Don't scoff at the games kids play on computers. More and more adults are discovering that online games help keep their minds sharp and allow them to socialize via the Internet with people all over the world.

Online games are by no means all fast-action electronic versions of what you once might have played at penny arcades. The Internet also gives you access to dozens of traditional games, including bridge, canasta, mahjong, hearts, dominoes, chess and backgammon. Hundreds of Web sites let you play these and other games against a computer or real competitors.

Good For The Brain

If you have any doubt that computer games are good for the brain, your skepticism might be allayed by the experience of James Rosser, Jr., MD. He's the director of the Advanced Medical Technology Institute at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City—and he asked his staff of surgeons to periodically play video games.

Dr. Rosser recently reported that surgeons who played games three hours a week performed their medical tasks faster and more accurately than those who didn't. Rosser's findings aren't unique. Experiments at my own company, Cyberlearning Technology, show that people who regularly play video games have an easier time learning new tasks.

For older people, online games have another benefit. They can introduce you to activities that you'll enjoy with younger members of your family.

Getting Started

To best play games online, you need a computer with at least 128 megabytes of memory (preferably 256) and at least a 17-inch screen. A high-speed Internet connection isn't necessary, although it's helpful for some games.

In online games, the board or playing field is displayed on screen, often with stunning graphics and dramatic sound effects. Moves are made by manipulating the mouse or other types of controllers, such as joysticks or gamepads.

Depending on the game, winning usually requires a combination of coordination, memory and occasionally teamwork. Luck plays a role, too.

For an overview of available online games, visit one of the major sites, called portals, that have links to hundreds of games. Some of the biggest game portals are…… and To find other game sites, enter "online games'' into Google or another search engine.

At least one portal,, has links to games traditionally popular with seniors, including bingo, solitaire, cribbage and canasta.

Before you can play, you may have to register by submitting your Email address and choosing a password. Most sites are free, and those that charge usually have fees of less than $100 a year.

Caution: Don't register unless a site states that it won't share your Email address. Also, some online games require you to download software that enables you to play the game on your computer. Before you do, make sure your computer has a security program that screens downloads for viruses and other unwanted bits of computer code.

Game sites usually allow you to play with people you know, who must also register, or with anonymous opponents chosen by the site on the basis of the skill level that you select.

Though your identity won't be revealed when you play, many sites have chat rooms where players can exchange messages about game strategy and other topics. In chat rooms, players usually have the option of posting their real names and contact information.

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