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Electronic - game sales rose 38% last year

Sales of console video games and PC game software rose 38 percent last year, making games the fastest-growing segment of the entertainment industry, according to the Interactive Digital Software As-so-ci-a-tion.

The game industry celebrated its successes and rolled out new goodies last week in Atlanta at the Electronic Entertainment Expo.

Total sales and rentals of games in 1997 was $5.6 billion, the denomination that finally afforded "those silly kid things" a measure of respect. There are about 16 million game consoles in U.S. homes, and about 40 percent of U.S. homes have at least one personal computer.

The expo, or E3, is most notable for game unveilings that offer a view of the hot titles for the all-important holiday sales season. There will be more games for girls, with games that focus on problem solving and interactions - the kinds of things rarely found in games geared toward boys.

Speaking of the testosterone set, there's another fast-twitch fiber shooter on the horizon. Max Payne, a 3D game by the twisted souls who set Duke Nukem loose on the world, got its first public preview at E3. This is likely to be one of the most anticipated titles from 3D Realms, and one of the top sellers from the new publishing and distribution house Gathering of Developers.

There were also updates on developments in online gaming, including the ongoing saga involving the Cyberathlete Professional League, or CPL, and the Professional Gamers League, or PGL. The CPL just scored marketing and promotional support from Babbage's and Software Etc. The PGL is continuing to secure the services of some of the world's hottest gamers, including Thresh, the Michael Jordan of Quake. - (New York Times News Service)

Writer to run PC - sans Microsoft

In 1937, Ernest Vincent Wright wrote a 50,000-word novel without using the letter "e." Perhaps exhausted by his labors, Wright died the day his book was published.

Wright's tragic end comes to mind as Boston Globe columnist Hiawatha Bray begins an experiment with a personal computer that has absolutely no Microsoft software on board. "I'm going to run a PC without Microsoft's help, and live to tell the tale," Bray said.

The columnist plans a diary of progress reports at the Web site (www.monitortan.com). (New York Times News Service)

Rein in Net addiction with help of doctor

People who seem addicted to the Internet often show a bumper crop of psychiatric disorders like manic-depression, and treating those other conditions might help them rein in their urge to be online, a study suggests.

On average, Internet "addicts" in the study reported having five psychiatric disorders at some point in their lives, a finding that "just blew me away," said psychiatrist Nathan Shapira of the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine.

It's unclear whether the Internet problem should be considered a dis-or-der or just a symptom of something else, or whether certain disorders promote the excessive online use, he said.

He and colleagues studied 14 people who'd spent so much time online that they were facing problems like broken relationships, job loss and dropping out of school. The study participants, whose average age was 35, were interviewed for three to five hours with standard questions to look for psychiatric disorders.

Being hooked on the Internet is not a recognized disorder. But Shapira said the excessive online use by the study participants would qualify as a disorder of impulse control, in the same category as kleptomania or compulsive shopping. In fact, he suggested the Internet problem be called "Internetomania" or "Netomania," rather than an addiction.