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Copywriter Mark Koelfgen feels the sting of raw metal parting his skin and fatty tissue. He has just enough time to realize his opponent has fired a sternum-crushing spike from a nasty nail gun. In shock, Koelfgen lurches forward as the steel hollows out his chest cavity, bursting his inner organs.

Stephen King at his very goriest has nothing on the 29-year-old Koelfgen, who is actually alive and well and always ready to do another round of ads -- via DDB/Dallas -- for the ultra-violent videogame Quake. The opening paragraph above is an almost verbatim quote from one of Koelfgen's undeniably well-written ads (pictured, top), which are gorgeously art-directed by Stephen Goldblatt. But it's not a stretch to imagine that his copy will soon be read into the Congressional Record amid much handwringing and headshaking. After all, in early June, President Clinton announced that the Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission would "study" violent entertainment targeting kids. Clinton quoted ads for shoot-'em-up videogames, such as the one that encouraged readers to "get in touch with your gun-toting, cold-blooded murdering side."

Koelfgen sees videogame manufacturers and their ad agencies as "easy scapegoats" after the April massacre in Littleton. He does think that disturbed kids should be kept away from violent stimuli, though. "Especially," he explains, "real guns."

But plenty of people believe that makers and pitchmen of gory videogames bear some responsibility for desensitizing kids to violence. Alan Rambam, who heads up Shine, a national education program that seeks to curb youth violence, says of violent games that "they are a factor in all this. But I'm not putting the total blame on videogames. Kids have to be taught to process what they see, and to respect each other."

Joey Jodar, director of advertising at game marketer 3DO, feels "terribly sad" about the Littleton bloodbath. "But I also take solace in the words of many of the students from the school who don't believe videogames, movies or Goths are to blame," he adds.

Despite the government's best efforts, the issue of whether violent interactive fare can be harmful to kids' mental health won't be decided anytime soon. Mark Koelfgen, for one, is likely to remain unpersuaded by policy wonks wishing to legislate videogames, and he is loath to tone down the Quake ads. Why single out videogames in the first place? "In the hands of the wrong person, a marshmallow

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