When I first started running GameTruck, we only had one truck and trailer. That worked until demand shot through the roof. We quickly built 3 more trailers and I had to hire staff to handle them. Early on, Chris and I could do everything. But when that third trailer showed up, we needed more help. Josh joined us and that’s when things started to get interesting. Who had filled the truck last? Was the first driver to leave going to be the last driver to return? GameTruck was small back then, so everyone was trained to every task. And while everyone could do anything, no one could do everything. This really blew up in our face when one day I sat down to update the game libraries in all the trailers and Chris had parties to run. See the problem? I get this panic phone call. “Where are the GAMES!?” I sped up to North Phoenix with a bundle of DVD’s. Not fun.
Booking was just as complex – we started out with index cards. I learned at Motorola you never automate a process you don’t understand. The index cards helped us put information on the google calendar. But… it was too easy to put something on the calendar without checking how far it was to the next party, or from the previous party for that matter. Parents, especially Mom’s don’t like it when there are 20 anxious 12 year old boys in her front yard and it’s party time with no truck or trailer in sight.
Caring is a great start, but being dependable requires more. Some problems you just can’t muscle your way through. It takes more the raw effort and desire to run a sophisticated mobile business. It takes smarts. Specifically, it takes tools and planning.
Caring about your business is not enough. You have to be smart about it too.
Until I ran a multi-trailer video game party business, I had no clue on the level of logistics planning that goes into executing a flawless weekend of events. This was why we early on invested in planning and logistics software to meet our needs. I’m talking about a lot more than GPS route planning. Our software is purpose built to help GameTruck owners. The whole goal is to give owners the right information, at the right time, when they can act on it.
Let me be more specific, the GameTruck portal doesn’t just tell you how long it would take to drive from one party to another, it also tells the person booking an event how long it is likely to take to make that drive on that specific day of the week, at that specific time of day the event is scheduled for. It does this right as you are booking the event! The system gives the owner, and the client information they can plan with.
“Being Smart” is about helping everyone make informed decisions so they can plan
From my perspective “Being Smart” is about helping everyone make informed decisions so they can plan. Our logistics software is just one example of that principle. When the person on the phone has accurate information, they not only sound smart, but they can make better decisions. When you have the information you need, when you need it, you can focus on the people you serve. Automating the ordinary, so the our team members can do the extraordinary is the best kind of smart I know.
Automating the ordinary, so the our team members can do the extraordinary is the best kind of smart I know.
Being smart is not just about having a high intellect or memorizing a lot of facts. To me it is a mindset. It is about learning from mistakes, reducing opportunities for error, and putting people in a position to be successful. It is about anticipating problems as much as possible and preparing to mitigate them. At the end of the day, competence is made of two core elements: Knowing what to do and being able to do it. As a franchisor we can make owners lives easier if we make the work easier to do with automation and strong systems. If we do that, then our owners can make mom the hero of her child’s birthday. And that, is the real goal.
How our values effect how we feel about our work
I recently had the immense pleasure of hearing Dr. Sabrina Starling talk at my local chapter of the Entrepreneurs Organization. Dr. Starling is the bestselling author of a series of books about hiring the best. I don’t know how staffing is going for your organization but for nearly every business owner I talk to building and keeping a team together has proven to be one of the greatest challenges small businesses are facing. It doesn’t seem to be just about COVID, but the shifting landscape in how people view their time.
I haven’t done all the background research on this, but the combination of several factors seems to have disrupted the workplace like never before. The sudden and often unexpected shift from office work to working from home (it happened in my company), coupled with families both spending more time together AND being separated from people they love has tilted the sense of value many people put on their work and their time.
I am hearing more people say, “Someday is today.” In my experience, those thoughts can lead to powerful change. It happened to me four years ago. I bought my first Harley Davidson motorcycle. I named her Willow. Willow was a soft tail deluxe so named because her color was similar to Willow Rosenberg’s hair color on the TV show Buffy the Vampire slayer. (Played by Alyson Hannigan). Joss Whedon said in an interview that whenever he wanted to kick start an adventure he would put Willow in peril, but of course he would never hurt her. To me, Willow the motorcycle was my call to adventure. That one single decision had an enormous impact on my life. I am not surprised to hear and see more people reaching out to live their dreams now.
