Our Top Tips For Summer Video Game Parties

As schools are letting out around the country, and temperatures continue to climb, parents are looking for ways to keep their kids and their friends entertained this summer. Here are three tips from a decade and a half of summer party fun.

Tip 1: Set-up in the Garage

GameTruck is climate controlled so it can host the kids. By setting up a folding table, some chairs, and a cooler full of drinks, the kids rarely if ever need to go into the house. This keeps your doors closed while the air-conditioning is on.

Kid can cool off in the truck while playing with friends, run out and grab a drink or a snack and then head back into the truck.

When the party is over, they can do cake and presents and voila, you have just had a successful party and no one was in your house!

Tip 2: Party After Dark

It can get hot during the day, but when the sun goes down, and the night breeze cools everything off, GameTruck is a great option. Outdoor screens make it even more fun as they now can shine their colors the brightest creating a dance party outside and a competition fiesta inside the truck. With no school the next day, virtually any day of the week can be a great night to hold a party. You can even kick off a slumber party with a GameTruck evening event.

Tip 3: Have An Unbirthday

Summer is a great time of the year to celebrate those birthdays that fall right on, or in the shadow of other holidays.

Pick a date and have an “un-birthday” a chance to get together with friends. You can even theme it, challenging the kids to a kind of cosplay – think Halloween in July with prizes for the best costume. 

You might even pick the theme around what you know the kids will have the most fun dressing up as (Star Wars, Madden, Smash, Minecraft).

The more invested the kids the more memorable the experience. 

Conclusion and Takeaways

Along with the heat, long days, and time out of school, summer brings a chance to think about things differently. Always make sure you have plenty of water and drinks for the kids. In Arizona we always had ice towels in a cooler for our kids and I hung up a 5-gallon orange drink cooler on the fence with bungies and put a 1-gallon solid block of ice inside. I filled the rest with water at the water store. Kids could pull a splash of ice-cold water whenever they wanted without getting their mouths on it. It lasted nearly all day. 

The great thing about summer is that you can have parties you could never have in the winter, at times you might not think about having a celebration. 

Do you have a novel summer idea? Did you have one you want to share with others? Let me know! I’d love to hear from you.

4 Tips To Get The GameTruck Summer Party You Want

One of the most disappointing things we have to do is to tell parents, and therefore their kids “No”. As more and more states come out the Pandemic, demand for private, clean, safe, in-person gatherings at your home have never been higher. In most markets, GameTruck is running at full capacity, and many owners are adding staff and capacity as fast as possible to meet the demand.

One of the most disappointing things we have to do is to tell parents, and therefore their kids “No”. As more and more states come out the Pandemic, demand for private, clean, safe, in-person gatherings at your home have never been higher. In most markets, GameTruck is running at full capacity, and many owners are adding staff and capacity as fast as possible to meet the demand.

However, I wanted to share a few things you might consider to make it easier for your to get the party your child dreams of having.

Don’t Wait, Lock In Your Date

Many parents, as a response to uncertainty, have been waiting until the last minute (within days) to make the decision to host a party only to find out that supply is already gone. Pre-COVID advanced planners were booking 2-3 weeks out. Todays successful party planners are now looking out a minimum of 4 weeks and some are looking ahead six to 8 weeks. We totally understand that working with uncertainty naturally makes people more cautious. However, let’s look at the top three reasons parents wait, we believe there are solutions to these.

What if We Have to Cancel (because someone got sick)?

The GameTruck cancellation and reschedule policies are robust and designed to reduce stress not add to it. The risk of not getting your desired party date and time are starting to outweigh the risks of waiting until you have all the information. The parents that are getting their parties booked on the dates and times they want are leveraging these good faith policies to help mitigate uncertainty and risk. Which is worse? Waiting until you know and then finding out no teams and equipment are available because they are sold out, or booking early and then having to make a change at a later date?

I Can’t Make a Decision Until I See the Schedule

Sports schedules often drive the planning for many families. This is always a hard one because no one wants to schedule an event in the middle of a game or tournament. One of the ways we have seen parents manage this is to talk to the coach about booking the event BEFORE or AFTER practice. GameTruck has been to many ball fields, soccer stadiums, and basketball courts around the country. Surprising the kids with a party after a practice can be hugely popular. Since most practices happen during the week, this taps into time slots and days where demand is not so high and avoids some possible conflicts with game schedules. Regardless, you may find a pattern in your league. In Tempe for example, we rarely if ever scheduled a game on a Friday night or a Sunday. If you’re child’s favorite sport has a pattern like that, you can make a calculated risk and book an event when there has never been any historical practice, but if there is a surprise, you can reschedule the event to be after a practice. The goal here is to decouple the event planning for needing the full schedule in all its detail.

