Duke Nukem prepares to fire a shrink ray in the first level of his game."Duke Nukem Forever" is the most acclaimed game of the year. Critics are praising its theme song for settling peace talks between North and South Korea. Also, research shows that if the characters in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom had played "Duke Nukem Forever," all the violence in that film wouldn't have happened.
But there is one downside to the game - a condition called "Duke Syndrome."
Duke Syndrome was discovered by Alan Yeats, a researcher at MIT. He noticed that test subjects playing "Duke Nukem Forever" were sweating intensely. He was examining a female subject when something unusual happened.
The woman turned into a stripper.
"I could tell she was a stripper because she was really attractive and wearing just a t-shirt and g-string," Yeats says. "Most non-strippers don't dress like that. They'd be embarrassed because our culture stigmatizes sexuality."
Scientists attempted to talk to the stripper. She told them stories about her coke addiction, leaving one intern severely depressed because he was considering a career in stripping but wasn't aware of its hazards. "At that point, we knew we were dealing with something serious," Yeats says.
An Enemy Within
Duke Syndrome is caused by a naturally occurring microbe in the human body, dubbed the Morgan Microbe after exotic dancer Chesty Morgan. Normally, the Morgan Microbe is only predominant in strippers. But playing "Duke Nukem Forever" lets it flourish in normal humans.
One specific level of the game is to blame: the first driving sequence.
In Episode 1, "Leaving Duke Vegas," Nukem is shrunk to the size of a doll and drives a radio-controlled car through a casino. According to Harold Liston, a neuroscientist at the University of Ohio, this sequence is too intense for most players.
"It [the driving sequence] is really exciting," he says. "Especially the part where you have to get out of your car to remove a barrier blocking your car and a pig shoots at you."
The intensity of the driving sequence duplicates the effects of methamphetamines, giving players hypersexual feelings that allow the Morgan Microbe to take over. Within minutes, their bodies disintegrate and recompose into strippers.
But this is only the beginning.
According to longitudinal studies, Duke Syndrome victims don't remain strippers indefinitely. After a few days, they morph into TV sets. This is because part of "Duke Nukem Forever" was secretly programmed by David Perry, who also programmed the Sega Genesis game Smash TV.
Perry declined my request for an interview, but in a press statement he said, "I admire TV sets' purity, unclouded by delusions of morality, like the delusion that you have to be an alive being doing things and not an inanimate electronic device."
Liston and his team are trying to cure Duke Syndrome by making a game that is the opposite of "Duke Nukem Forever." However, this "cure" has raised moral concerns, given that a game that is the opposite of "Duke Nukem Forever" would clearly be the worst game ever made.
"The cure would be worse than the disease," an anonymous gamer says.
A Major Threat
The World Health Organization calls Duke Syndrome "a major threat" to the human race, citing the fact that if everyone on earth became strippers, the stripping industry would collapse.
"Stripping is an ecosystem," health official Bernard Huckabee says. "It needs a certain amount of non-strippers to function. If everyone were strippers then, paradoxically, there would be no strippers, because no one would be working in factories making stripping poles or the clothes that strippers take off while stripping."
Liston agrees that Duke Syndrome is a serious concern and stresses awareness of the condition and how to prevent it.
"My advice to anyone thinking of playing 'Duke Nukem Forever' is simple," he says, "Don't play it. Especially the driving sequence. You can maybe play other parts of the game. Like the turret sequence. Or the part where Duke shoots a woman in the vagina because she's turning into an alien. But definitely not the driving sequence. If you play it, I guarantee you'll turn into a stripper."
We might find we have more in common than we think if we just stop fighting long enough to combine our bodies into a singular organism.
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