- The Washington Times - Friday, October 22, 2004

Each month, the Browser zeroes in on a few pop-culture places on the World Wide Web offering the coolest links to free interactive sounds and action.

Netting an election

This year’s presidential race gets a bit more personal through the free online challenge ELections: Your Adventure in Politics (www.ciconline.org/elections).

Developed by the D.C.-based Cable in the Classroom, the game gives up to two broadband-connected players the chance to participate in the political process through a 3-D multimedia board game and role-playing adventure.

This virtual self-directed run for the American presidency involves picking a party, defining a platform and identifying five key issues. Players may also determine which events to participate in, decide how to spend campaign dollars, choose key states to run in and hold fund-raisers.

The game combines decision making (choices are selected from multiple screens), activity within an interactive map of the United States and spinning the wheel that magically moves donkey and elephant game pieces along the paths.

As with traditional-looking board games, when players land on specific squares, they’re given tasks. In this case the tasks are political — including being forced to participate in a senior-citizen-filled big-band dinner that raises zero campaign funds and getting a lucky break such as being named the most admired person by a magazine — and paying for a news conference to tout the achievement.

A typical game takes about 20 minutes to play and uses the Macromedia Flash and Shockwave browser plug-ins.

Winners are determined after both players reach a circular finishing area. An animated segment then takes over to color in states captured by the candidates, adds up electoral votes and announces the next president.

Infinitely more important than the board game, the site also hosts a major educational experience for its players.

Sidebars to the challenge, titled Digging Deeper, pop up during many of the events. They offer the text-based sections Democratic Process, Getting Into the Race, Primary Election Process, Party Conventions and America Votes, while also featuring CNN News segments and History Channel documentary footage.

The sections offer such wonderful video moments as a look at the “Dewey Defeats Truman” newspaper debacle of 1948, the 1912 Republican primary pitting Teddy Roosevelt against William Howard Taft, and George Wallace’s third party bid in the 1968 campaign.

Cyber ‘Saw’

Although the thought of a presidential election can be quite a terrifying experience, the latest horror film to get violence voyeurs in theaters this Halloween promises to be much scarier.

“Saw,” the psychological thriller from Lions Gate Films, offers a Dr. Phibes-like serial killer who revels in torturing his victims by forcing them to escape from nightmare-inducing scenarios.

Its Web site (www.sawmovie.com) takes cyber promotions to a new level with its twisted, Gothic-inspired artistic interactivity.

A Marilyn Manson music video came to mind as I came upon pulsing bloody montages, moving screens and plenty of human screams as I navigated the highlighted areas by clicking on the scribblings of a pencil.

During the on-screen cinematic chaos, visitors are tasked with dragging photo paper in a developer’s tray. The pictures enable viewers to do a number of things. They can reveal plot twists, assemble bloody shards of glass to display the image of a young girl, drag a stethoscope to hear the heartbeats of potential victims and move a key to open a lock before an unfortunate chap meets his demise from a pair of whirring drill bits.

Further clues to the nature of the film allow visitors to click on such headlines as Victim Survives Maniac’s Game, Psychopath Teaches Sick Life Lessons and Missing Man Discovered at Bizarre Murder Scene.

The site definitely isn’t for kiddies, or anyone who values having pleasant dreams. But it will amaze Web designers through its dynamic presentation.

Have a cool site for the online multimedia masses? Write to Joseph Szadkowski at the Browser, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, DC 20002; call 202/636-3016; or send an e-mail message (jszadkowski @washingtontimes.com).

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