While we have expanded our stay at home lives to include as many outdoor activities as possible, it is video games that have replaced TV in our house.
We are blessed in my household. We have every kind of gaming system you can imagine. In fact, people often ask me what TV shows I’m watching during COVID and Truthfully answer, “None.” While we have expanded our stay at home lives to include as many outdoor activities as possible, it is video games that have replaced TV in our house.
While I don’t expect anyone else to go to this extreme, I do think it is important to share the tremendous opportunity you might be missing out on if you are not taking a few minutes to sit down and play video games with your kids. I heard from Jane McGonigal that while 8 out of 9 parents will go watch their child play sports.
However, she also shared that fewer than one in nine will sit down and play a video game with them.
This week my daughter invited me to play Portal 2 with her. I jumped at the chance. Not only because I love the game, but because games like Portal 2 give me several opportunities to connect with Rebecca.
First, I want to encourage her to explore a STEM career. She works hard and gets good grades in Science and Math, and she is extremely comfortable with technology. She has helped set her friends up to play video games, and the other day I through an IT (information technology) challenge that normally her brother would handle. She wanted a PS4 in her room (I have spares sadly), but she needed to separate my account from hers and copy the games over. I told her I would be there to help if she needed it.
She did not.
She went through the gyrations every IT manager goes through downloading updates, patches, copying huge files, having it fail, starting over again. It is enough to make you wonder why anyone wants to do that job. And yet, under her own direction she managed to get it all set up with no help (but lots of encouragement) from me. She was motivated to finish playing Persona 5. I leveraged that motivation to help her learn something about herself. She can tackle hard problems.
Playing a game like Portal 2 together, therefore was not only a chance to bond, but a tremendous change to learn something about problem solving. We could have done the same thing playing Minecraft together, but the point is, I sat back and let her take the lead. Playing together is totally different than going for a walk, or a hike, or tossing a ball around. Those are all great, but it’s hard to see how my kids problem solve and exercise critical thinking in the face of difficult challenges.
In Portal 2, you have to solve these fascinating physics puzzles – Snipper Clips on the Nintendo Switch is very similar. Letting her lead the discovery, and solution finding allowed me to see just how much she has grown up. As Rebecca is a teenager, I did not have to do as much emotional coaching as I did when she was younger. However, there were still moments when I became frustrated with the game and I could role model for her healthy behaviors on how to deal with challenges. I watched her use the same techniques I use. She slowed down, focused on her breath, and blead the emotion out of the situation so she could think. We have a saying, “high emotion equals low intelligence.” When you get calm, you can start to find the opportunity in the problem.
She always found a way through the level, and in truth she does a better job of completing games than I do.
After we would complete a “run” we would spend time talking about design. As a parent, my job is not only to enjoy the precious time together (I can still remember when she stopped holding my hand in the parking lot. Life goes by so fast), but to help build a bridge to her future. I have been blessed that by working in the video game industry I see video games completely differently than most people. Together, we could contrast and compare how games like Zelda create a sense of wonder and awe to how Portal 2 manufactures these “aha” moments that make the game so compelling and rewarding.
However, it would not matter if I worked in video games or not, because really all I am doing is connecting my personal professional experience to the “work” we did together in the game. And that’s the job. I have experiences she does not, and I see things that are not yet visible to her. I can use our shared experience to connect what she is doing now in the game, to what she could be doing in the future. When I hit a vein that resonates (like design work), we run with it. If we talk about something that bores her, I move on looking for connections between her interests and my experience where I might be able to help build a bridge to her future.
While not everyone is blessed enough to have every kind of video game system in their house (and multiple ones at that), just about everyone has a phone and there are a myriad of amazing games on phones. Most computers, including Chromebooks have access to awesome games, but if you really want to have an incredible experience try GameTruck @ Home. The contactless event will drop off a suitcase full of Sanitized Nintendo Switches at your house for a half day or a full day rental. The rates are reasonable (check gametruck.com for pricing and availability in your area). With GameTruck @ Home, you can get the whole family in on the fun and try out some amazing games like Mario Kart, Fortnite, RocketLeague, or Smash Bro’s Ultimate.
Regardless of how you do it, I can’t encourage you enough to make the time to sit down and reconnect with your child using video games. In no other domain of human activity do adults completely abandon kids like video games. I believe we can, and should make the effort, to do better. Your kids will want you there, and they will appreciate more than you know that you made the effort to join them in, “their” world. Plus, you just might get the chance to help turn that “waste of time,” into a bridge for their future. Today more than 200 colleges and universities offer tuition assistance for Esports (competitive video gaming) and 47% of Esport competitors major in STEM degrees.
(well I did, which is why I’m sharing it with you!)
