The Newest Time Waster: Line Rider

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At first glimpse, it looks like a silly scrawl. But don't let that fool you — Line Rider is becoming one of the most popular flash games on the web. Part Jackass stunt, part physics lesson, Line Rider encourages users to "draw" their own ramps, hills, and slopes with a pencil tool, then sends a virtual sledder (wearing a red scarf) along the route until he swoops, swerves and crashes. Build an elaborate enough course and you'll feel like a little kid playing in the snow again, zooming downhill, popping up in the air, wiping out on a ramp jump a la Evel Knievel.

Now in beta form, the addictive, low-tech time waster was introduced just last month and has quickly amassed a worldwide cult following. Created by a programmer with the screen name ~fsk who claims to be from the small European country of Slovenia, the digital amusement first showed up Sept. 23 on deviantART, an online community of artists, designers, photographers and art lovers . "This is a project I did for illustration class," states ~fsk in a brief intro. "It's not a game, it's a toy... there are no goals to achieve and there is no score."

Remarkably, the new simulation is gaining quickly on Google Zeitgeist, which charts growing search query trends. Last week, Line Rider rose from No. 10 to No. 7 — ahead of both North Korean leader Kim Jong Il and the popular fighting console game Mortal Kombat: Armageddon. According to deviantART figures, more than four million people have viewed the game so far and over 325,000 have downloaded it. Another sign of its popularity: copycat programs have emerged, including the motorcycle-riding LineFlyer and associated knockoffs Line Border (a snowboarder), Jeep Flyer, and Chair Flyer.

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