Gamers get gathering place

Joey Cartier has been staying up all night playing video games. And it's starting to affect his job performance.

But that's a good thing when you're the operations manager of Game Glitch Cafe, Rock Hill's first video game cafe, designed exclusively for playing the latest video games on PC and Xbox.

After staying up all night Monday overseeing a tournament for John Madden Football 2008, the summer's hottest video game, released Monday at midnight, Cartier yawned his way through the next day. But watching a dozen customers beg him to keep the store open longer was just enough motivation to keep going.

"It was worth it," Cartier said. "They really get into their Madden."

He hopes more gamers get into his store.

Game Glitch Cafe, located in Love's Plaza on Cherry Road, is a gamers paradise. No, you don't buy games there, you play them. The recently opened cafe features two rows of computers, built by Cartier specifically for gaming, and Xbox 360s. Each game station has top-of-the-line controllers, HD or digital screens and high-back leather chairs. Patrons can pay to play from a selection of dozens of games for an hourly charge or by monthly membership.

"It's a modern-day arcade," Cartier said, comparing his business to Game Frog Cafe, a national chain with a location in Charlotte.

But why would anyone want to pay to play games they already have at home?

"The atmosphere," Cartier said.

Video game cafes have become increasingly popular across the country in recent years, Cartier said, as the video game generation grows up and looks for ways to interact with other gamers. Instead of playing games alone in the living room or online with strangers, Cartier offers customers a place to play with snacks, music, black lights and camaraderie.

"We're trying to build a whole gaming environment," he said. "It's a lot more intense when you're sitting in the same room with your opponents."

Other merchants in the plaza are glad to see Game Glitch open, said Allison Love, owner of nearby Allison Love's jewelry.

"It brings a younger market in here," said Love, whose parents own the plaza. "They're already getting busy. We're glad to have them."

Cartier hatched plans for Game Glitch after discussing it with his brother for several years. This year, the duo agreed to launch the project, with Joey and his wife, Annie, running the day-to-day operations.

While business has been hot and cold since the store opened earlier this month, the Cartiers plan to target Winthrop University students with special discounts when school resumes. The cafe also markets itself as a place to sample new games and technology.

"We have all the top games reserved before they're released," Annie Cartier said. "It's almost a try-before-you-buy kind of thing."

They also will rent the cafe for birthday parties and offer special group discounts. Saturday night features a Guitar Hero tournament.

"Rock Hill needs something like this," Joey Cartier said. "If you've got 10 friends bored in your basement, come give us a try."

• What: Game Glitch Cafe

• Where: Love's Plaza, Cherry Road, behind Norgetown Cleaners

• Phone: 329-7529

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