It is a sinking feeling that any Web surfer knows all too well. You click on a an interesting looking link, and suddenly you are on a Geocities site. Geocities provides free web space to virtually any page designer, which in itself is a good thing. However, companies of this type make money by selling advertising, conveniently located on your web site. This usually takes the form of popup ads, in effect an extra web page which drops down from the top of your screen and covers most of your toolbar buttons. They also bring frequent browser crashes and screen freezes, especially if you have the nerve to hit the back button. Geocities places these things on every page on every site, unless the site owner is willing to have a banner on all pages instead, thereby ruining their look. Considering the problems these sites cause for surfers, and the lengthy URLs that go with them, it is reasonable to ask if anyone really uses the company as a host. Actually, yes. Geocities claims to host about eight per cent of all web pages on the Internet, and there is no reason to doubt the claim. After all, America Online is the largest ISP. The always capable Yahoo bought Geocities recently, so at least there is hope. If nothing else, Yahoo dumped the watermark and composed a better Terms of Service agreement.
This column normally avoids reviewing Geocities pages as they are not usually worth the aggravation, unless the editorís deadline is approaching and a few more sites are needed to pad a review essay. However, there are those sites which are simply too strong to ignore, regardless of their cyberlocale. ZOCo is such.
Grayde Bowen edits the paper version of his English wargaming magazine and has reprinted articles from the first twenty-five issues on his site. There are over 140 files on ZOCo, mainly game reviews organized alphabetically. Bowenís witty reviews are more along the lines of commentary. He discusses his reactions to the game as he plays it and offers appropriate strategies. He does not review games as they come out. One is just as likely to find a simulation from the 1980s as from this year on site. There are also miniatures materials and reviews offered.
Bowen also tinkers with game design and there many player aids, scenarios, and variants on the site. In addition, ZOCo offers a game assistance program for Avalon Hillís Hannibal. This plays the battle cards for the defensive side and thus makes the game playable solitaire. In addition, he includes two free gamekits--Reds (Russian Civil War, strategic with political rules), and Dervishes (Anglo-Egyptian campaigns against the Mahdists in the 1880s).
In short, this is a pretty good site, despite its web host. By all means visit, but kept a bottle of tranquilizers handy.
Peter L. de Rosa
Note: The original version of this review appeared in Strategist 29 (April 1999):1, 5 as "Geocities." The Strategist is the newsletter of the Strategy Gaming Society.
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