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Evolution is a strange thing, indeed. Think about it: there you are, minding your own business as some sort of primordial soup when - all of a sudden - you get hit by a bolt of lightning or some flying lava and all kinds of crazy stuff starts happening. Little strings of chemicals start wrapping around each other, changing your color or making you bubble up a bit. You were happy just being soup, but sheer chance has thrown you onto a speeding expressway with no exit ramp.

First you're a little amoeba, slithering around and stopping occasionally to divide yourself. Soon, you're a bunch of plants … fish … giant flying lizards. One thing leads to another, and in time we have modern humans. While science fiction writers tell us that cockroaches are the most evolved species on earth, they are wrong. Why? Because cockroaches never invented video games.

Science and legions of antisocial teenagers have proven that video games are awesome, but I say they're much, much more than that. From the simplistic dots and lines of Pong to the drool-inducing multi-textured polygons of the GameCube, video games are nothing less than a metaphor for life.

Ever since I can remember, my little brother and I have enjoyed a healthy digitized rivalry. Whenever we collected enough change to rent a game from the local video store, we would beg our mom until she brought us to that holiest of commercially zoned property - the video store. We'd argue over titles for a bit, but then declare peace and leave the store with a boxy gray cartridge. During the car ride home, I would eagerly open the well-worn plastic case to devour the instruction manual, taking time to learn all the intricate quirks of my soon-to-be 8-bit avatar, while my brother just watched the trees pass by.

When we got home, I, armed with my information, would routinely trounce my sibling, but as the day went by - along with all opportunities for us to do something meaningful - my brother got better and better until he was beating me on a regular - and extremely humiliating - basis. I would panic and try to check the manual while we were playing, but all that got me was a sneak attack from behind. Every time we rented a new game, the same thing happened without fail, for all the years and years I wasted away in front of various video game consoles.

A decade later, I can see the same thing happening all over again, but this time, there's no digitized world for me to escape into. I'm sitting in my dorm room looking at the kind of assignment I have learned to dread above all others - the "open ended project" - you know, the kind where your professor throws all structure to the wind, thinking that's going to make things easier for you. But instead of wandering into a world of sunshine, fluffy clouds and endless possibilities, I'm tossed deep into an endless abyss of misdirection, self-doubt and worry, and there's no game guide to show me the secret controller pad combination to get out of it.

I guess it's worth it, though. We must all side-scroll through collegiate life before we jump over Silber on graduation day to save our diplomas from a lake of fire and gain entry into the real world. If we're lucky and that diploma is actually an anthropomorphic mushroom, we can go to the continued academic illusion of graduate school, but sooner or later, those open-ended situations are going to catch up to us.

What we do before we each rescue our own metaphorical Princess Toadstool is - of course - completely open-ended. We can look for a road map for life in a library, search for a secret warp zone or take a lesson from my eight-year old brother circa 1992 and just jump in, thumbs a-flailing. Just watch out for those sneak attacks.

But hey - why worry about that stuff now? We've all still got at least one more semester to screw around with … but more importantly, we all have winter break. Spend it as you like; but as for me, I'll be in my basement, challenging my brother to just one more round of Mario Kart. This time, maybe I won't even read the manual.