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By Eric Goodwin

McClatchy Newspapers

In this increasingly computerized world, we hold these truths to be self-evident: People like playing video games and they like meeting other people. Kongregate (www.kongregate.com) brings these two things together to create an entertaining experience for gamers of all stripes.

Here’s how Kongregate works: First, developers upload their original Flash games to the site. Kongregate members then play the games, rating them and offering feedback just like site members can do to videos uploaded on YouTube (www.youtube.com).

However, Kongregate goes a step further in its community features. Once you join the site, you can participate in its points system, which rewards users for their social contributions to the site. For example, rating a game earns members five points while uploading a game earns 75 points. (The site promises that members will be able to redeem these points for prizes at a later date.) Kongregate also sponsors challenges, like collecting special coins hidden in various games, which unlock cards to be used in an upcoming collectible card game on the site — almost like a digital version of Pokemon. Membership also means access to the site’s chat rooms, which conveniently open up in a window right next to the game you select to play. There are also forums where you can meet other members and discuss topics that you care about.

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Because game submission is open to everyone (everyone who can program in Flash that is), not all of them are gems. However, the highest rated games are featured on the site’s front page, organized by category.

Although still in the beta stage, Kongregate (www.kongregate.com) brilliantly blends casual gaming with social interaction in a site that you’ll find yourself visiting often.

Eric Goodwin writes Hotlink for McClatchy-Tribune News Service. You can send e-mail to egoodwinmctinfoservices.com.

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