Seriously though, it is more than fun. Building connections, especially in the family, has never been more important.
What made GameTruck work however, what really made it take off were two parallel ideas. First, the configuration of equipment we brought – enough TV’s, consoles, controllers, and copies of the video games – were super hard for people to assemble themselves.
When I first started working on GameTruck in 2005, I focused on playing the best games with your best friends. As I have written about in many other places, it was my frustration with the “Family Entertainment Center” concepts that sparked my desire to do better. I wanted to recreate the fun and excitement I used to share with my friends at the arcade. In the 70’s and 80’s arcades held the latest in video game entertainment. What’s more, they were designed (most of them anyway) to be shared. When arcades died, much of gaming became about a personal, isolating experience.
With GameTruck, I focused on the best multiplayer games. Initially I wanted this to be a structured experience. Something the kids would have a hard time doing at home. I was concerned that people would look at video game consoles and think they could throw their own party at home. In truth, many still do. What made GameTruck work however, what really made it take off were two parallel ideas. First, the configuration of equipment we brought – enough TV’s, consoles, controllers, and copies of the video games – were super hard for people to assemble themselves. The very few people that invested in a set up like ours were “legendary” – meaning they were statistically irrelevant and not really our customer.
Most people would not spend that kind of money to invite over 15 friends once a year to play games. In fact, most of these “man caves” tend to focus on 3-4 people – everyone getting their own screen and console. Just showing up with everything 16 to 20 gamers needed to play turned out to be special. However, that wasn’t the only thing, let alone the most important thing.
What made a GameTruck party work was that we designed it for the parents. While the kids were connecting with their friends, the parents could do the same. As a recent AT&T ad joked, “word of mouth was what they did before advertising” – they could have easily said, “word of mouth is what saves entrepreneurs from not understanding marketing.” Mom’s told other mom’s how easy this party was to throw. I had been to just about every concept you can think of, and money aside, my biggest complaint – and the complaint of many of my friends? The mind-numbing amount of time you spent sitting around doing nothing.
American adults hate to waste time. A GameTruck party gave parents time. They could have their own party, or they could join their child in the trailer and play games. I recall one happy mother beaming because her son’s party gave her the two hours she needed to clean her house!
The gift of time for the parents, and a great experience for the players were enough to make GameTruck grow nationally into the company it is. However, over the last 5 years I have been watching and studying what makes for a great party. So many times, our talented Game Coaches and owners would say, “It’s the experience!” Well, there are lots of experiences. Someone running up and kicking you in the shin is an experience. Not one you want to have, but certainly it qualifies. What ever was happening for parents and players, it was remarkable for them. This summer, I think I got an insight into what is happening, and why our business has remained so strong for so long. Nathan Ullyot the Director of Parks and recreation pointed me to an amazing statistic. More kids are falling out of team sports at a younger age, faster than ever. In 2013, 45% of 15 year-olds had stopped playing team sports. In 2016, 70% of 13 year-olds had stopped playing team sports. According to the Aspen Institute, by 2020, 70% of 11 year-olds had stopped playing team sports.
Across the country, more kids are playing fewer sports at a younger age. What’s more, online gaming and social media can create the perception of an infinite supply of “disposable friends.” These are one-sided relationships that meet a specific need for a short period of time, but there is little to no expectation on the part of the child to reciprocate. What’s more, if the relationship becomes strained the children can “walk away” and find someone else to play with. With fewer and fewer children playing team sports, but nearly 90% playing video games – a GameTruck party takes on a whole new meaning.
Whole New Meaning
First and foremost, with a GameTruck party, nearly everything happens face to face and in-person. What is more, the Game Coach fills a very rare and special
role for the children. Video games are unique in that most adults have completely abandoned their kids to them. According to Jane McGonigal, 9 out of 10 parents will go watch a child play a sports game, but only 1 out of 10 parents will play a video game with their child. Children are crying out for mature adult leadership, recognition, and value in this area they are so passionate about. The Game Coach is not merely knowledgeable about the games, they are also an adult who cares about gaming. One of the top responsibilities of a coach is to help the players negotiate what games they are going to play together. The trailers only bring out multiplayer games. The kids will have to play together. What’s more, we have a policy of no lone wolves. Every child at a party is invited into a group and encouraged to play.
Of course, the environment encourages this type of behavior, but specifically it is the coach, their unique personality, compassion, and attention to the players that makes all the difference. Early on I recognized that when we hired Coaches, we wanted to seek out gamers with a “musician” personality. Musicians care about developing personal competence and skill, but they also hope to entertain others. Musicians also have another key skill. They are concerned with and focused on creating positive emotional experiences to share with others.
