ALGONQUIN – Two weeks ago No Limit Arcade owners Mark Battaglia and Kevin Slota watched two young kids play one of the first-person shooting games in their arcade.
The kids were shooting the characters in the game, and then began to emulate shooting each other.
“Bam, you're dead,” Battaglia recalled one kid saying to the other. “Bam you're dead,” replied the other kid, pretending to shoot his friend with the plastic arcade gun.
With the Dec. 14 shootings in Newtown, Conn., fresh on their minds, Battaglia and Slota decided to make a permanent change to their business and eliminated all arcade games that involved shooting other humans.
“Let's evaluate these games,” Battaglia remembers saying to Slota. “Maybe we should pull out some of these where humans are killing humans.”
One day after the store closed, Battaglia and Slota played every game in their arcade, located at 2719 W. Algonquin Road. They settled on 12 games they felt were too violent for young children, including "Revolution X," "Crisis Zone," and "The House of the Dead." The games are unplugged, moved to the side of the store, and are being sold.
Battaglia isn't naïve enough to think that removing overly violent game will completely stop gun violence, but he believes his arcade should be sending a better message.
“We just though we'd rather be part of the solution than part of the problem,” he said.
Part of the reason Battaglia and Slota removed the games had to do with their clientele. When they first opened their store they anticipated high school kids and young adults would frequent the arcade the most. But it turned out that it was mostly dads and young kids that played the games.
“With 'The House of the Dead,' the graphics have lots of blood and guts. It was a little too much,” Battaglia said. “If you've got some 5-year-old that's scared of the dark to begin with, and you've got something coming at you swinging knives and blowing his brains up, that's a little too much.”
No Limit began as an 80s arcade. "PAC-MAN," "Frogger," and "Donkey Kong" brought customers back to a time where video games were much simpler. But Battaglia and Slota decided they needed to update the arcade to include more modern, violent games.
Now the arcade is getting rid of those games, bringing the store back to its roots. And it's sending the right message to kids about violence and guns, Battaglia said.
“[Violent games] start desensitizing them,” Battaglia said. “When I see the little kid with the glare in his eye and he's shooting, then turns to his buddy and says 'you're dead, you're dead,' God forbid he goes home still filled with that adrenaline and accidentally comes across daddy's gun … and picks it up and actually shoots it.”
No Limit Arcade hasn't entirely eliminated shooting games from its store. It still has "Buck Hunter," which hunts animal, and "Police Trainer," which shoots at targets.
Battaglia said the customer reaction so far has been mostly positive, and parents have thanked them for making it a more family-oriented environment.
“The parents are coming to No Limit Family Fun Center,” he said. “When they're thinking of family and fun, they're not thinking of something that's going to affect their child forever. We didn't want that image.”