninjas!) and gone a couple rounds in Scrabulous. (Yes, now Wordscraper, thanks to EA's coming up with words like "intellectual," "property," and "lawsuit.")

Bowling Buddies on Facebook
But have you played Bowling Buddies? It's a fully 3D bowling game inside Facebook. Grab the ball with your mouse, whip it across your desk, and watch the pins fly. Go solo or play against friends. How about a cross between Nintendo's Animal Crossing and The Sims? Pet Society is right up your alley. Actually, now that I mention it, just head straight to the Playfish Web site and do not pass "Go." Those mad geniuses created not only Bowling Buddies and Pet Society, but also a bunch of great trivia and word games.

My guided tour is done for now. Did I miss something about Second Life? Is there an awesome casual/social gaming site that I need to check out? Let me know. Otherwise, if you're looking for a new online bud, I won't be too hard to find. I'm the guy whose butt keeps getting kicked. And is cursing. A lot. Until next time....

Casual Friday columnist and PC World Senior Writer Darren Gladstone geeks out over gadgets, games, and odd uses for humdrum tech. In other words, he's a nerd--and he's okay with that.

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