In a dark corner of Scorpico Multiplayer, ten young adults are sitting together, headsets in place, eyes focused on the glowing computer screens before them. They are all playing Battlefield 2, the number-one game in the country. "Sometimes I have twenty, thirty people all playing the same game," says co-owner Danny Feghali. At this weekend's Battlefield 2 competition, Scorpico will be overflowing with gamers of all skill levels. "Our goal is to see game centers become as important to the industry as the movie theater is to the movie industry," explains Mark Nielsen, executive director of iGames, the sponsor of this four-month-long national contest. Judging by the rapt expressions on these young gamers' faces, iGames is well on its way. This contest is the kind of thing gamers pray for. Victory here could mean a lifetime of bragging rights, as well as prizes worth more than $20,000, including a state-of-the-art Alienware gaming computer.
Battlefield 2 is a first-person shooting game set in a frightening World War III scenario. Players can fight for one of three military superpowers: the United States, China, or a Middle East coalition. The goal is to rise through the ranks and attain the ultimate title of commander. "Battlefield isn't about the players, it's about the team. If you have a good team and a good commander, you're unstoppable!" Feghali exclaims. To an outsider to the video game world, or someone who watches the news, the irony is obvious. But not to the players apparently. "Kids don't take it seriously," Feghali explains. "They never think about something greater, like Iraq. They just think about the fun game." The gamers shout and laugh as something explodes on the screen before them. "That was awesome," says a slight, prepubescent boy who wanders over to the cash register. "Can I get another two hours?"