Recent events in my personal life have forced me away from my pursuit of higher education and into the world of Satan. You fight the Evil One Himself at the end of Tekken II. I haven't done battle with the Lord of Darkness as of yet . but, mark my words, he will be defeated.

The youth of this nation are fleeing their broken homes and gathering at the arcades. I know about them. They tell me things over the internet on rec.arts.video.games. They are obsessed with the art of the perfect fight . and I am one of them. Nowhere else can you find a somewhat coherent discussion of the finer points of Law's 10 hit combo versus the powerful backflip potential of Lei.

It's two o'clock in the morning and I stumble, bleary-eyed and somewhat delirious, into 7-11 in search of nacho cheese and a quick adrenaline fix. There are others there, in that dark corner, gathered around the temple that is our new god. We are here to pay our tithe to The Church of Satan.

"Can I come in and save you?" I ask my fellow gladiator somewhat timidly. With my videogame Betty, Elizabeth, at my side I hold some kind of geek status symbol. We're 'just friends,' but they don't know that. Somehow watching the boys play videogames isn't the same as sitting at the top of the ramp, but the recent glut of high school skater Betties has forced her out of the ramp market and into the game market. It's supply and demand . guns and butter. She's found her niche. A girl is something seldom seen in the arcades of America. It's got something to do with girls not needing the repetitive hand motion that boys like me derive intense pleasure from that's her pet theory at least. I'm sure if there were a cooking or sewing game she'd be all over it. But this is Tekken II a fighting game the domain of men.

"Sure you can come in, but I'm not going to be the one that needs saving," he replies with bravado. He may be right about that. I've seen him pump about a thousand quarters into the machine. By now, he should know what he's doing.

But I dispatch him easily by making use of "cheap moves" simple routines which do the job without elegance and complexity. The hardcore gamers eschew them, but I figure all is fair in love, war, and Tekken II.

Grumbling a little, he has to call his friend in to beat me which he did with ease. Obviously, he had carefully studied the Tekken hints in Gamepro or at the website (http://marylin.is.s.u-tokyo.ac.jp/members/cocoa/tekken2/), and therefore was not a man to be trifled with.

I am not a Tekken master, but I take great delight in putting people in their place. Especially those who feel it's necessary to hog the machine with their friends and play twenty bucks worth of games each. That's just bad videogame etiquette, and nothing makes more of impression on people like that than a random freak with a videogame Betty sucking down gulps of The Psycho, Nitro, Hardcore Drink in a Can, beating the hell out of them and leaving.

See, Tekken II isn't just a game . it's a way of life and there are plenty of lessons to be learned at The Church of Satan. Always share it's not nice to hog the machine. Dispose of your enemies in the quickest and simplest fashion. Only fools and geeks care about "cheap moves." Complex mastery of a game may look good on a resume, but you will be annihilated when you step out of your little world and into a reality where only the results are of value.

You must be your own barometer of success. Your friends' accomplishments may make you look good, but they never do anything to improve your skills. Only when you can beat the force of Evil Incarnate can you really call yourself a man.

Set "little-g" goals for yourself. Except in extraordinary circumstances, you're never going to make Lei's superpower spinning kick connect it takes too long to power up. It's always much better to do a little damage at a time instead of going for the kill all at once.

There is nothing more pure on God's green Earth than fighting another person mano-a-mano (err . joystick-a-joystick) in a battle of Tekken II. Much as talk shows have become the confession booths and group therapy sessions of the modern age, videogames have become forums to express one's rage and satisfy the primal instincts in a safe and easy manner. Everyone is equal before the machine and only those with skill and determination will triumph.

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