West U. PC Offers An Escape From The Heat For Young Gamers
Josh Hari, owner of West U. PC at University Boulevard and Rice Boulevard, says sometimes his store functions more as a babysitting service than a full-service computer store. That is because, for $8 an hour, children can do what some children love to do most – play video games with their friends. And drink soft drinks while eating candy.
Inside the store are several stations. An Internet Café offers Internet access for $8 an hour, a wall lined with computers is available for tournament play, and there is a Guitar Hero station as well. Cameras throughout the store allow children to check from home to see who is playing – and allow parents to check on their children.
Hari says the gamers are mostly boys, ranging from about 9-years-old to 19-years-old. Some stay all day, taking a break from games long enough to order a pizza or Chinese food. Hari says his employees keep a close watch on the interactions between the older players and the younger boys – especially when it comes to inappropriate language.
Tournaments can be arranged when there are enough players interested. The cost is $20 per person, with half going to first, second and third place winners. For $55 per person, the store will host a lock-in from 7 p.m-7 a.m. Children bring sleeping bags, but Hari says sleep isn’t their first priority.
“We had one where half the kids slept, the other half were still playing,” said Hari. The store will also host birthday parties as well, with parents providing the food and cake.
Traditionally, April though August are the slow months for the gaming aspect of his business, says Hari, because so many children are on vacation or at camp. But his store, which opened in 2006, is also a full-service computer store. West U. and Southside Place residents can use West U. PC to buy laptops and desktops, service existing computers and service their networks onsite. Hari says his store can also serve as an offsite IT technician for large and small companies.
“We are like the virus busters,” said Hari.