The combination of inclusion, recognition, and an emphasis on a positive emotional energy has made the GameTruck staff virtually legendary over the last 15 years. It is not uncommon for kids who attended a party to ask for a coach by name. Children remember for years who worked their party.
Think about that.
Can you even remember the name of the person who assisted you at the pizza-arcade near your house? In my experience the staff are hardly distinguishable from the equipment.
While GameTruck has delivered great parties for fifteen years, the shifting social dynamics of our children’s lives have never left them so isolated. I am firmly of the belief that friendships are made shoulder to shoulder, in the strive toward common interests that unite us. Through a long organic process, we have learned that our Coaches play an integral role in helping players unite interests and expand their friendships through play. We have so few opportunities to do this today, I for one, really appreciate the work of our dedicated owners and staff that care so deeply about making this happen for every child we throw a party for.
It is hard to believe it was 15 years ago that I started to work on GameTruck. Entrepreneurship is such a strange process. You can do all the homework, all the research (and you should) but there comes a point where an idea takes you by the heart and pulls you along. In this blog post, I’ll share the story of GameTruck and how it has become a fantastic option for winter parties. Join me as we explore the exciting world of GameTruck and its year-round entertainment offerings.
I remember asking my wife after one particularly stressful night early in the history of the company, “Why did you let me do this?” She answered simply enough, “Because there was no stopping you.”
Trailblazing a NEW frontier.
Creating the ultimate winter party experience.
I have written about my initial vision for the company many times in many places. In short, I was focused on recreating the environment I loved as a kid. Playing the best games with my best friends. Where I got lucky was that I also tried to design a party that met my wife’s needs as a parent.
It had to be simple, effortless, easy. It also had to be cool. Not just cool as in, wow that’s awesome! but temperature wise. I live in Arizona. Getting rid of heat is a big deal. If I wanted to operate a year-round business, I needed to have a way of managing the thermal load of a couple dozen kids, electronics, with the sun beating down on us.
From the very beginning our trailers were designed to be insulated.
Winter proof Fun
Surprising Discoveries for Winter Parties.
What I didn’t think about, and provided to be interesting, is that isolating heat works in both directions. If you don’t want heat to get in, the same insulation can be used to keep heat from getting out.
When we sold our first franchises in California, so I wasn’t too worried about the weather. But when we opened a GameTruck franchise in New Jersey, I was nervous about the winter. Turns out, I didn’t need to be. Come to find out, a mobile video game theater works just great in the winter!
The decision to make our units self-contained and climate-controlled ensured the safety and enjoyment of kids throughout the year, making winter parties a breeze.
When I saw the first pictures of people have a GameTruck party in the winter snow I was floored. It turned out the kids, who are used to going to school all year in the snow, had no trouble running from their front door to the trailer to play video games. And the same conditions that made GameTruck loved by parents everywhere still applied.
Love, all the way around!
The kids were home, but not in the house. The parents could hang out and enjoy themselves knowing their kids were safe with our expert Game Coaches have the time of their lives. The weather was the least of the problems. In fact, it was almost never a problem at all! Over the last decade and half, we have had more problems about showing up than not showing up.
You see, GameTruck owners take showing up for a child’s birthday seriously. If the roads have been plowed, chances are, our owners are going to be there. That is why it is always a good idea to check your messages and email the day before you party.
You should never assume we will not show up because the weather is bad. Kids are born in all months of the year, which means GameTruck, (unlike a lot of other mobile concepts), also works in all 12 of those months.
But how has this changed in 2020 for Winter Parties?
At its core, GameTruck was always about providing private parties as an alternate to the mad crowds and expensive carnival games of the family entertainment center.
We’ve taken it a step further with GameTruck@Home, where you don’t even need to step outside your house for a winter party. We can deliver pre-sanitized video game consoles loaded with fantastic games, allowing you to enjoy gaming in the comfort of your own home during the winter season. Friendships are forged and strengthened through shared experiences, and GameTruck ensures that making friends doesn’t stop just because it’s cold outside. Making friends does not stop just because it gets cold outside.
Neither does GameTruck.
Ready for Fun, Rain or Shine, in Winter Parties
So whether it’s Nintendo Switch, XBox One, or Playstation 4 (in your home or in the trailer), our team is ready to bring your friends and family the best party experience ever no matter the reason or season!
We welcome you as both a returning and brand new customer.
Now, there’s only one thing left to do. Fill out a form or give us a call to book your event today!
You might even get a few great smiles and some long lost laughter you’ve been longing for…
Scott Novis | Founder
If you’re interested in booking a GameTruck party for your next event, visit our website at www.gametruck.com
Check out our Winter Fun for Families – 9 Affordable Ideas for more!