So how does this affect hiring and employee retention?
According to Dr. Starling, “A-Players” are not just great performers, they are also people we are compatible with. Surprisingly, there are multiple ways to be competent, and some are not compatible with our deepest held values. Dr. Starling calls these, “the immutable laws.”
Her advice? If you want to build a team of A-players, start by looking in the mirror and finding your immutable laws. Because she warns, if you don’t, you may find the perfect candidate for the job and hire them – only to discover you drive each other nuts.
Finding your immutable laws is simple, but not easy. I have seen two different methods for discovering how to gain perspective and discover what you value. The first is to make a list of people you admire – a short list. Then study the list for commonalities. The common qualities point to traits you admire and want to develop within yourself.
Dr. Starling gave an even easier method to arrive at discovering what you value most. First, take a look at times you have become really upset by something. Chances are, you are upset because the thing that happened somehow violated one of your values. The second path to discovery is to look for instances where you feel very proud of someone close to you. Kids are an obvious example, but you can also be inspired by team members, family, or friends. Your sense of pride stems from the fact that they are demonstrating a value you hold dear.
I know I have seen franchise owners in the GameTruck system spark a deep sense of pride within me. Until Dr. Starling explained it, I had thought the feeling slightly misplaced out of a misguided desire not to be pedantic. GameTruck owners possess a deep sense of duty and commitment to show up for a child’s birthday. It is truly remarkable and one of the main reasons the brand has flourished.
It did not take me long to sit down and mine my frustrations and my pride. I quickly identified some values that are core to me. I also remember Dr. Starling telling me these values should be “real”, not aspirational, not something we aim but, but “the way it is.” For me, that’s exactly what these values are. That’s why she calls them immutable laws. These values guide how each of us processes and ultimately experience reality right now.
Chances are, when you find an A-player, someone you really enjoy working with, someone who kicks ass and takes names. It is not only that they are competent, but that you both share a large overlap in values.
So if you want a great team, a good place to start is to sit down and make a list of your own “immutable laws”. You can have as few as 2 values or as many as 10 What’s important is that they be authentic and sound like you. When I shared my list with my team, they said, “yup, that sounds like you.” I believe the list is a mirror into the part of myself where thought and emotion mix. As Simon Sinek said, “the part of your brain that is responsible for decisions is not the part of your brain responsible for language.” Putting words to deeply held feelings and beliefs is hard. What’s more, it feels so much easier to see in other people than ourselves.
I loved Dr. Starling’s simple tools because they helped me articulate my values. What’s more, they make it easier for me to see alignment with others on my team. Armed with that information I find it easier to diffuse frustration and amplify positive feedback. I think it makes it better for my team as well.
I encourage you to take 15 minutes and give it a try. You might be surprised what you come up with.
When a gamer first walked into a GameTruck game theater, they are hit with a wall of color and sound. The screens are full of games cycling through their “attract animations” built in commercials that show how fun and engaging each game will be. The Game Coach greets them and rapidly gets them situated and into playing.
While there are differences, from market to market, and region to region as far as games go (for example, in the Northeast, NHL Hockey is a must, while in the Southeast NASCAR is frequently requested), there are usually some variations of the following games that have been on our trailers for the better part of a decade.
What are they?
These are the games that
- Support four players
- Are widely popular
- Are easy to get into
- Have been played by almost everyone attending the party making them familiar and accessible.
This list is so stable that it was an enormous deal when Fortnite forced its way into the list of games that make a regular initial appearance at most parties.
The list of games is easily recognizable, but there is one game, that in my opinion stands above all the rest. It might not be obvious, but even if you don’t agree, I think you’ll at least understand why I am such a fan.
The following is a list of games you are most likely to find at the beginning of a party, in no particular order:
- Just Dance
- Lego (anything) from Star Wars to Batman
- Mario Kart 8 Deluxe
- Call of Duty (latest version)
- Super Mash Bros Ultimate
Of all the games on this list, I believe that Super Smash Bros Ultimate, or just “Smash“, is the king of party games. And here’s why.
Smash is special for a variety of reasons. Developed by Legendary Nintendo President Satoru Iwata and Masahiro Sakurai while they worked at the HAL Laboratories (this was before Iwata joined Nintendo), they created the game in their spare time. Iwata would code Sakurai’s ideas and they would play the results. They wanted to put something together quick so they could try out the idea. The original prototype did not even have Nintendo characters in it. “After the first round of programming, we knew we had something special, ” said Iwata. 
