Four large screens explode with bright colors as cartoonlike video game characters battle each other, shooting fire, leaping into the air, spinning and kicking.
Sixteen teenage boys control the on-screen choreography, each armed with a video game controller at The Revolution in Stony Brook.
It's Saturday night, and for these gamers -- and 10 more waiting in the wings for their chance in the competitors' chairs -- The Revolution is where the action is. Parents have dropped kids off for the weekly tournament that starts at 7 and ends with a victor around midnight. This particular week, 26 people are trying to best each other playing Super Smash Bros. for Wii U, a Nintendo game just released the day before, featuring well-loved animated characters such as Mario and Pikachu and newcomers such as Mega Man.
"Playing at home is boring," says Cort Adamczyk, 14, a ninth-grader at Port Jefferson Middle School. "Here you get some human interaction."
Parents seem to love the place as much as the kids do. "It's a safe place for my kid to hang out with other kids with the same interest and have a blast," says Eric Kirchner of Stony Brook, whose 14-year-old son, also named Eric, is a frequent player. "He does really well in school, so I don't mind the video games."
Owner Michael Auricchio opened The Revolution in 2012, a shop in a strip mall. Along with selling retro and new video games, he says he tried to figure out a market that wasn't tapped. So he launched the Saturday night contests for kids.
While girls, college students and even the occasional grown-up are welcome, the Saturday event has attracted primarily junior high and high school boys, says Auricchio, a 2002 graduate of Ward Melville High School in East Setauket. He offers kid-friendly games and saves tournaments of first-person shooter games like Call of Duty for a Friday night crowd.
"Seven on the dot on Saturday night is my craziest time," Auricchio says, as kids arrive, hand over their $15 entry fee and get set up at screens. Four players can play at a time at each of four screens. The maximum number of players for a competition is 32, with two sets of 16 players alternating rounds.
Game wins are tallied on a whiteboard. Snacks and drinks are $1, and kids can grab slices from the pizza parlor two stores down. The tournament winner gets a video game T-shirt or hat, his photo on the winners' wall and a free pass for the next competition of that particular game so he can defend his title. On this night, Jake Cavanagh, 14, of Stony Brook, wins the tournament.
In Super Smash Bros. for Wii U, players battle to off each other by damaging competitors' characters and eventually knocking them from the screen. Once each player is "killed" five times, he's out. Players select a character based on its strengths and powers.
"Most Smash players who are serious about the game will chose one primary character," says the younger Eric Kirchner, who likes to play as the Greninja because he's fast. The characters are plunged into randomly selected backdrops, such as Luigi's Mansion, Mario Circuit or Distant Planet.
Players approach the game with different strategies. "I usually stay back and let the others fight," says Josh Giordano, 13, of South Setauket. Counters friend Chris Nieburg, also 13 and from South Setauket: "My strategy is usually head-on."
Eric's dad says his son has learned more than just how to play the video game at The Revolution. "Mike's also taught my son how to lose gracefully," he says.
"I've gotten better with it," young Eric agrees. "Who likes losing, though?"
WHAT Video game tournaments
WHEN | WHERE 7 p.m. Saturdays at The Revolution, 1099 Rte. 25A, Stony Brook
INFO $15 per player; sign-ups suggested; 631- 675-6622; rgamez.com
Want to play just for fun? These locales offer open play for young gamers:
Battlegrounds, 401 William Floyd Pkwy., Shirley, 631-772-6786, battlegroundsli.com,$8 full day of play Sundays through Thursdays, $15 from 5to 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, includes two slices of pizza and a drink. Fridays offer the option of "Minecraft Fridays," during which kids build worlds on Battlegrounds' server with other players and work is saved from week to week.
World Gamer Nation, 66 Broadway, Greenlawn, 631-651-5004, worldgamernation.com, $7 an hour; buy two hours, get one free. A full-day pass is $25.