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Review of the Play Limit Time Control System: Time limiter for TV and video games

January 1, 2003

in All Articles,Culture,Games

Fourth grade is rough. I’ve been at my desk forever. Yes, Ms. Cooper, I’m paying attention, but I really just want to get home. See, my paper route savings finally added up enough to buy a new video game, “Major Problem and the Aliens from L.A.” Don’t mind me while I count the seconds until final bell.

The bell rings and I sprint home. Flying through the door, I do my usual: Grab a bagel, a glass of orange juice, another bagel, and head downstairs to play video games.

Something’s wrong. There’s a box attached to the TV. Loading my video game, instead of seeing Major Problem preparing to blast aliens, the screen says “TIME’S UP”. Looking carefully at the box, which I’ve now decided is a major problem itself, I see the words “Play Limit” printed on it. Play LIMIT? That’s not good.

While I was away at school, someone sneakily installed a device designed to limit my use of video games, DVDs, VCRs and even regular TV viewing. Well, Merry Christmas to me.

A pile of plastic yellow coins is next to the box. “15” is printed on each. I see a coin slot and button on the top of the Play Limit box. I’m no rocket scientist, but I can put coin A in slot B. Dropping a coin in, the screen changes. “TIME’S UP” disappears, and I see Major Problem return to the screen. Video restriction is gone!

The Time Limit box’s red LED display reads “15”, and after a minute, drops to “14”. If I hit the button on top, the screen goes blank and “PAUSED” appears. Good, I can take breaks without using up time. I shoot aliens for a bit, and the Play Limit warns me when time is almost up, allowing me to save my game before audio and video disappears.

Maybe I can hack this puppy. First, the obvious: I can’t disconnect the Play Limit, as cables disappear inside the box, which is locked with a key. Ignoring my limited token supply, I drop in quarters, nickels, and pennies. They don’t work. And I realize, even if I find a working coin, whoever unlocks and empties the box will know my trick.

Unbending a paper clip, I stick it deep in the coin slot, trying to find the “coin added” button. No luck. The coin slot is bent and curved, probably to prevent exactly what I’m trying. I can’t pick locks, and I can’t fit anything around or in the access panel, so using the old “unlock with a credit card” technique is impossible.

I pop on the Internet and research the Play Limit. Starting at $50 from, it’s for ages four to twelve, and is advertised to reduce TV usage, teach time budgeting, and enables gamers and TV watchers to fairly share time.

This should be interesting. I used to play video games until my vision blurred. Things are going to change.

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