Up, Up, Down, Down, Left, Right, Left, Right, B, A, Select, Start

Perhaps the perfect follow up to my What the Bleep? post would have to be this true story [if this really is reality, mind you] coming out of Shanghai about video gaming. Apparently, one man stabbed another man to death because he stole his cyber sword. Um, by "cyber sword" I mean an imaginary sword that only exists in a video game. Here's the lowdown:

"Qiu Chengwei, 41, stabbed competitor Zhu Caoyuan repeatedly in the chest after he was told Zhu had sold his 'dragon saber,' used in the popular online game, 'Legend of Mir 3.'" I guess Qiu lent the video game weapon to Zhu who then sold it to someone else. Qiu went to the police to report the crime, who I guess told him to go get a life because they couldn't arrest a guy for selling an imaginary sword. This lack of justice incited Qiu to violence.

OK, if the story ends here, that's plenty enough to make me shake my head in disbelief, but it's not over yet. Perhaps what is even more ridiculous is how much cash old Zhu ended up getting for this cyber sword: almost $900. NINE HUNDRED DOLLARS! FOR A VIDEO GAME SWORD! THAT YOU WOULD NEVER BE ABLE TO HOLD IN YOUR HANDS! THAT TOM CRUISE WOULD HAVE BEEN UNABLE TO WIELD IN THE LAST SAMURAI!

I deliberately stay away from video games and this is exactly why. Well, not that I'm afraid of getting killed for pawning off someone's cyber sword, but for losing touch with reality. The video game industry, which used to direct their marketing efforts towards parents to buy games for their kids, are now marketing adult games to adults. We Generation X'ers never grew up. Hooray for us. Now I'm not going to play holier than thou here: I was pretty skilled at removing the spinal column of that Hollywood dude with sunglasses in Mortal Combat when I was in college [Sub-zero was da bomb]. But when I was a senior in college I finally gave my Sega Genesis away to an 11 year-old. True, giving away a violence filled game like that to a child probably wasn't the wisest decision, but the kid turned out OK, and I haven't owned a video game system since.

This story of Qiu and Zhu proves that you can get so involved in a game that you lose the ability to distinguish between reality and fantasy. Video games are like any other addictive vice: moderation is the key. Not to offend my gaming friends, but "check yo'self before you wreck yo'self" because you might just be an addict. Step away from the controller every once in awhile and get some sun. Use sunscreen. Leave your cyber sword at home where it belongs.

If Roald Dahl were writing his Willie Wonka books today, I'm positive the Oompa Loompas would sing a song about Play Station.

***Note: The title of this posting is the code you used to have to enter in at the beginning of the Nintendo game Contra to get unlimited lives. How sad is it that I can remember that but nothing that I learned in high school math?