They're popping up in comic book stores and on their own in store-fronts and malls across the country. These computer game rooms are more like internet cafes; they're well lit and have comfortable chairs lined up at rows of computer desks, unlike those dark arcade caves, with their barrages noises, flickering lights, and hyper-kinetic people. The popularity of the new PC arcades is growing so quickly because they make it easy to play in teams, or against each other with top of the line computers with the newest games already loaded. Before, if you wanted to play a team game with friends, you'd all have to own the game and have it on separate computers that could run it, and then you'd all have to be connected through the internet or bring all the computers somewhere to play together -- talk about a ton of work! But, PC game rooms allow everyone to play together for a cost per time basis, not on per game charges of traditional arcades.
While this sounds like great fun, there can be a down side. PC game rooms are very new, so new that many parents may not even be aware of them or know what they are. Having a child say he or she is going to go play on the computer with friends sounds great. But while the PC game rooms are most often safe environments for kids to play games with their friends, the arcades can also provide the opportunity for kids to play games that their parents would want to be aware of before their children played them. For example, one of the more realistic conspiracy game that you can find at the computer arcades is Half-Life.
While Half-Life is a super game, most parents wouldn't want their elementary school-age children playing it. What you can do to make sure your child isn't playing a game that is outside of his or her maturity level, or your rules, is to ask them what they are playing, and find out about the games available to them on the home computer, at friends' houses, and in PC arcades. Some PC Game rooms do have parental consent forms readily available, so you can decide what games you will and won't allow your child to play.
If you aren't sure about the game, a number of websites by parents have comments on the games' contents. Take a look at The Entertainment System Rating Board Website, www.esrb.org, and the Parents Choice Website, www.parents-choice.org. While PC arcades add some worries, they also present a huge benefit: being easily able to play a PC game with your children or the whole family. After all, the best way to know what your children are playing is to play with them.
Copyright 2002 © Laurie Taylor
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Monday, 28-Oct-2002 21:04:37 EST