I'll take care of your kids!

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It's a tempting extra to offer gamers, and one that fits right into the mobile lifestyle that's developing among the 'tweens and teens who frequent the PC rooms.

These are, many of them, kids quietly hiding out from their less-than-desirable family environments, who share a growing sense of "home" as the place on the Internet that stores their personal player data. Others, like 13-year-old Justin Reckler, are ping-ponged properties of divorced parents, shuttled between weekday and weekend domiciles, whose PDAs, feature-rich cell phones and Internet home pages now store the identity-stamping items that used to get tacked up in bedroom walls.

"My dad still has a Pokémon poster up in my room at his house," groans Reckler, taking a short break from playing Unreal Tournament 2003 at Lan Gamz. "But that's okay, 'cause I got all my favorite stuff right here."

He opens Explorer and clicks to a Web page he designed himself where he launches a slide show that pulls up pictures of his Scottish terrier, his new iMac and a sexy shot of TV's Lizzie McGuire that he quickly clicks past.

Chances are the young computer geek is still a bit too shy to tell Dad that he'd rather gaze at Hilary Duff than Pikachu when he's lying awake in his alternate-weekend bedroom. But in his roaming electronic home, his world is easily updated.

"I've been meaning to delete that one," Reckler gushes when a friend pokes fun at his choice of JPEG pinup. "I'm more into Jennifer Garner now."

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Jimmy Magahern
Contact: Jimmy Magahern