More MS news articles for April 2000

Online Games Provide a 'Digital-Bridge' for the Home-Bound and Homesick

Wednesday April 5, 5:20 am Eastern Time
Company Press Release

SAN FRANCISCO, April 5 /PRNewswire/ -- Every weekend Justin Acker and his father play cards. It doesn't matter that Justin lives on the other side of the globe. The Internet allows this family to play an international game of hearts and spades and talk like never before.

Justin Acker, age 27, is currently teaching English in the small Korean town of Pusan. Justin looked back to his family in New York and the time they spent sharing stories around the kitchen table, playing cards. Phone calls were made and post cards were sent, but the interaction was not there. Sensing his son's homesickness, Jerry Acker suggested

"On Sunday mornings, which is Saturday night back in America, my family and I have a regular games session," said Justin. "It makes me feel like I was back at home playing games like I always have with my family."

"Sometimes we have the whole family, including my mother, playing from New York, Korea and Texas!" said Justin. "It's really interesting to sit at my computer and be able to talk instantly to relatives who are so far away."

Playing games is "not only much cheaper than the phone," said Justin. " provides a conducive atmosphere for 'visiting' my family remotely and restores my childhood memories."

Distance is not the only obstacle. For Sharon Foster, spinal meningitis caused her to go deaf at the early age of eleven. A college graduate, mother of four and a successful aerospace industry veteran, Sharon has done everything she wanted to do.

Sharon enjoys playing games on "I'm treated like a normal person," says Sharon. "I can think, play, and chat as fast as anyone, and my lack my lack of hearing isn't an issue -- for me or the people I encounter there.

"The Net is a great equalizer for people like me, who often struggle in the offline world simply because of other peoples' biases and misconceptions," Sharon said.

Just as Justin and Sharon have used to communicate with others and reach out in different ways, some use it to find themselves. An enthusiast of crossword puzzles, Irene Bean enjoys the personal time she spends challenging herself.

Five years ago, Irene was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis and has experienced some cognitive and physical limitations. This kept Irene from solving her crossword puzzles. The ease of pointing and clicking has allowed her to do what she loves again.

Because her MS makes it difficult to do two things at once, Irene tends to shy away from's multiplayer games, which often involve as much chatting with your opponents and partners as actual game playing.

"'s crossword and Jumble games let me know right away if I've made an error - and many times, just getting one letter in the right place is enough to help my mind move in the right direction," says Irene.

The Internet has formed thousands of communities involving isolated people seeking to overcome loneliness in its various forms. Bonnie Kipp of Dillon, Montana plays from her home because it is too dangerous for her to drive at night.

"Many of my friends on have very few friends off the Net, and keeps them from getting lonely," Bonnie said. "It also lets many players talk to each other and lend a shoulder to cry on."

"It is more than just playing games ... It's a means for some to share their experiences and interests," said Bonnie.

Experts Available for Interview:
Dr. Henry Jenkins Director                                      Direct:  617-253-6447
Program in Comparative Media Studies          Fax:     617-258-5133
MIT School of Humanities and Social Sciences  Email:

Dr. Lillian Beeson
Associate Professor of Communication          Home:    724-864-2973
University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg        Direct:  724-836-9861
Fax:     724-836-7160

Dr. Michael Hawley
Alex W. Dreyfoos Professor of                 Direct:  N/A
Media Technology                              Email:
MIT Media Lab (with 6.5 million members) brings families and friends, wherever they are, together on a regular basis.

Erick Hachenburg, president and CEO, is available to talk about the explosive growth in online gaming and the 'sense of community'.

Nick Rush, VP of Programming, -- inventor of the famous "Flying Toasters" screen saver and "You Don't Know Jack" Internet version, is a key player in the evolution of online entertainment since the Web's earliest days.