The Asahi Shimbun ran a story in 1979 about a man arrested in a theft case who admitted he spent the bulk of 2.7 million yen he had stolen on video gaming.

A related article, headlined "Overheated Invaders Game," concerned junior and senior high school students who fed fake coins into Space Invader game machines to game the system, so to speak.

Well before the age of the Internet and smart phones, coffee shops around Japan had those game machines in the place of regular tables. Many people must still remember the thrill of shooting down the invaders.

This year marks the 40th anniversary of this epoch-making video game, and a commemorative event is currently being held in Tokyo.

Since its dawn to the present day, the video game world has undergone frenetic development. Nowadays, the battles and adventures taking place on the screen are movie-quality. And some competitive players have become like star athletes, earning considerable wealth and fame.

But along with the growing attraction of video games, their hold on players also appears to have grown, and the World Health Organization is adding excessive video gaming to its list of "mental disorders" this year.

Typical symptoms are said to include the inability to control one's urge to play and continuing to play even when one is in trouble.

In South Korea, a youth died of so-called economy class syndrome after an intense gaming session that lasted 86 hours.

According to some research findings, Internet addiction lowers the brain's functions significantly, as does alcohol addiction.

Around the world, there are many maxims warning against excessive drinking. One goes to the effect, "The first (drink) is for health, the second is for happiness, the third is for pleasure, and the fourth is for folly." And another: "The god of liquor has drowned more persons than Neptune, the god of the sea."

New maxims would be in order for people who can't kick their Net or gaming addiction.

--The Asahi Shimbun, Jan. 13

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Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a popular daily column that takes up a wide range of topics, including culture, arts and social trends and developments. Written by veteran Asahi Shimbun writers, the column provides useful perspectives on and insights into contemporary Japan and its culture.