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TUCoPS :: Cyber Culture :: bowleag.txt

Bowling Leagues for the New Millennium by Mark Frauenfelder. When computer-game licenser Frank Westall launched the first SlamSite computer-game playing center in Burbank, California, last June, he didn't expect it to become a '90s version of a paintball arena or community bowling lane.




                                       
   Bowling Leagues for the New Millennium
   by Mark Frauenfelder
   
   2:48 pm PST 7 Feb 97 - When computer-game licenser Frank Westall
   launched the first SlamSite computer-game playing center in Burbank,
   California, last June, he didn't expect it to become a '90s version of
   a paintball arena or community bowling lane. "I thought I'd have a
   bunch of kids playing," he says, "but the average age is about 24.
   These are adults who are coming in and playing in the evening after
   work."
   
   With five locations now open in Southern California and three
   12,000-square-foot Interactive Super Game Centers slated to launch in
   April in other states, SlamSite has been encouraging members of the
   hundreds of registered Quake clans to get out of their houses and
   engage in league competitions using SlamSite's high-speed networked
   Pentium machines. The draw of the gaming centers, says Westall, is
   that they give clan players more "socialization and strategy" than
   they get by playing networked games over the Internet. Westall says
   that in addition to customers who pay by the hour or day to play games
   at SlamSite, about 400 are club members who pay US$20-$30 per month,
   giving them exclusive access to SlamSite's network-game server,
   allowing them to play at home as well.
   
   But the problem with Net play, says Westall, is that "some players are
   on a T1, some are on ISDN, and some are on modems. "There's a real
   disparity in ping times. Some guy in Nova Scotia with a 14.4 is going
   to have to play Quake with a different strategy." SlamSite's LANs
   offer clan members - who come to the centers wearing "skins"
   emblazoned with their clan logo - a "level playing field" where
   everyone on the team has an equally speedy computer and connection.
   "The only other place they can get together like this is at work, and
   companies frown on that kind of thing." Westall says that 20 percent
   of the Quake clan members who come to SlamSite are women.
   
   John Robb, an analyst with Forrester Research, says SlamSite is an
   example of "the computer industry slamming into a traditional
   industry." The battle between computers and video games "is not a
   clash of equals. The computer industry has power and momentum, and the
   other guys are flat out of gas," he says.
   
   Eighty to ninety percent of homes don't have the high-speed computers
   and network connections necessary to enjoy the full "twitch
   experience" of games like Quake and Diablo, Robb says. Game centers
   like SlamSite with high-speed LANs and top-of-the-line computers are a
   whole new area that can prove to be very lucrative as the video-game
   platform begins to disappear. As computer games become more complex
   the video-game industry will likely concentrate on the mobile/portable
   market.
   
   With the launch of their new theme-based location (one is designed to
   look like NORAD, another like a dungeon, the other like a space
   station), SlamSite will be sponsoring top Quake clans, flying them to
   SlamSite facilities around the country for a national ladder
   competition and a $10,000 prize.
   
   Even though SlamSite offers more than Quake, such as a cafe, a store,
   other types of networked games, and a T1 line, Westall stresses that
   SlamSite is "nothing like a cybercafe. We're an IGP, an
   interactive-game provider."
   
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