Half-Life Counterstrike. Halo. Medal of Honor. The very names are thrilling, promising action and adventure one just can’t find around the office.
At Bethany Bytes, just around the corner from D.B. Fries (Garfield Parkway and South Atlantic Avenue), in Bethany Beach, they’ve got open seats, and computer power aplenty, for the most demanding video gamers.
For more serious, mature folks, Bethany Bytes offers reasonable internet connection — or bring your own laptop and bask in the wireless 3 Mb downstream for just $5 an hour, or $20 for the day. The systems sport various Adobe and Microsoft Office software programs, and there’s a fax — send or receive — and printing.
Downstairs, though, it’s all play, with 25 custom-built machines, set up specifically for smooth gaming.
Store manager Kyle Baxter, an info systems major at University of Maryland, Baltimore County, and his brother, Will, preparing to declare his own info systems major at Salisbury University, built them all.
Twenty of them, in three days.
“You can’t buy experience like this, and it’s not the easiest thing to get into,” Baxter admitted. He said he’d been working with computers since he was quite young, and sort of learned as you go.
As both he and his brother agreed, if you want to study information systems, you’d better like getting into the guts of these machines — and they do.
The gaming computers come with 2.4 GHz Pentium IV (fast) processors and 5.2 Mb of low-latency RAM (even faster, due to better communication with the motherboard). Baxter said they carefully selected every piece that went in there.
So far on the list for this year, there’s a decent selection for younger children (Finding Nemo, Spongebob Squarepants, Harry Potter: Quidditch World Cup) and a considerable collection for 13-year-olds and up (Battlefield 1942, Delta Force: Black Hawk Down, Age of Mythology).
Games like Halo and Unreal Tournament are strictly for the older gamers (age 17 and up), and Bethany Bytes requires parental consent forms for any departure from Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB) recommendations.
Disclaimers out of the way, the Baxter brothers and employee Justin Steele described which games they liked best.
For Steele, it depended on whatever mood he was in — maybe a first-person shooter, maybe a strategy game. For Will, a straightforward first-person shooter, perhaps Day of Defeat (World War II setting) — something tough, that a player couldn’t just step in and excel at.
For Baxter, a first-person shooter with a story — maybe Halflife 2 (a new addition to the Bethany Bytes fold, with a futuristic setting). He said they ran weekly tournaments, and sometimes all 25 players on the first floor were engaged in a single electronic battle royale.
Steele admitted some people developed a bit of an addiction, but added, “Most people have the natural ability to realize when they’ve been sedentary too long.”
Baxter said he occasionally encouraged younger patrons to go get a breath of fresh air — but they usually wanted to do that anyway.
“Sometimes, the adults are worse than the kids,” he said. “They come down here on vacation, and then they do nothing but work.”
His father, Jeff, set the two brothers up in business together out of the blue, according to Baxter. They ordered the parts, built the computers in their garage, and shipped them over to Bethany by the carload.
Baxter said it was a tough business. “This is probably the only place in town where we have to cut checks to employees for playing games for hours on end,” he pointed out.
On a more serious note, he described Bethany Bytes as a great place for customers to come and play games, meet people or bring a group, and find something completely different in gaming experiences.
Baxter said they’d decided to open Bethany Bytes on weekends through Memorial Day, and after that, they’ll be open seven days a week. For more information, call 537-3750 or visit the Web site, www.bethanybytes.com.