Dr. Spock would have loved it.
There smack in the middle of the shopping mall at Tysons Corner, about 350 parents and their children spent much of yesterday giving a new twist to the classic familial relationship. A la video, that is.
Billed as a socially significant event where one could observe a range of parent-child relationships -- from the embarrassed child stuck with the incompetent parent to the happy family that plays together and stays together -- the family teams zipped and zapped their way through three different video games in an area-wide video contest.
Sitting at television sets on tables stationed between Susie's Casuals and Ann Taylor, the teams of parent and child first played Skiing -- their object to get the man down the hill without smashing into a tree. The winners of Skiing played AstroSmash, shooting at alien rockets. Those winners played Bowling.
The promoters, Mattel Intellivision, asked the audience to observe the role reversal of the traditional parent-child relationship. "The youngsters really enjoy the power of controlling the interaction," said promoter Stan Friedman.
"You blew it, mom," said 16-year old Guy Meyer from Pasadena, Md. after his mother, Brenda, shot one electronic ball careening into the alley during the finals of the five-hour event. "I lined the white ball up with the pin," answered Benda. "No, you didn't." "Yes, I did." The Meyers lost the finals to Trey and Frank Cockrell of Vienna, 280 to 232. The Cockrells will go on to a national championship in Los Angeles.
The Whites of Minnesota, wanting to visit Chester White's twin brother, had arranged their weekend trip to Springfield around the tournament. Their 15-year old son Randy, a blonde youth with a dazzler of a smile, is quite a champ. Not too long ago, the television set in their home was kept on continuously for six weeks while Randy raked up points for a special nationwide AstroSmash tournament. (With video, the games can be put on Pause while eating, sleeping and schooling are dispensed with.) Randy scored 32 million points in that event and was flown to Houston for the finals. He came in seventh.
This particular weekend the whole family was competing. Sister Jodie, 13, got stuck with dad Chester White, who is a commercial pilot and not a champ; while Randy teamed up with his mother Sharon, who is better than Chester, but not that much better. None of the Whites made it to the finals even though Randy had one of the highest individual scores in the event.
And, finally, there was the father-son relationship where the son always wins, even when he's 7 and the father is 38.
"He beats me all the time," Kenneth Mallon of Gaithersburg said of his son, Richard. "Last time we played Bowling it was 32 to zero."
Jean Mallon, his wife, and Stewart Mallon, a 5-year old clone of his brother Richard, dressed in the same striped shirt, sat anxiously behind the cordon watching the two males at work. "I went away one weekend for my father's 75th birthday and when I came home there [the video machine] was," said Jean Mallon, who no longer plays.
"Their father may want to, but I'm not going to be embarrassed by a 5 year-old."