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ON COMPUTERS

Business of gaming keeps computer users playing

By Bob and Joy Schwabach

This article was published August 4, 2014 at 2:11 a.m.

More than 30 years ago, when a person bought a home computer, it was to play games.

Users could write on some models -- I wrote my first book on an Apple 2 -- but basically they were used to play games.

Then IBM came out with its personal computer, leading almost everyone in the industry to say, "That's it, no more games, business is what people will do with computers from now on." That's nonsense, we wrote (yes, we were writing about computers way back then), people will always want to play games. And so it has been.

Today, IBM no longer makes personal computers and hasn't for years. But about 60 percent of the U.S. population still uses computers to play games. That's about 190 million people. We count game consoles as computers because they are and have more computing power than that first desktop made by IBM.

The idea that these players are mostly teenagers is far from the mark: The average game player is 31 years old. Fifty-two percent are male, 48 percent female.

League of Legends was the most played PC game in June, followed by DOTA and World of Warcraft.

League of Legends, or LOL, as gamers call it, takes in $2 million a day. DOTA, which stands for Defense of the Ancients, does almost as well. How do you make so much money from a game that can be downloaded for free? The money comes from selling weapons, maps, special character skills, etc., that are used in the games.

The top subscription game, World of Warcraft, is not free and costs about $20 a month. Its sales dwarf the most successful movie ever made. That would be Gone With the Wind, which, when adjusted for inflation, has made around $3.3 billion in today's dollars. World of Warcraft has made more than $10 billion so far and is still going strong. It will soon be made into a movie.

All of these games are what are called MMORPGs, or "Morgs" as the players say. The acronym stands for "Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games," and the name is a key to their success. Any number can play, and you can form groups, make alliances, treaties, attack or defend, and so on. You get to know other players whom you can trust and whom you can't.

The best of these games are great in almost every respect: The artistry is terrific, the action smooth and realistic, and users get to design the tactics and strategy. The cost, even for something like World of Warcraft, is no more than a couple would pay to go to the movies once a month -- and these games can be played at home on your own computer. So, are computers for business or games? Both, of course, but people are never going to stop playing games.

Getting Published

While publishing a book on the Kindle or the iPad is free and open to anyone, the steps involved can be tricky. A company called Tablo will do it for you.

Tablo is new to the field and charges $8 a month to publish to the iPad and Kindle but allows writers to use the service for free until they're ready to publish. The company assigns the ISBN number and handles the technical parts. All the users have to do is upload a Microsoft Word document.

It allows writers to restrict access to their book to a group of friends and to password protect their profile. Whatever a user gets for selling his book, that person keeps 100 percent. For $16 a month, authors can publish three books and list them as available to pre-order. This means a writer doesn't have to finish a book to start selling it. For $30 a month, the book can be published by whatever company name you choose, rather than Tablo.

There are also books on this subject, such as Publishing e-Books for Dummies. Even Amazon.com provides instructions on how to format a self-published book to send it to the company ready to list.

Tablo is a bit tricky to find. Users can Google "Tablo Publishing," or go to Tablo.io. The service currently has 10,000 authors from more than 100 countries.

Getting a Charge

Another day, another charger. We've been flooded with these things, but some are unusual.

The Octofire charges eight USB devices at once. It's $80 from BiteMyApple.co. The Xolar 3000 from Bracketron, $50, lets the sun charge your gizmos while you're on the golf course or at the beach. The Konnect Two, $50 from JunoPower, charges two devices while also serving as an ultra-bright flashlight -- a dog walker's favorite.

Internuts

• WhoDoYou.com offers help on finding a handyman, painter, doctor or whatever. The recommendations are culled from public Facebook posts in your area.

• Memrise.com has foreign language instruction as well as lessons in science and literature. The repetitive nature of its quizzes makes learning easier.

• PrivNote.com enables a person to write a note to someone that will self-destruct after they read it. They get a link to it in their email or text message, and you get notified when it's read. You can even give the note a reference number.

• Time to Sunburn from wolframalpha.com tells you how long you can stay in the sun, based on your skin type, time of day and location. Search "Time to Sunburn" to find it.

From Cassette Tape to Digital Music

If you Google "How to Turn a Cassette Tape into MP3s," you'll get a CNET article that walks you through every step. We found it after a reader asked, but we bet a lot of people have old tapes they'd like to preserve and play on a computer, phone, tablet or digital player.

The teacher on this site warns you that there are a lot of steps involved. Before proceeding, check to see if you can buy the CD or MP3 version at Amazon, iTunes or eBay. Most everything is available in digital form.

To convert tapes yourself, you'll use the free program Audacity for Windows, Mac or Linux, as well as iTunes, also free. There's a video tutorial as well as a step-by-step picture guide on CNET.

Bob and Joy can be contacted by email at bobschwab@gmail.com and joy.schwabach@gmail.com.

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