In a famous scene in the first Matrix movie, a character takes a bite out of a juicy steak. He knows it's not real, but enjoys it anyway. In some ways, a video game -- just moving pixels on the screen -- is a similar virtual reality experience. No, the aliens in Halo 3 are not real, but we pretend they are. That is how a game can pull you from a living-room couch into a foreign realm.
For some, though, video games are too compelling -- too addictive. The warning signs are obvious: compulsive playing, scorning friends and family in the real world, an inability to think about other subjects. Ten million people have signed up to play the PC role-playing game World of Warcraft. In Halo 3, the wildly popular first-person shooter for Xbox 360, almost 7 billion people have been killed online since its debut, and 11 million die each day, according to ITwire.com.