My heart hammered in my chest as I raced out of the doorway just ahead of another explosion. Fragments from the blast sent pinpricks of searing pain shooting through my nervous system and gave me a new spurt of energy. Screaming like a madman, I sped across the courtyard and then scrambled over a low wall, falling into what I hoped was some sort of temporary refuge. The constant string of explosions abated, so I attempted to collect myself and take stock of my situation. My injuries weren't all that serious, so I hastily popped a pain pill into my parched mouth and washed it with a refreshing swig of water from my flask. Noting an angle in the wall to my left, I scurried around a small shrub towards the safety of two solid walls at my back and the protective screen of the bush. And I found my salvation there, nestled in the shadows of a recess at the bottom of the wall. Like a jackal to carrion I pounced and scooped my prize up, then crouched in my obscure hiding spot. I tensely scanned through the leaves of the bush in front of me, alert for any hint of movement. My search was almost instantly rewarded, as my pursuer, howling like a banshee, burst through a pair of large wooden gates about twenty yards in front of me. I popped up out of my hiding spot, centered the crosshairs of my newly acquired rocket launcher, and squeezed off a shot just as he turned in my direction. I was close enough to see the look of bloodlust on his face turn to mortal fear in his microsecond recognition of this sudden turn of the tables. The rocket caught him square in the chest, exploded with a satisfying boom, and scattered shards of flesh and gore in all directions. I was safe at last... Right now you might be thinking that I am a covert agent for the CIA, or a bodyguard for a central American drug lord, but with either of those assumptions you would be far off of the correct track. I'm merely a member of the already large and still rapidly growing number of people who regularly play computer video games. Our group is often criticized because of the violent nature and graphic content of many of the games which are currently popular, however I feel that these criticisms are largely unwarranted. In fact, the reasons that I play (and I suspect that the majority of 'gamers' play) have nothing to do with any gruesome attractions and everything to do with a safe, healthy imaginative release. The first and foremost reason that I enjoy playing computer games (and I'm speaking specifically of the genre which is often condescendingly referred to as the shoot-'em-up style) is that they are fun to play. It's no secret that people enjoy being thrilled, a huge segment of our economy is devoted to satisfying this thirst for entertainment. Video games fill a niche in this industry. For a large portion of our history, the methods of satisfying our needs for thrilling entertainment were limited; books and plays were all the entertainment industry had to offer. But the major limiting factor of these forms is their lack of interaction with the person being entertained. Our technology has given us the power to reach out and make the watcher a part of the story, you control the fate of your player, you are intertwined with the action. This is the compelling feature of the popularity of video games. And because of this interaction it is quite easy to become completely absorbed in the action of the game. This is the point where the imagination takes over completely and where, I feel, that the true essence of entertainment is achieved. Your mind is allowed to escape reality, to suspend disbelief, and for the duration of the game allow the computer images to shape your reality. Unfortunately, this is also the point where the most strident attacks against computer video games. Since they are so realistic in their depictions of death and destruction, many feel that they contribute to greater manifestations of violence in society. But wouldn't our worries be more useful in attempting to identify those who are unable to separate a game from reality? As a final point, I would like to state that a large number of computer gamers enjoy action games simply because they represent some of the most advanced software algorithms available. It's a little known fact, but computer game developers are some of the most technically gifted individuals in the software field. That is why many gamers play just to marvel at the achievements that are included in the software. Anyone who has ever waited for a computer to complete some task would have to appreciate the sophistication of an action game that not only provides the players visualization of the action, but also instantly responds to the inputs of the player and recreates the scenes based on those inputs in a manner that allows for complete interactivity. Computer video games offer a wide array of challenges and thrills for those who play them. I find the games exciting for many reasons, not all of them merely for their entertainment value. There are some who believe that video games have an adverse effect on the people who play them. I would have to agree with their assessment for one reason only, I often find myself struggling to find more time in my busy schedule to get in a few more hours of gaming!