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Sunday, March 1, 2015 |  Madison, WI: 18.0° F  Fair
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Not all fun and games

I was born too soon. Believe me, a couple of generations of adults look with envy at the multitude of electronic devices that take playing games to the verge of reality, close enough at its most sophisticated to be dubbed virtual reality. In our childhoods we were consigned to decks of cards or rolling dice to introduce elements of chance into cardboard scenarios. Today, it's like being in the middle of a movie - and they don't call it play anymore, it's gaming.

And it is incessant. For years, my 10-year-old nephew Julian has had his Game Boy as a constant companion. I wonder at the skills he is developing. Correction: I wonder what skills he is developing.

Of course, I can always play the modern games, but I don't have the enthusiasm or, frankly, the unfettered imagination of my youth to really enjoy the capabilities of the modern gaming system. Or maybe it's the lack of time or the availability of other time-consuming activities, like web surfing, or earning a living, that crowd out the game-playing compulsion. My interest pretty much peaked with Space Invaders.

But Ben Heckendorn is a guy completely of his age. Heckendorn, widely recognized among game cognoscenti under the name Ben Heck, is the subject of contributor Josh Wimmer's cover story, "The God of Mods." Heckendorn modifies gaming hardware and software to such creative effect that he has become an icon in the gaming world.  As I admit, Ben Heck and I inhabit different worlds, except in one area: Pinball wizards transcend the ages.

I direct you attention to our Opinion column this week for a visit from former editor Marc Eisen. While at Isthmus, Eisen was well versed in city issues and was especially competent in the area of development, so you'll want to read his take on the course of certain development projects currently attracting attention. His opinion is informed by decades of observation. I must offer him one refinement to his commentary. Though Ed Garvey may utter "Whoa, Nelly," it was the venerable ABC college football announcer Keith Jackson who imprinted the phrase on the American psyche. Oh, and look for Eisen's article on Jim Doyle in the May issue of Milwaukee Magazine.

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