Sega Corp.’s “Mushiking” (“The King of Beetles”) arcade game is a hit with kids and their parents.

More than 5,700 players have taken part in competitions nationwide since the game debuted in summer 2002.

The game is simple. Players choose their favorite beetle and fighting techniques from bar-coded “insect” and “technique” cards. The machine reads the information and creates a beetle that meets player’s specifications.

A beetle that wins a game of paper, rock and scissors is granted the first move. The game is not violent and is popular with parents.

Rei Yamaguchi, 7, a second-grader in Tokyo’s Ota Ward, began raising an Atlas beetle after seeing one in the game.

“With the game, my kid became interested in insects,” said his father, Shinji Yamaguchi. “I myself first learned there are many kinds of beetles. I feel like I can return to my boyhood.”

Thirty-two children aged 4 to 11 participated in a recent competition at Hakuhinkan Toy Park in Tokyo’s Ginza district.

Eiji Arimatsu, 11, a sixth-grader from Ichikawa, Chiba Prefecture, won the race. He said his father had recommended that he play the game.

“There is no absolutely strong insect because you can’t make a first move unless you first win the paper, rock and scissors. That’s what makes the game interesting,” said his father, Tadayuki Arimatsu.

Hiroshi Uemura, 35, a director of the future research development department at Sega, which created the machine, said the game is targeted at people aged between 4 and 8 — a time when kids start to take an interest in insects.

“The game is easy to begin and has been made to be exciting,” he said.

The insect cards come with all the types of beetles in the world and also contain information about their unique habits.

There are more than 200 kinds of cards, which are updated every few months. Popular ones are traded on the Internet, and adults even drop by game centers to get them.

“With ‘Mushiking,’ we would like to change game centers into playing places, like parks,” Uemura said.

The beetle boom is spreading to other places; beetle toys can be found at toy shops and illustrated reference books about beetles are sold at bookstores.

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