Department of the Best Things in Life Are Free, Computer Division
If you're a parent whose kids didn't get a new computer game for Christmas -- or if they did, and they've already beaten it -- or if you're feeling in need of a new game yourself -- you probably ought to look into freeware games.
Moreover, if you want to play one of those MMORPGs (Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game), you don't have to shell out money for a monthly subscription. There are quite a few free MMORPGs out there which are free to download, free to play, and just as fun to play as the big-name ones. But pick carefully. Some games are free, but playing them on the server isn't... which means it's not really free.
Maple Story is a good example of a company-run semi-free MMORPG. It comes from Singapore, but folks from all over the world play. It's only got 2D graphics, but those graphics are charming. It's still a work in progress, but the world is big, the community seems nice, and you can't waste your time on pointless player vs. player battles. What's not to like?
However, not everything is free. The money-making idea is that there are items in the game (character facial expressions, non-stardard issue clothing, and similar cute things) which customize your character and can be bought with earned-in-game money. But what if you really really want something and don't have the in-game money? Why, you pay real money to get a card full of game money. Devious, huh? But wait, there's more! Some of these cute items only exist for 90 days or so. At which point, you'll naturally want more cute stuff for your character, so....
Yes, there are games out there which are absolutely free, whose creators don't even ask for shareware donations. There are also whole communities of people who love to play games so much that they'll even play untested freeware games and tell you what's good, bad, and indifferent.
Acid Play seems to be a very solid site for freeware downloads and reviews. You can pick out free games by genre, or look up at the top for lists of the best rated freeware games out there. There are even forums to discuss the game or get help. You can also download trial versions of commercial games.
If you like a free game but it's giving you trouble, you can also search the Web for the game name and "walkthrough" or "manual".