Parents often fret that their tweens and teens spend too much time playing video games and not enough time personally interacting with others. But what if they could do both?
That's the aim of World Gamer Nation in Greenlawn, a LAN (local area network) center.
The idea is for gamers to play in the same room, together, instead of speaking through headsets and working the controllers alone in the dark of their respective bedrooms.
"What's missing is the communication," says World Gamer Nation owner Rory O'Donoghue, referring to typical video game play.
"When they come here, they also meet people with similar interests.... It's competitive and cooperative gaming in a social environment," O'Donoghue says.
Indeed, on a recent afternoon, at least 25 players are sitting in the darkened room with high-back, cushioned chairs in front of consoles, complete with 24-inch computer screens and Turtle Beach headsets designed for gaming. There is a 120-inch projection screen where a group of gamers can play with Connect and WiiU games.
Chris Temperino, 18, from Centerport says it's a great place to hang out with friends after school. "We all play together," he says.
Video games include all the teen favorites -- Call of Duty: Black Ops, DayZ, Minecraft, Halo, Left for Dead. There's also driving simulator game Grand Turismo 5, a larger version of what you see in video arcades.
Parents must sign a consent form, since some of the video games are rated Teen or Mature.
NOT JUST FOR TEENS
It's a place for families, too. Centerport residents Hayes and Sandy Cohen often bring their son Max, 11, to play. They enjoy it as much as Max, they say, and have been introduced to new video games, such as DayZ, one of the many zombie games to hit the market and one of their faves. "We need more moms and dads to come down," says Sandy Cohen.
"We often have kids tell us they wish their parents came down to play," adds Hayes Cohen.
The staff is helpful when gamers don't understand how a game works, they say, one of the important advantages of playing there. "We're here to help," says O'Donoghue.
Serious gamers know there's a technical reason to play on a LAN-based system. World Gamer Nation hosts its own local network -- not the Internet -- which eliminates lag time and network down time, important where speed is the name of the game. And all the equipment is set up for gaming.
"When you are on the same network, you are all on the same speed," taking away unfair advantage, says O'Donoghue, a certified Cisco network associate.
World Gamer Nation holds special gaming tournaments, and is planning a summer Black Ops II tournament or weekly competition.
WHEN | WHERE 2 p.m.-2 a.m. Tuesdays-Fridays, 11 a.m.-2 a.m. Saturdays, 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Sundays at 66 Broadway, Greenlawn.
While LAN-based gaming centers are still uncommon on Long Island, BattleGrounds in Shirley is another place where kids can play their favorite games together.
BattleGrounds has eight Xbox 360s and 16 PCs as well as 5 tables for Magic: The Gathering (a card trading game) and many popular video games -- Call of Duty: Black Ops and Modern Warfare, Halo III and IV and Tron, among others.
"I have people all day from different age groups," says assistant manager Jeff Denigris. "Right now, we have from age 11 to people in their 20s."
Children younger than 13 must be accompanied by a guardian. They also have Smash Bros. tournaments. Says Denigris, "It's a really competitive game."