The hordes of Shanghainese who cram into the city's Internet cafes every day to play computer games never fail to astonish.
For hour upon hour they sit in front of their monitors, their wide eyes glued to the screen, their fingers frantically hitting buttons. Every so often someone lets out the sort of pained yelp you would expect from a man experiencing limb amputation.
For a second you are genuinely concerned for the "gamer" in question. Perhaps he (and "gamers" are predominantly male) has somehow managed to electrocute himself. Or maybe, in his excitement, he has fallen off his seat and injured his back. No. He has just lost at Tekken 3.
The passion and dedication of these gaming addicts is, on one level, extremely amusing. Just watching their facial expressions is often enough to make you laugh out loud.
However, spending so much time in front of a computer screen is tremendously unhealthy. It can be fatal. Last October a Taiwanese man died of exhaustion after playing computer games non-stop for 32 hours in an Internet cafe. He was found in the cafe's toilets, bleeding from the nose and foaming at the mouth, and died before he reached hospital. Just days earlier a South Korean man perished in similar circumstances, after spending 86 hours in an Internet cafe.
Most "gamers", of course, do not suffer this unfortunate fate. Even so, making the local Internet cafe your home has a number of other negative side effects.
Many people worldwide, usually adolescent boys, have had their lives completely taken over by computer games. They play them most of the day, think about them for the rest of it and then dream about them when they go to sleep.
Meanwhile, as the addiction sets in, everything else suffers. Friends and family are neglected. Homework is ignored. Other pastimes are given up. The "gamer" soon becomes a lonely, underachieving nerd with little to talk about except the latest level he has completed. The computer is now his closest companion.
His body is also mistreated. Positioned in the same seat for hours on end, the gaming addict inhales only the stale, smoke-filled air that tends to linger in Internet cafes. He fails to get the exercise his body needs and is so enwrapped in his world of cyber heroes and villains that he skips meals too. So on top of all the mental defects and problems he has developed, this pitiful being has also transformed himself into a pasty, undernourished physical wreck.
Obviously computer games can be great fun, especially with the advanced and often stunning graphics that we are seeing these days. However, the key word is "moderation". Computer games represent only one of the hobbies that we have at our disposal. There are plenty of others which can be found outside Internet cafes.