Mother may I?

Darth Vader's command headquarters would look like this. Banks of black computers flash bright display screens. And on those screens, troopers and rebels, terrorists and troublemakers die a thousand deaths.

But while mayhem rages in time and space, over in the corner soccer moms sip lattes.

It's happening at Uber Brothers, a cyber cafe in South Meadows. But while 50 players can pit their video gaming skills against each other at the center, the business also repairs computers and serves up refreshments.

Owner Mark Hessler got the idea from a friend who owned a similar business in Southern California. When Hessler bailed from the fast lane to move to Reno, he opted to do the same, taking on his friend as a partner and business consultant. He's added a manager here, Todd Shackelfor, to handle the computer diagnostics work.

Pleasing the moms makes this business go. The choice of location across from Double Diamond Athletic Club was not random. Moms drop off their kids while they go for a workout. And, says Hessler, parents find it's cheaper than a babysitter to drop off the kids and go out for a nice quiet dinner.

The kids don't seem to mind. "Kids will play non-stop until their parents pull them off," says Hessler. Although average playtime is about three hours. Cost is $5 an hour, a rate that goes down as play time goes up.

While the clientele ranges from 5 to 50, the underage players are kept on a tight leash. They're not allowed to roughhouse or to leave the premises. And all players must buy a membership, agree to the rules, and sign a liability waiver.

A basic membership costs $20 and includes five hours of play time. All-day passes are $10 Sundays, $20 weekdays and $25 weekends. That includes go juice: two slices of pizza and a soda. Hardcore players might go for the gold membership: $250 for 100 hours of play and a discounted rate thereafter.

Hessler himself was a gamer since age five when his own mom bought him an Atari machine. But he quit game play at 20 to live in the real world. Now, he says, he wants to relearn some gaming skills "so he won't look stupid" when the kids ask him for help.

The cyber cafe opened in spring and Hessler spent a couple months ironing out the bugs before going public with television commercials. He sprinkled 368 spots around a dozen cable channels, including the obvious buys on the Family Channel and MTV, but says the shows that really paid off were Bill O'Rielly and Hannity & Colmes on FOX.

Fighting terrorists is popular on the game circuit now, says Hessler, among kids who watch mainstream TV, which has played up terrorist news since 9-11. Other action games bear names such as "Battlefield," "WarCraft" and "Blizzard."

While ramping up, Hessler admits to some challenges, notably the technical aspects of getting the 50 high-speed computers up and running.

And getting the word out. But now, word of mouth is kicking in and Hessler says, "Every day I get a couple new members."

Curiously, he notes, more kids come to play during the week than on weekends. Normal hours are 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. weekdays and until midnight on weekends. He finds kids standing outside in the mornings, skateboards tucked under the arm and has had groups of 20 college students show up at 10 p.m. wanting to play all night. He stays open so they can fight the good fight. After all, the enemy never sleeps.

Initially, Hessler didn't plan to repair computers at the site, but when the women, while waiting, were whining about their computer repair challenges, he decided to step into the breach. "We've done 50," he says, and have not fallen afoul on a single one.

But it's the coffee that makes Hessler wax poetic. He effuses about the Swiss process, spring water and Costa Rican beans grown in volcanic soils. And the kids who prefer Coke and candy bars can run a tab for mom to pay later.

Next Hessler plans to add a Kodak machine to print the product from digital cameras. "A lot of kids' moms ask about that," he says.


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