How Will I know if People Will Come?

Of all the concerns this one is perhaps the easiest to allay. In Fifteen years of operating GameTruck our experience is that the kids always want to play. Very often the reality is that too many kids show up, as in kids who were not invited but might have managed to tag along (brothers, sisters, neighbors). GameTruck events draw out the gamer in all of us. 

Consider an Alternative Activity

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Sometimes the biggest challenge to getting something that will make us happy is not knowing what else might do just as well or better. GameTruck is a fifteen year old brand that is enormously popular. We are blessed that so many thousands of people every day think of us when it comes to hosting their child’s birthday. However, the real point of a GameTruck party is not video games, although there is plenty of that! GameTruck is really about delivering recognition and celebration in fun engaging ways. We believe friendships are made and maintained shoulder to shoulder. The joy of sharing your interests with people who care about you is at the core of what makes our events so powerful and popular. Did you notice that I did not mention equipment? When people think of GameTruck, of course they think of the GameTrailer, but did you know we also offer GameTruck @Home in many markets? The GameTruck @Home option allows you to have a video game party without the truck and trailer. What many parents don’t realize is that the Net Promoter Score for GameTruck@Home parties is higher than for game theater parties. I wrote an entire article explaining why. GameTruck @Home is successful alternative to the trailer. In a similar manner, Gelly Ball is proving to be a popular option when the better known LaserTag option is unavailable. The action based outdoor target game is proving to be enormously popular in its own right, and a great alternative to LaserTag. 

4 Tips Summary

Unprecedented demand has pushed out the event books for GameTruck from 1-2 weeks to nearly six weeks long. Here are four strategies to getting an alternative event.

  1. Don’t wait, lock in your date. 
  2. Remember you can reschedule
  3. Decouple your plans from their sports schedule
  4. Consider an alternate event activity

The bottom line is that sometimes, especially when we are feeling a lot of stress, we start to experience tunnel vision becoming fixated on the one solution we must have. However, if you take a step back, and look at what is causing the uncertainty, you can often find strategies to calm the situation down and move forward with a good plan.

The bottom line is that we would love to host your party, however as demand has increased, it is making it nearly impossible for us to honor last second bookings. Both you (and we!) will have a much better experience if you can find ways to book in advance, choose dates and times that have more availability, and find a way to decouple needing the sports schedule to plan your party. Finally, consider some of our alternative offerings. It is possible that any one of these strategies, or some combination of them can unlock the chances for you get the party you want.

The Power of In Person Play

A year ago, practically the entire world became “isolated gamers”. People who had never thought about gaming before started to look for ways to stay connected to their friends online, and play become one of the best ways to stay in touch. Gaming is powerful because it’s participatory. And yet, desipite everything online video games have to offer, I still believe that in-person gaming offers powerful connections for people for three reasons.

  1. The 7/38/55 rule
  2. Behaviorial Feedback
  3. Persistant Interactions
Gaming for Team Building

Each of these are tied to how Homo Sapiens evolved to work together in groups. These rules or effects govern how we socialize.

The 7/38/55 Rule

Humans so not weight all forms of communication equally. Sometimes call the lyrics, music, and dance of human communication, the words themselves constitute only 7% of the information we process with other people. Tone, how we speak, cadence, and rythm count for 38% of the information we process. I’m sure you’ve heard the expression that Text does not have a tone. Emails, text messages, written communication can struggle to convey the emotional content of a message. That is one reason we add emoji’s, to try and provide non-verbal cues as to meaning and intent. But if tone is powerful, body language and facial expressions make up more than half the information we communicate together. Human beings have been watching each other for a very long time. In one example, I can tell whether my wife likes a new food before she even has a chance to tell me about it. I can also tell when she doesn’t like it.

I once heard actors described as emotional athletes. They can convey to us more than content, they can transmit feelings that we can understand and relate to. I know when we worked on the Cars video game, the quality of the video games and the animatics jumped noticably when the professional actors started to deliver the voice lines.

Then, when the animators created the facial expressions and body language, that jumped the emotional content and appeal an order of magnitude. One really interesting – although not scientific result – that supported the 7/38/55 rule happened on the Cars video game.

Some very taltented coders (several with Phd’s) created code that would extremely accurately translate spoken language into the exact motions a mouth and tongue must make to produce those sounds. The idea was to feed the phonetic translation of the words to the machine to let it animate the characters saving time and money. It was really brilliant technology.

