Computer games have come a long way, as the new breed of snowboarding, skiing and skateboarding simulators show. Even anglers are catered for in the current tidal wave of virtual sports

Computer arcades were like the magical Land of Oz until adults discovered that, given the chance, kids would do nothing else.

Since the 1970s, computer games have been as much a part of youth culture as loud music and late nights. From the legendary ZX-81 and Manic Miner to Sony PlayStation and Tomb Raider - who hasn't owned at least one games console, suffered from a medical condition commonly known as "joystick thumb" or achieved poor exams scores as a result of gameplay addiction?

Despite a rise in home computer/console ownership, arcades are presently making a comeback. The formula is simple - bigger screens, better graphics and tougher gameplay. This is where the best games gain their reputations before going on to earn a lucrative conversion to the home console market.

Arcade technology means that in addition to traditional beat-'em ups and platform games, you can now try your hand at everything from realistic flight simulators to computer fishing.

The world's largest indoor entertainment centre, London's Segaworld, offers seven themed floors of arcade action and has all the freshest games. The latest machines causing a stir in the Arcade world are the new simulations of adrenaline sports.

Ski down the piste at breakneck speeds or try out a Jetski. These simulations also offer riders the chance to snowboard, in-line skate or skateboard.

Forget standing in front of a tiny screen playing with your joystick, the nu-skool breed of gaming is much more interactive.

The monitors are huge and boast amazingly large sprites, but the real thrill comes from the innovative control mechanism. Play Alpine Surfer snowboarding simulation (right) and you have to stand on a snowboard; your movements will then control the actions of your computer generated sprite.

Super G gives you the chance to perform your Alberto Tomba impression on a pair skis with ski poles to match. As you whizz down the slopes, frantically meandering to avoid inanimate objects, you really do feel the speed of the descent. Crashing into a tree at 70mph results in all your mates laughing at you, but it's considerably better than a trip to the mountain hospital.

The best simulations of the bunch are Sega's Dirt Rash or Top Skater games. The quality of these skateboarding simulations is such that kids are often spotted riding them while their real skateboards lie at the foot of the machine - it's the ultimate compliment!

You can ride an assortment of courses, both off-road and skate park, as one of eight characters (each one has different strengths, style and, naturally, distinctly cool taste in clothing).

With music pumping out of the machine, you dodge left and right to hit ramps, ride rails and avoid obstacles. It's truly awesome - "raley" off the "lip" of the "bowl" and hit the ramp at speed. To pull a grab in mid- air you have to "olie" (by physically kicking back on the board you're riding) off the ramp and hope you survive the landing.

Best of all, a successful ride earns as much street props as the real thing. LOW DOWN Where: Most big arcades will have a wide range of X-treme simulations, the best ones are always at the centre of town Segaworld at The Trocadero, Piccadilly Circus, W1 opens 10am-12mdn't every day (excluding Christmas). Admission is pounds 2 for adults and children. Once inside, guests "pay as you go" for rides. Prices vary from 20p-pounds 3. Call 0171-734 2777 for further information.

How much: Unfortunately, the increased quality of games has brought an increased cost. In London they cost pounds 1, but travel further out and they're often cheaper. Each game lasts around three minutes, but if you're good you can earn extended playing time.

Do: Bring lots of cash with you. They're not cheap but they are good value for money Get recommendations from friends as to which machines to play before splashing out Play against friends. Competing against the computer is fun, but the big arcades will have more than one machine allowing you to battle against your mates for victory.

Don't: Punch or kick the machine if your initial attempts are frustratingly bad. They're usually alarmed and you'll get booted out.

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