Center pushes right buttons
Submitted by: Marine Forces Pacific
Story Identification #: 2004525222535
Story by Lance Cpl. Jared Plotts

U.S. MARINE CORPS FORCES PACIFIC, CAMP H.M. SMITH, Hawaii(May 25, 2004) -- Kids don't go outside these days, do they? Remember the days one couldn't go inside until dinner? Remember being so bored games like "jump off the roof" and "hide under the car" lasted all day long?

Those games have been replaced by pricey computers and game consoles. Video game technology is evolving just as fast as computer technology, if not faster.

The popularity of video games transcends mere childhood hobbies and delves into the world of profession and passion. The time when crackled blurps and blips supplied the background music for games is extinct. Now, mainstream recording artists provide big sounds for today's big games.

A substantial amount of first-term Marines grew up playing video games and still play them during their off time.

"I didn't have friends in high school. I had Mario and Luigi," said Lance Cpl. Justin V. Eckersley, combat correspondent and staff writer for MCAS Beaufort. "I used to sleep with a memory card underneath my pillow, of course I'm kidding...there were two."

Instead of going out drinking or clubbing, there are a lot of Marines who interact with their friends online. PC Gamerz, located down the hill from Camp Smith in Aiea Heights, hits that idea perfectly. Owners Jeff Furumura and Jeri Endo opened the store last summer. They provide a place where Marines and fellow service members on the island can enjoy a drug-free, friendly environment.

"It's a tough area for a game center. There is some local competition...we're fortunate enough to be near popular stores which bring us business," said Furumura. "I think especially at night, people are drawn to the lights and the action you see through our windows."

According to Endo, about one-third of PC Gamerz members are military. Membership rates for active military are 50 percent off the regular annual rate.

"It's the least we can do to show our support," said Furumura and Endo.

PC Gamerz' loyal following has been earned more than allocated. A lot of their members come in having never set foot in a game center. Some members don't have the slightest inkling there were even centers devoted to one common purpose; gaming.

"You can always tell the new ones," Endo said, "because they have this dazed look in their eyes." They both laughed.

"Other centers have their loyal following, and we've kind of earned our loyal following, because we've got people who've never played before and now come regularly," Furumura said. "That's the kind of community we're trying to build, along with the hardcore gamers."

With the majority of their staff being family, the center is truly a tight knit community.

Along with 35 consoles, and a large variety of games, PC Gamerz also has a snack bar loaded with everything from hotdogs to burritos. Once in the store, one soon realizes you don't need to leave for hours and few rarely do.

Every three months PC Gamerz holds a membership campaign, which includes three free hours of gaming when new members sign up. Members may also participate in PC Gamerz' quarterly major tournament on top of the smaller events.

"First place receives usually a thousand dollar grand prize," Furumura said. "We also want to have something going every week this summer," he continued. "School's out and people have more time on their hands."

Marines may not get the summer off, but they usually have their weekends free.

Additionally, the first Friday of every month PC Gamerz throws an "insomniacs lock-in" from midnight until seven or eight in the morning.

"People pay one price. It's usually $25 per member. Thirty dollars per guest. We chase everybody out who hasn't paid for the 'lock-in' and lock the front doors so the public can't come in. The price includes pizza, drinks and snacks. We also have game contests and giveaways for everybody all night," Furumura said.

"We used to stay all night," Furumura continued jokingly.

Endo laughed, "That's what we use our staff for."

This engaging, drug free environment is a place for Marines, or anyone for that matter, to spend their time. With the ongoing mission in Iraq, a chance for Marines here to improve an already solid reputation with the community is at their fingertips-literally.

PC Gamerz, located in Aiea Heights has 35 computers specifically built for gaming. One member plays Command and Conquer, a popular war strategy game for the PC. PC Gamerz is open until midnights during the week and 2:00 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights. To show their support, the owners give a 50 percent discount to active military personnel. Photo by: Lance Cpl. Jared Plotts