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Gaming has come a long way since the first tic-tac-toe board was scratched on a caveman’s wall. These days, many teachers use classroom games to help students remember material. The Army uses simulators to train potential soldiers. You can get a workout by dancing along with a digital DJ on a touch-sensitive foot pad. And now lawyers can hone their skills and train the next generation of litigators with a host of new games, both low- and high-tech. “ Lawsuit!” is a good introduction into the legal world for a young lawyer-to-be. It’s a standard get-to-the-end-first board game, complete with dice and game pieces. Each spot on the colorful game board displays a common situation in the life of a lawyer. You may be asked to “ Pay $5,000 for new office supplies,” or collect money because “You worked hard on motion papers.” But you may also land on the “Lawsuit” space — and that’s when you draw a Lawsuit card and see what the hand of fate deals you. Tina Eskreis Nelson created the game as a way to explain her husband’s job (and her own; she’s also a lawyer) to her young children. “They really, really liked the game, and when their friends came over, they’d drag out the game. Their friends and their friends’ parents played the game,” says Nelson, who lives in Lakeville, Conn. Nelson wrote the game, and in particular those ominous Lawsuit cards, to be understood by the younger set: “Mary sued her friend Elizabeth for invasion of privacy after Elizabeth took Mary’s diary home and read it to her brother,” reads one. But Nelson says the game has also been played in middle schools and even college classes. The game garners praise from adults, too: “My kids like it, but I have a lot of fun playing it too,” Nelson says a parent recently told her. Part of the fun for adults, Nelson says, is participation. Appeal cards and Settlement cards are available if you don’t like your verdict, and this, says Nelson, is where “the players get their two cents in: �Appeal, don’t appeal.’ Everybody gets involved.” There’s more amusement to be had in the world of video gaming, especially when you’ve got a star lawyer named Phoenix Wright. “ Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney” made its debut early in 2006, and its sequel, “ Phoenix Wright: Justice for All” was released in January. A third installment, “Phoenix Wright: Trials and Tribulations,” is due for release in September. The games are for the Nintendo DS. The games follow Wright, an insecure criminal defense attorney who sweats profusely whenever the heat is on, bumbles his way through a series of murder trials, faces off against obnoxious prosecutors, and tries to save face before an easily misled judge who looks like a vacuous Papa Smurf. “Phoenix Wright” is as much a detective game as a lawyer game. You’ll end up collecting evidence from crime scenes, running back and forth trying to get witnesses’ stories straight — not to mention trying to avoid offending your boss — before you even get to the courtroom. When you do, though, you better hope your memory is good; as each line of the witness’s testimony scrolls across the screen, it’ll be up to you to decide if there’s a hole in the story. If you spot a fallacy, or if you just want to up the pressure, you can press the witness or present conflicting evidence from the court record. Press at the wrong time or present irrelevant evidence too often, though, and the judge’s patience will run out and you’ll lose the case. The trials are filled with twists and turns. Expect witnesses to change their stories midstream and for new revelations to come to light as you cross-examine. In one trial, what seemed to be irrefutable evidence of innocence — an autopsy report saying the victim died instantly — was tossed in favor of an updated autopsy report. In the middle of the trial! You can even join in the action by shouting “Objection” into the console’s microphone — the DS is equipped with voice-activation technology. One more tip: While the DS is portable, making the Phoenix Wright games ideal to keep you quietly amused during a long commute, it’s also worth playing with the sound turned up, if only to hear the shrill attorneys squeal “Hold it!” That might not go over all that well on the Red Line at 7 a.m., though. In all, the series is a fun challenge for lawyers and for gamers, and while the games don’t present the most realistic slice of courtroom life, who wants realism when you can have witnesses breaking down on the stand, declaring “That’s right, I did it”? If you are a stickler for realism, however, there’s a game for you, too. “Objection: The Game” places you on the defense team during a murder trial. The prosecutor will ask the witnesses some proper questions (“What did you do after you left the party?”) and some inappropriate ones (“Did you meet anyone at the party you would like to date?”). Your job is to object to the improper questions. But it’s more complicated than that. You have to choose the appropriate grounds for your objection out of a long list — to hit the I key if the question is irrelevant or the V key if it’s vague, for instance. And time counts, so you’d better be quick. If murder’s not your speed, Transmedia Games, the maker of “Objection,” has more options available at objection.com. You can purchase two “Civil Objection” games in the same mold: “AutoNeg” and “SlipFall.” (Yes, you’ll be trying to get your accident-prone client, Patsy Plunge, the best settlement.) There’s also an “Expert Witness” game that tackles the particulars of expert testimony. And the best thing about the “Objection” series: According to the site, the game counts for CLE credit in 18 states. Sadly, Virginia, Maryland, and the District are not on the list. “Objection” is, unsurprisingly, more cerebral than other games. It’s meant to be a practice session — so expect your brain to get a workout. And if you make a wrong call, the judge will reprimand you. But you’ll learn why your call was wrong and what the right answer is, including reminders of the relevant case law. And you can replay a level until you get it exactly right. So what’s stopping you, Counselor? Get your game on!
Jennifer Wand can be contacted at [email protected].

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