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Video games get physical

Casey White and Philip Barber thought that playing their Playstation 2 systems would be ultimate gaming experience. The Suffolk YMCA helped them take one more step; the facility’s Interactive play center opened Monday. It’s got virtual reality machines, physical video games, a Sportswall, and other activities.

Up until then, Barber had only played a snowboarding game at home, letting his hands get all the exercise. The facility, however, lets him get a bit more physical; in their version, participants power their boarders on stationary bicycles.

“I’ve played the game, but it’s different having to pedal,” said Barber and he and Stan Miller finished a battle. “At home, I just had to press the button to make it go. It’s pretty cool.”

Miller, a student at King’s Fork High, prepared for another round (and round and round).

“It’s too intoxicating to let go,” he said. “(The room) is really a good idea. It gives us something to do for fun, and it’s fun to see who wins.”

Nearby, White played a small virtual reality game. With a sensor around her waist recording her movements, she controlled the characters on the screen. At the end of the game, the machine recorded how much time she’d spent, and how many calories she’d burned off.

“It looked like fun,” she said. “This is a lot better than playing at home, because I don’t have to sit down and press buttons; I get to stand up and do it.”

Stephanie LaVine and her brother Eric warred on the Sportswall, in which participants throw a ball at several lit spots on the board to score points.

“I thought this sounded cool,” Stephanie said. “This is a lot more fun than it was before.”

Previously adorned with Ping-Pong, pool and air hockey tables, the facility got physical to combat childhood obesity, said health and fitness coordinator Shannon Newbill.

“Teenage obesity is becoming an epidemic,” Newbill said. According to the American Obesity Association, 15.5 percent of adolescents (ages 12 to 19) and 15.3 percent of children (ages 6 to 11) are obese. “This is a fun and enjoyable way for kids and adults to get in shape. Instead of just their thumbs getting a workout, their whole body gets a workout. This builds balance, agility, coordination, social awareness and reaction time. We can train a person to lift on a machine, but things like this help them react faster, such as if they happen to trip and fall.”