Video Centers Offer World Of Fun Young Players Compete For Prizes And Honors While Parents Shop

December 05, 1990|By Ellie Baublitz | Ellie Baublitz,Staff writer

For John Grantland, 15, the Dream Machine Family Entertainment Center in Westminster's Cranberry Mall is a place to go to have fun and socialize with his friends.

For Steve Partenope, 10, the games at Bumper's Family Fun Center at Carrolltowne Mall in Eldersburg offer a challenge to his ability and let him pretend to do things he can't do in real life.

The fun centers also are an inexpensive way to keep kids busy, for them to win prizes and check their reflexes, and a place for them to go while mom shops or until the movie starts.

"It's really a 'family entertainment center,' " said Pete Dimartino, owner of Bumper's. "(The words) 'video arcades' go back 10, 15 years and have a bad connotation."

While the centers are basically video and other assorted large-size games, they are not just hang-outs for teen-agers. Moms bring their younger, elementary school-age children in for a few games as relief from the boredom of shopping.

Those parents who stay with their children can even be found playing a few games themselves. And the Dream Machine also played host to a number of college-age young adults last Friday night.

Especially on Friday nights and Saturdays, however, it is mostly teens and pre-teens who fill the centers and bring in the dollars.

John Grantland was babysitting a neighbor's little boy Friday. The two were playing skee-ball and trying to win enough tickets for Christopher Kemeneczes, 4, to get some prizes.

Both centers offer games for which the reward is a ticket that can be redeemed for a variety of prizes, ranging from inexpensive toys and candy to ceramics, small TVs and even stereos at the Dream Machine.

The son of Mark and Arlene Grantland of Westminster, John said he gets money from his mother, who drives him to the mall.

"It's fun and something to do," he said.

Christopher also found it fun, coming away with two dinosaur airplanes and two other small toys.

Steve Partenope and his father, Thomas, both were playing games at Bumper's while his mother, Barbara, shopped the mall Friday.

"The games are just fun," the Eldersburg boy said. "I think it's neat when you beat the game -- it shows that you're good at it."

Like a number of youths who frequent the centers, Steve has a Nintendo at home and is into video games. His favorite, he said, is the World Wrestling Federation "Superstars."

John Butler, 9, and his brother, Fred, 14, also had been brought to Carrolltowne Mall by their parents, Judy and Fred Butler of Eldersburg, for a couple of hours of fun.

"They have a good variety of games for little and big kids," Fred noted.

"I like having (Bumper's) here because there's hardly any place to go around here."

The boys usually spend a couple of dollars each on games, they said.

While Fred likes the Magic Sword game, John prefers Stun Runner and skee-ball.

"I like to get stuff for the tickets and use them for Christmas presents sometimes," John said.

Maurice Rioux and Michael White, both 17-year-old Eldersburg residents, stopped in Bumper's Friday mostly to kill some time.

"We don't come in that often, just occasionally," said Mike, the son of Walter and Anita White. "There's no other arcade around here, there's nothing else to do."

When the boys do stop in, Maurice, the son of Maurice and Phyllis Rioux, likes to test his reflexes and try the different games.

"It's like being part of TV because you get to control the characters on it," he said, adding he wins a lot.

Carrie Tracey, 12, of Union Bridge, goes to the Dream Machine with her mother or brother most Friday nights for an evening of games and fun.

"I just play the games," she said. "I like Pole Position because it sort of teaches you how to drive."

The daughter of Carol and David Tracey, she said she usually spends $4 or $5 an evening in the center.

Jason Reece, 12, also can be found in the Dream Machine for a couple of hours on Friday nights while his mother shops. As much as playing the games, he enjoys seeing his friends in the mall.

"Before I came in here I saw three of my friends," he said.

Among his favorite games are the race car videos, which "give you an idea of what you'll be doing when you get older, I guess."

The son of Stella and Clyde Reece of Frizzelburg said he'll spend $3 to $5 playing games in between simply watching others play.

Although the teens enjoy the games, some don't spend as much time in the centers as might be expected.

Doug Fisher, 16, only stops in for a couple of auto games when he's in the mall. He's the son of Steve and Michelle Fisher of Westminster.

Maria Scellini and Danielle Rodkey, both 16, also drop by the center for brief visits when they're in the mall.

"We come to meet people and it takes up time," said Danielle, the daughter of Sheila and Paul Wells of Westminster.

"And because we don't have a Nintendo at home," Maria put in with a laugh. She is the daughter of Gloria and Rich MacPhee of Finksburg.

While Danielle watched, Maria played Pole Position, an auto game.

"Half the video games I can't play," Maria confessed. "I like skee-ball and car games."

Although weekends may be the time for many teens to visit the centers, both Dimartino and Rafael Resto, assistant manager of the Dream Machine, stressed their main objective is to keep the business family-oriented.

At Bumper's, for instance, Dimartino has a birthday room he rents out for parties, which includes giving each child pizza, soda and $2 in game coins for only $5 per child.

"It's not a lot of money (on the parties)," he said. "But it's the family-type atmosphere I want to maintain."

The Dream Machine lures adults in with more expensive prizes.

"Some come in and play everyday and accumulate the tickets," Resto said.

"There's no way they can win 33,000 tickets in one day and the tickets are good for as long as we're open."

Whatever the reason for going to the centers, for the youth of the community it's a place to go for some good, clean fun.

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