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200 PARTICIPANTS DISPLAY SKILLS IN NINTENDO VIDEO POWER BOWL

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More than 200 Utah video game lovers participated this weekend in the statewide Nintendo video game power bowl at the 49th Street Galleria.

The event, which sponsors hope to make an annual affair, attracted approximately 300 people to watch participants from 8 to 18 years old demonstrate their video game abilities."I play Tetris because it requires you to think. It's a lot different than your typical shoot 'em up game," said winner of the adult category, Spencer Glende, 17. "I don't have Nintendo. I've just gotten addicted to the arcade at the University of Utah."

Asked why he was competing he said, "for the glory."

Winner of the 8- to 10-year-old category, David Bona, scored 344,000 points on a video game called Super Mario Brothers. "I play because it's entertaining."

When his parents first gave him the game, Bona said he played "every minute of the day." Now, he says, he only plays a few hours daily.

All contestants used cartridges, 22-inch-TV monitors and a control pad. The four winners competed Saturday as parents, friends and relatives cheered and applauded.

Winner of the Ninja video game, Jordan Johnson, 14, of Grantsville, said "I've had a Nintendo for a year, but I've been playing video games since I was 8."

One participant rooted for himself while he focused on the TV screen. Another said he enjoys the games' electronic sounds.

The competition was sponsored by businesses that sell the Japanese-made video games. On Friday, 200 preliminary contestants were drawn at random and notified by mail. There were 50 contestants per age group.

Each contestant had four minutes to accumulate his or her highest score in the single-player mode against the computer. The top 10 scores from each age group advanced to the semifinals.

Each semifinalist received five minutes to attain his or her highest score in the single player mode. The top two scores from each age group advanced to the final playoff.

Each finalist had eight minutes to wrack up the most possible points.

Eight- to 10-year-olds played Super Mario Brothers; 11- to 13-year-olds played Defender II; 14- to 16-year-olds played Ninja Gaiden and players over 17 played Tetris.

One player said he loves Mario and Luigi, two video-game characters 2 inches tall who wear hats, have mustaches and oversized noses. Another said he loves how they shoot, squash and dodge their enemies.

"We had one kid in the 8- to 10-year-old category who scored more than 200,000 points in four minutes. I was amazed," said Dave Haymond, competition coordinator.

Seven 22-inch TV monitors lined the second floor of the Galleria. Each screen had a judge next to it. The highest scores were tabulated and printed on a board.

"Video games make fantasy become real for these kids," said Haymond.

Susie Poulson, of West Jordan, one of the participants' parents, said, "I think video games are good for coordination. It gives the kid something to do. They learn how to become better at something."

Another parent said video games are addicting. "They are hypnotizing," she said. "But they do help with coordination. I'm not good at them. I'm not fast enough. I want to practice, but I can't because my kids are always playing."

Tom De Waal, 18, of Centerville, a finalist in the adult category, said he considers himself a fanatic. "All I do during my spare time is play video games and date."