The call for new columnists to apply to this site came at a good time for me. I had been thinking about getting back into writing internet articles for a while. Back in 2000, I wrote a few, which were posted mainly to RPGDot, and WomenGamers. I gave writing for the Internet a rest when I started a new job, but 18 months later I was ready to get back on board. I typed off an application to Flux.

    And so the Ninth Circle was born. Over the past year the column has gone from three-weekly to fortnightly installments. When writing I have tried to stay away from basing the articles around a specific part of Diablo 2. I have done this mainly because Flux covered this type of thing in his column, and also because guest articles tend to focus there too. Instead, I have chosen topics like the growing trend of gaming for cash, and looked back at great games of the past.

    It has been an enjoyable year, and I?m not about to stop any time soon. One thing about computer games is that they never stop changing, which means there is always something interesting to write about. I have a fairly wide taste in games, so I play Strategy and RPG games at home, and FPS games when I?m at the Baang. When one genre is a bit quiet, there will be something happening in the others.

    If I had to pick one highlight of writing The Ninth Circle, it would have to be the feedback I get from readers. It varies widely from column to column, from over 100 to less than 5! I haven?t always had the time to respond to each one individually, so let me say here- thanks for writing in. I really appreciate it, and I do read every one, even if I don?t reply to all of them. A couple of weeks ago I finally switched from dial-up to broadband, so that should make it easier for me to reply. The main constraint to responding is time, and the dial-up connection meant it could take half a minute to switch screens in Hotmail, but that?s all in the past now. So if you feel like writing in—please do, even if it?s just a quick note to say you liked or hated the latest column.

    The columns that were specifically about computer games were always those that got the biggest response (surprise!) so expect most of the future columns to be about aspects of computer gaming. Having said that, I intend to cast the net a bit wider next year, and look at books, films, and other subjects too. However, the Ninth Circle will keep its focus on computer games. There will always be something new to talk about in this area. The computer games industry remains one that is dominated by change. It is also coming into a fairly new phase- retro. There are now plenty of gamers old enough (like me!) to fondly remember games of 20 years ago and more. Just as the 60s suddenly became big in music again in the 80s, so the 80s will be coming back in computers in this decade. The other growing trend, that of competitive play for money, is not something I see being the subject of a Ninth Circle column for at least another year, and probably more. Next year?s World Cyber Games in San Francisco remains an event to watch.

    The computer games trend that still gains the most headlines is that of the massively multiplayer online game (and variations on that name). So far, these have proven to be quite disappointing, at least in the US and Europe. Everquest, thought by many to be a great success, has a bit over 500,000 account. In Asia, Ragnarok Online has half a million players in Thailand alone. And it?s not the biggest online game- that honour goes to Lineage: The Bloodpledge, with well over 2 million players. Just why online-only games have failed to take off in the US and Europe to the same extend remains an open and interesting question. Expect one or more Ninth Circle columns to look at this area over the next year.

    So, it?s been a fun first year for the Ninth Circle, and you can expect the column to continue into next year. See you there!

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