It was also beyond creepy. One of our lead animators, did a test. He put up the autogenerated phoneme software – which was extremely accurate, but none of us watching felt connected to the scene. Then he replaced the computer generated scene with a new one. Instantly we all loved the new scene better. He explained what he had done. He had turned off the hyper-accurate rendering of the mouth sounds, and he had instead put in the facial expressions that aligned with the emotions the actors were trying to convey. It turns out, we do not actually pay attention to how people make sounds with their mouths. We hear the sounds, but our eyes, our instincts are more attuned to the expressions on peoples faces. (And if you are curious, turning both on was also pretty horrible). In the end we stayed with hand animated scenes to match the expected expressions with the actors tone.

This is also one of the reasons Zoom & video calls can be so fatiguing, there is no alignment of visual cues. We don’t know where to look. In a real in person environment, the audience or people in attendence tend to focus on the same point – the speaker. These are subtle cues as to what is important. On a video call everyone is looking everywhere else and it’s distracting. We hear the words, and possibly the tone, but our brain is in overload trying to figure out what to pay attention to. One additional thing on that topic, we are so tuned to live human to human interaction that, research has shown an inperceptable delay of even a few milliseconds is enough to influence (generally to the negative) how we preceived the other person in a conversation.

Behavioral Feedback

The 7/38/55 rule gives us guidance how we communicate in non-verbal ways, but there is another dynamic that is enormously important. How our behaviour affects others. There was a joke about the “Murder Hornets” last year, that they read the room and then left. But the idea that we can understand that joke, that we can “read” the room speaks to how we read other people, and specifically how our actions affect others. As a professional speaker who has stood in front of a lot of audience, I can tell you that you become very attuned to how the audience is responding to everything you are doing. This same mechanism of feedback is crucial for all levels of interpersonal communication. Social Emotional Intelligence is built upon being able, or at least willing, to make the effort to understand how the other person feels, and specifically how our actions and attitudes affect other people.

birthday party

The law of reciprocity is how humans gauge our interactions. We can gather more information when we can hear and see people, but we also need to see their reactions to our communications. When people spend too much time staring at glass ( a phone screen, or device), it can interrupt that feedback loop. People lose touch with how their actions affect others. This may be one of the single largest contributors to the rise of “synthetic autism”, non-autistic children who seem to exhibit the behavior of treating people like things. When people come together, in person, those incredibly fast dynamic interactions happen in real time. The good news is that we are wired to be together, so repeated exposure to groups and interpersonal reactions coupled with intentional “social stories” can develop and improve emotional maturity and resiliency.

Persistant Interactions

One consequence of the rise of games online games with solo queue, or instant player matching is that you can lose the persistant interaction with other people. These features have good intentions, to get people playing together as fast as possible and to eliminate downtime, however they can create the “infinite friend” effect. This means that if anything, even the slightest annoyance pops up, players just move on. There is no need, no incentive, to work things out, to negotiate to share. Strangely, in an effort to make gaming more social in many ways it has become less social.

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In person events force a change. A player on the couch next to you just can’t vanish and be replaced by someone new every round. Players have to stay together and work out what they will play together. Some waiting, some negotiating will take place. This is a good thing. As people, we are shaped by both our nature and our culture. The more we press for inclusivity and diversity the better our skills need to be to interact with and understand people who have every different live experiences and backgrounds. When our default mode is interact people as if they are only there to entertain us, that can make other situations much more difficult than necessary.

Conclusion Take Away

Online gaming is clearly here to stay, and there are many positives that have come from more people being exposed to the power of connected play. One thing I do hope that comes from this is a greater respect and appreciation for in-person play. There are so many benefits from seeing each other, hearing each other, recognizing how our behavior affects others, and how their behavior affects us, then staying togehter and working it out. I believe gaming can be a powerful tool when used properly to help – not only young people – but people of all ages learn how to interact in healthier more supporting ways. So when you think of a video game party, don’t only think about the celebration and the fun. Also see if you can see the social dynamics as play, the way players interact and mingle, the way they engage each other and bond.

end of school year party ideas

Play is the mechanism that we discovery the boundaries of our social groups and our culture. It is how we explore not only the world, but the social fabric that ties us together. When we play together, in person, the digital shackles are removed so to speak and the entire bandwidth of human communication becomes available. This is one reason I beieve GameTruck parties are so memorable, they encompass a play, learn, grow embodiment of fun. We rarely forget those experiences, especially when they happen during a time of rapid development like childhood. GameTruck is most popular at the same time children are moving into those preteen years, and learning how to connect with their co-horts and build an identity outside the family. Giving kids the experiences and tools to develop better social bonds is a healthy byproduct of what we do.