Try out Playstation's new PS Vita at the Vita Hill Social Club

Gaming fans don't have long to wait before the latest and greatest in portable videogame devices -- Sony's PlayStation Vita -- is available for sale on February 22nd. Already, retailers like GameStop and BestBuy are setting up demo kiosks at select locations so people can try before they buy. This weekend, we got a chance to see the new PS Vita for ourselves when PlayStation invited me, the kids, their friends, and other bloggers and guests for an afternoon at the Vita Hill Social Club.

The Vita Hill Social Club is located in San Francisco's Union Street area. From the outside, it looks like an unassuming little storefront, but when you step inside, you find yourself in a lavishly decorated lounge.

The place is set up to look like the classic gentlemen's club of days gone by, with leather and velvet sofas, chandeliers, gilt-framed wall portraits and gaming tables -- except the games played here are anything but fuddy-duddy. Beside a vintage magazine rack were several flat-screen monitors and PlayStation units designed to showcase the PS Vita's ability to interact with the PS3. Another wall had 3D monitors so people could immerse themselves totally in their videogame world.

PlayStation and the Vita Hill staff got all the bloggers and their guests set up with individual PS Vita consoles that we could hang on to for the duration of the event. I set aside the kids' normal "screen time" limits and let them play Little Deviants, WipEout, ModNation Racers for as long as they wanted. They were in heaven!

We own a PSP (PlayStation Portable), which is great, but it doesn't compare to the Vita. The Vita has a touchscreen, which I love because those X and O and triangle symbols on the controls have always confused me, so I can actually figure out how to play a game without help from my kids. The Vita has a touchscreen on the back and a videocamera, which sounds pretty ordinary, until you realize that some games like Little Deviant actually utilize the videocamera to make it seem like you are playing the game and blasting aliens in your own living room, i.e. (augmented reality). I won't even get to the social gaming capabilities of the PS Vita at this point, but suffice it to say that the PS Vita takes gaming to the next level.

To put it another way: my kids actually ignored these adorable, scrumptious Sibby's cupcakes in favor of playing another round of ModRacers. I had to lie and say they were running out of cupcakes in order to get them to look up.

There was even a fun instant photo booth, where you could pose for a photo and have it printed out onto a postcard-sized Post-It Note. One wall of the lounge was covered in Post-It Notes like these, forming a cute gamers gallery. You could also send your photo to yourself via email, or share it on Facebook and Twitter. It's hard to resist the opportunity to pose at an instant photo booth, particularly one that you don't have to put $5 in first.

Thanks to PlayStation, we had a great afternoon at the Vita Hill Social Club. The best part? Everybody gets to join the party! That's right, I'm not blogging about the event simply to gloat to all my readers about the cool party I was invited to. The Vita Hill Social Club is actually open to the public, so anyone can walk in off the street, sign up for a club membership on the spot, and start playing -- all for free.

Seriously. They'll lend you a PS Vita pre-loaded with game titles, and you can try it out without any sales pitches or membership fees. They have lots of units available, so you won't have to be nice and share or take turns. You can join tournaments and match your skills against other gamers. I can't promise you Sibby's cupcakes, but they do have free snacks, sponsored by Guayaki Yerba Mate, KIND Healthy Snacks, and Vita Coco Coconut Water. You get to play with the photo booth thingy and send out your photo via email, Twitter or Facebook. You can even organize your own private event at the Club! How swanky is that?! You don't even have to be in San Francisco to do it, because PlayStation has set up Vita Hill Social Clubs in LA, Miami, Atlanta, NYC, Boston, Chicago and Austin! Check out the PS Vita Social Club page on for specific addresses and a list of local events -- but don't forget to stop by and get your game on before February is over, because the Vita Hill Social Club will be closing its doors at the end of the month.

Disclosure: I received an invitation to a PS Vita Hill Social Club event as a member of the PlayStation Family. I did not receive a sample or monetary compensation for this post. The views and opinions expressed here are my own.

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