Neither of them imagined the game would grow to the legend it has become. However, Smash was unique in that the game benefited from more. Iwata did not believe that adding more was necessarily the best way improve a game. In my own experience as a game developer, I saw this played out in our most successful original property ever, “ATV Off-road Fury.”
ATVORF (the name was a mouthful), originally started out to be a launch title for the PS2. We had included 38 tracks. The producers at Sony, realizing we had something special did the unthinkable. They cut the game to 12 tracks. The team almost quit over it. Imagine having two third of your work thrown out.
However, this decision forced us to pick only the 12 best tracks and then polish them to perfection. But that was not all, Sony decided to delay the game until February, giving us an additional 4 months to work on it, but with one critical constraint. We could not add any new features. What did we do for 4 months?
We removed every annoying thing we could find. The game became significantly better by subtraction. ATV went on to sell 40,000 units a week, for years culminating in roughly 10M units sold.
Yes Smash, as Iwata noted, was special. It did benefit from more. More characters, more modes, more stages. The game is genius in both its simplicity and its depth. The core concept mimics the play of action figures. Early versions of the game in fact features giant hands that “smashed” these beloved action figures together, much as a child would do with their own toys. However, in Smash Bros, the characters really do get to “fight”.
But it’s not simply the premise that makes Smash special, but a number of features.
- Characters never “die”, nor are they “killed.” They are knocked out or KO’d and that only happens off screen.
- Characters never lose health. They accumulate damage points. This is a really interesting twist, because zero is always zero, but this idea of “stamina” seems to speak to our intrinsic understanding that competent, capable fighters are able to take way more punishment than inexperienced and unskilled combatants. It literally feels like a “toughness” meter, and better players can in fact, play through high levels of accumulated damage. Like the quarterback that bounces back up after a hard hit, or a basketball player who jumps up after a hard foul, we respect toughness.
- The game supports at least 6 major styles of play. They all work, each and every one of them can be effective.
- The game is rich enough to support a thriving esports community.
- Smash has the largest in person esports community in the world. For more than 20 years players have been coming together face to face, and shoulder to shoulder to battle it out on the big screen (and no infrequently on the small CRT).
- Smash supports up to 8 players at the same time.
- Players respawn constantly. Unlike games where they are eliminated until the next round, Smash keeps everyone engaged and active.
- The game includes characters not only from Nintendo, but across the landscape of video games  – from metal gear solid, to Minecraft , Smash could be the most inclusive video game ever made.
- Smash plays out on ONE single screen.
Of all the games we play, Smash has been one of the most consistently popular games for more than 15 years. While some games have come and gone (like Guitar Hero, or Wii Bowling), Smash has persisted. The ability for so many players to jump in, find their favorite character, and go to town is incredible.
What’s more, an 8 player Smash battle is something that is hard to replicate at home. Our consoles have all the characters unlocked which allows the players to pick from the full library of characters. They even have a way to allow every player to pick the same character (they just have to pick a different color or “skin” so they all appear unique.) Let’s just say an 8 player Ganondorf battle is more entertaining than you ever imagined.
Smash is more than a game; it feels like a toybox full of surprises. There are so many ways to configure the game, so many characters to pick from, players gravitate to Smash without hesitation.
This is why I feel confident in outlining Smash as the greatest GameTruck Party video game of all time. Of course, this is up for debate, which is what makes it fun. Do you agree? What is your favorite game to play with friends? Reach out to us on social media and let us know.
- Hobonichi (Ed.). (2021). Ask Iwata: Words of Wisdom from Satoru Iwata, Nintendo’s Legendary CEO (S. Bett, Trans.). VIZ Media LLC.
- Super Smash Bros. Ultimate for the Nintendo Switch system. (n.d.). Retrieved July 11, 2021, from http://www.smashbros.com/en_US/fighter/index.html
Facebook, S. on, Twitter, S. on, & LinkedIn, S. on. (2020, October 1). Super Smash Bros. Ultimate adds Minecraft characters. VentureBeat. https://venturebeat.com/2020/10/01/super-smash-bros-ultimate-adds-minecraft-chracters/