Video games blinking out

To the joy of many a parent, electronic turnabout has become fair play. Suddenly something is devouring Pac-Man and detonating other video games - boredom. Young Americans, notoriously fickle in their pursuit of entertainment, have begun switching off these generally warlike electronic activities in favor of other pursuits.

Unlike Twister and Hula-Hoops, these games won't sink without a trace. And some young people are just entering the wonderful world of electronics. But the trend is clear.

This year makers of the games have suffered enormous losses as sales have declined. Mattel Inc. lost $156 million in the second quarter of this year, almost entirely as the result of slower electronic-game sales. Atari, the industry leader, has lost over $500 million thus far this year.

Significantly fewer youngsters are patronizing video game parlors, where quarters disappear with the speed of light and the atmosphere can be sleazy. As a result many parlors have closed.

But if video is on the way out, what will be ''in'' for the young? Traditional nonelectronic games, some say; working with challenging computers, others think.

A number of adventuresome youngsters have been spotted playing a newfangled board game with carved pieces; it requires a lot of thought and strategy, and is called ''chess.''

There are even a few reports of an extraordinary phenomenon nowadays: reading for pleasure.

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