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Readers put down their PlayStation 2 controllers long enough to award bonus points for our look at videogames in pop culture (#685, Dec. 6), though some felt newer isn’t necessarily better. ”I’ll take my Atari any day over the fancy crap that’s swamping the market right now,” writes Claude Mercure of Toronto. ”Many of today’s designers pay way too much attention to making the games look cool as opposed to making them interesting to play.” On a similar note, the introduction of our new back-page column, ”The Joel Stein Show,” had Encore fans bemoaning change. ”[It] was a weekly time machine…sometimes nostalgic, always engaging, and hugely entertaining,” mourns Travis D. Claxton of Jacksonville, Fla. Counters New York City’s Rachael Darmanin: ”Stein’s sarcastic humor was the perfect end of yet another great issue. Keep Joel Stein on board.” Let the games begin!

Game Theories

Thank you for devoting your cover story to video-games this week. I was especially pleased to see that Michael Jackson’s transformation was completed in time for the cover photo shoot. Keep up the good work. TIM MCEACHERN North Andover, Mass.

I went to purchase your No. 1-rated game, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, for my 14-year-old nephew. The knowledgeable salesman warned me that the game was one step beyond The Sopranos: The player racks up health points by having sex with a prostitute, then can steal the money back and kill her. It’s a sad commentary that this depravity did not even rate a mention by your reviewer or detract from his glowing rating. JUDY BASS Jjjjbl@aol.com New York City

What was up with this issue? I look forward to Fridays when I come home and see my EW in the mail, but last week I was so disappointed to sit down and read a magazine about videogames. If I’d wanted that, I would have subscribed to a gaming magazine! Well, at least my boyfriend liked the issue. LAURA FOSCO laf1017@aol.com Flushing, N.Y.

Videogames are no more the cause of violence than any other entertainment medium. Billions of people watch, listen to, and play violent movies, music, and videogames every day. Putting the blame on videogames as the cause of violence by a few people will only result in the loss of another form of entertainment, education, and art. MONTE BLOME San Diego

The Joy of Lex

I was so excited to see Smallville covered in this latest issue (”Small Wonder”). Then I flipped it open and saw lovely individual pictures of all the characters except the magnetic and wonderfully talented Michael Rosenbaum. Sexy Lexy only rates the edge of a three-person picture? I think you’ve been straying too close to the meteor rocks! CARMEN STRICKLAND CEARES@aol.com Houston

Out of ‘Toon

I can understand the F for Adam Sandler’s Eight Crazy Nights, but Treasure Planet’s C-minus review (Movies) seemed unnecessarily harsh. In an era when traditional animation is considered a dying art form, EW seems to take premature delight in dancing on its grave. REBECCA MROCZKOWSKI gypsyjr@meltman.com Silverdale, Wash.