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Video gamers studying at #039;School of Frag#039;

It is not the typical vision of an athlete: A young man or woman hunched over a laptop, bottle of Mountain Dew in his or her left hand and a mouse in the right.

But video game competitions are becoming one of the hottest new sports, and Lawrence County has its own high-stakes tournament in the "School of Frag."

"Frag" is the gamer lingo for a kill, and gamers are definitely going to be getting lessons in raising their frag count as they come from across the land to South Point to battle.

With their skills sufficiently honed, the gamers will take over the Comfort Inn in South Point on Columbus Day weekend this October. The prizes will be huge too, if last year was any indication, when the winner went home with a big-screen television.

"For what we're hoping this will become, there's nothing that big in this area, also Ohio University Southern has a computer science program so we want to promote them a little bit," said Rick Eid, Sr., an IT Services and Business Development Consultant with the Center for Innovation and Leadership at Ohio University Southern. "But mainly we just want to have this event for gamers in this area."

Eid put on a similar event last year, but with only one game: The first-person shooting game "Unreal Tournament." But after the limited success of the aptly titled "'Unreal Tournament' Tournament," Eid had to go back to the drawing board.

"We had problems getting it marketed, and we only picked one game, we put all our eggs in one basket," Eid said. "This year we decided the best way to figure out what gamers want is to have smaller LANs leading up to the big LAN."

For the uninitiated, a LAN stands for local area network. It is shorthand for a LAN party; where gamers link their systems up to electronically throw down - video-game style.

By seeing what the gamers are in to at the LAN parties, Eid and his son Rick Eid, Jr. narrowed down the list to five titles gamers will battle it out on in October: Shooting games "Halo," "Halo 2," "Counter Strike: Source," "Unreal Tournament 2004," and football mega-hit "Madden 2005."

These Friday night LANs will continue every other Friday night July 8 and 22, Aug. 5 and 19 and Sept. 9 and 23 with doors opening at 11:30 p.m. at the OUS Community Building, 1508 S. Ninth St. More information is available on the Web site: http://www.schooloffrag.com.

The competition is not just for Lawrence County residents; Eid has already had registrants from Columbus and Cleveland. Last year, the tournament drew residents of Detroit, both of whom had their digital clocks cleaned by a 15-year-old local boy.

When a 15 year-old underdog can take out two videogame high rollers and walk away with a new big screen, it is easy to see why gaming might be the spectator sport of the next generation.