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Wharton freshman Rob Gardos took a few steps back from the pool table and surveyed his next shot. He took a deep breath, chalked-up his stick, set up and fired the nine ball into the side pocket. Each day, hundreds of University students, like Gardos, fill game rooms across campus for various reasons, from relieving stress to just having a good time. Gardos said he goes to the McClelland Hall game room in the Quadrangle after dinner a few times each week to "relax and put off studying." There are pool tables, ping-pong tables and video games located in most campus residences -- including Hill House, Kings Court/English House, the high rises, Graduate Tower A and the Quad. Many students also go to the arcade in Houston Hall and to the Galaxy II arcade on Walnut Street. In addition, most fraternity houses have their own pool tables, foosball and air hockey machines. · The McClelland Hall pool room is a popular spot for both Quad and non-Quad residents. The three pool tables, two ping-pong tables and three video games attract a crowd of game enthusiasts daily. But according to students, the main attractions at McClelland are the pool tables. The pool room, like others on campus, is clean -- a stark contrast to the image of smokey halls filled with beer-drinking men. Students come and go throughout the day, but after 10 p.m. it is almost impossible to find an empty pool table, according to Engineering freshman Todd Engram, who has worked in McClelland Hall all year. "Most nights, the room is full of people," Engram said. "There's usually a line for at least an hour to use the pool tables, and sometimes up to 30 minutes for the ping-pong tables. I've even had to kick some people out because they refused to leave after their time was up." Many of the same faces can be seen there almost every night, practicing ping-pong with friends or playing cutthroat -- a billiards game for three people -- or eight-ball. "It's usually busy after dinner, but the regulars come late at night," said College senior John Kim, who has been shooting pool at McClelland and at other campus game rooms for four years. "That's when you see some real pool-playing." However, the game rooms are usually filled with just men. According to students at several game rooms around campus, there are rarely ever any women there. Many students said they prefer to unwind in the Underground Cafe gameroom in the basement of High Rise North. In addition to the video games, pinball machines and pool table found there, there is also a jukebox, a large-screen television and, on some weekends, live bands. There is also a coffee and dessert bar. The Hill House game room, which contains two pool tables, two foosball tables, ping-pong tables, video games and one air hockey table, caters mainly to the students who live there. College junior Samir Saxena, who used to live in Hill, said he enjoys ping-pong the most. "Playing ping-pong is the best excuse to get away from studying," Saxena said. "And in the Hill House game room there's good lighting and a lot of room, so you can enjoy it even more." The game room in Houston Hall has over 30 video games. At any hour of the day, students can be found standing mesmerized in front of anything from the traditional Ms. Pac-Man and Millipede to newer games like Mad Dog McCree. The arcade is usually full from noon until 5 p.m., when classes are in session. Students said they like to go to Houston Hall for a break between or after classes. "We're all on the track [team]," College freshman Joe Tansey said, as he watched two of his friends playing heated games of pinball. "Before we study, we come here and play a few games about once a week. Right now, I should be studying for Econ, but you can't study until after you digest your food anyway. So, that's why I'm here." Off campus, Galaxy II on Walnut near 40th Street features over 50 video games, pinball machines, and other arcade-style games. Both University students and area residents frequent the arcade, despite its history of fights between patrons. Kevin Lord, manager of the arcade, claims the Galaxy II is doing its best to prevent such disturbances. Besides the open game rooms on and near campus, almost every campus fraternity house also has a few arcade games or a pool table. "There's always someone playing at the pool table at our house," said College freshman and Tau Epsilon Phi pledge Steve Blader. "It's a great way to hang out, socialize and have fun with the other brothers." College sophomore and Sigma Phi Epsilon brother Michael Stacchini said that playing pool goes hand-in-hand with being a brother. "As a brother you must learn to play pool; everyone in the house knows how," Stacchini said. "Even our cook's a pool shark." · According to students, game rooms' popularity stems from the need for stress relief. While playing a game of pinball or shooting a game of pool, students can "escape from reality." "Playing games makes us forget about homework and the exams we've just failed," said Wharton sophomore Michael Kirkell while awaiting his next turn on one of the pinball machines at the Underground Cafe. "It really kills time. Somehow, doing nothing helps you forget about doing something . . . like work." Many students said by hanging out in the game rooms, there is also an opportunity to win some money. "If you are good, it's easy to make a few extra dollars," Kim said. "There are always lots of tournaments going on here and there's usually someone willing to bet on a game." Wharton senior Todd Genskay offered a more psychoanalytical explanation of why he and others play the video games. "Look at my generation," said the senior as he waited patiently to play Tetris. "We grew up with video games; Atari was the first one. So, of course, these are just extensions of that and we feel comfortable with them. They bring us back to our childhood."

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