Calgary's Favorite Video Game Truck

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Revised Party Info for Covid-19

We are starting to see some restrictions in Calgary eased, and we see our customers starting to think about parties again. Here are a few party modifications we are making for the next few months to ensure the safety of our customers and staff.

We usually require 14 days for cancellation of bookings, but currently we are accepting last minute cancellations and reschedules. We want to make sure our customers have the opportunity to make the best decisions regarding their parties based on attendance, illness and any other factors.

We usually allow 16-18 guests inside the truck for parties, but currently we are allowing only 12 guests per party. This is to ensure we stay under the regulation of under 15 people gathered indoors, allowing for 2 GFT staff members. This also gives each person slightly more space.

We usually wipe down surfaces and controllers between parties and at the end of the day, but currently we will be even more diligent about disinfecting controllers, benches and high touch surfaces, and we will be having each guest use hand sanitizer as they enter the trailer. It will be available throughout the party, and as guests leave the trailer.

Our crew do not usually look like bandits, but currently they will be wearing face coverings to cut down on possible transmission. Guests are not required to wear face coverings, but may want to consider it since the recommended social distancing cannot be maintained in the trailer.

We usually have doors closed in the trailer, to optimize the visuals inside, but currently, we will be opening the vents and doors when possible to increase fresh air ventilation and decrease risk of infection.

We will still do everything we can to make your party a ton of fun! We ask that you do what you can to make sure guests who are sick do not attend, that guests and parents are aware of that distancing cannot be maintained in the trailer, and encourage guests to clean their hands, cough and sneeze into their elbow, and give each other as much space as possible.

Together, let’s keep playing and celebrating the best we can!

GAMERS FUN TRUCK RELAUNCH

Like every business owner, everywhere, in the last 2 months, we have spent our time trying to wrap our brains around the current situation. It is tough to have so many aspects and decisions about your business be completely out of your control. And as much as we’d all like to say we are prepared for anything in business, we were not, any of us, prepared for this. So, what does a small business do?

Our first reaction was indeed a reaction. Before the schools were closed in Alberta, I should have been preparing a bit more for it to happen, but I was mostly hoping upon hope that it would not happen. Being a business that serves groups of children gathering in a small space, I knew that as soon as the schools closed, we would be stopped in our tracks. And we were. Our first weeks were reactionary, damage control, customer communication, wildly trying to think of what we could do to stop the bleeding. Friends made suggestions, people tried to offer helpful ideas, but for Gamers Fun Truck, pivoting was a challenge at best, most likely impossible.

No one wants to pay for a truck to come to their house for their family of four to play video games, when they could do that for free in their basement. No one wants to book a party when they have no idea if it will be able to happen at all, or when it will be able to happen. There are no online video game services that we could offer that are not already set up and offered by a much bigger company. What else can a 24 foot trailer full of video game equipment do? We even considered offering services of some sort for free, but after all the refunds, and while waiting for government assistance, we just could not afford to do anything with the truck.

I really wracked my brain. I stayed up at night thinking, I researched and made lists all day. And it was bothering me that I could not come up with something that made sense. But one day, I just decided to stop thinking about it that way. I decided my focus had to pivot. If I couldn’t do anything with my business right now, what could I do? I switched the focus to three things:

  1. Supporting other local small businesses and not-for-profit events. Blog posts, social media, using their services, recommending them to others.
  2. Giving something to our customers. Not only small business recommendations, but ideas for celebrating those birthdays during social distancing.
  3. Planning for the future. Gamers Fun Truck will relaunch once we are cleared to book parties again. We are focusing on making the trailer amazing, re-imagining the party experience, and making Gamers Fun Truck better than ever!

Everything we’ve done since then has those 3 ideas in mind. Not every business can pivot in the same way. (I freaking love that beer companies are making hand sanitizer! That’s genius!) We each face this challenge in our own way. I wish my fellow small business owners the best of luck in this endeavor. And I welcome our customers to stay tuned for more updates on our Gamers Fun Truck Relaunch!

LOCAL SMALL BUSINESS: PAGES BOOKS ON KENSINGTON

Small businesses are struggling right now, but they are also working hard to keep serving their customers, keep employees working and survive through the economic effects of Covid-19 regulations. We want to support as many local small businesses as we can.

One of the businesses I recently heard about is a bookstore (I love bookstores!) called Pages on Books Kensington. The reason I heard about it from a friend is because some of the regular sources for ordering books online are quite overwhelmed and backlogged, making deliveries take 4-6 weeks. Enter this local bookstore that offers online orders, curbside pick-up and free delivery in Calgary! Problem solved!

Pages Books on Kensington carries books in every category for every age group, their website is easy to browse, and you can get delivery in 2 days for in-stock books, and curbside pick-up 6 days a week.

If your kids need a book for school, or you need the new Stephen King novel for a distraction, Pages has you covered. They also sell gift cards online, if you are looking for an easy gift for one of those isolation birthdays, or a little something to brighten someone’s day.

Check out https://pageskensington.com/ for all your reading needs.

LOCAL SMALL BUSINESS: SAUCE ITALIAN KITCHEN AND MARKET

As a small business, we know how tough things are right now. And since we can’t spend our time out entertaining kids at parties, we thought we might as well offer support to some local small businesses who are still able to operate right now.

Sauce Italian Kitchen and Market is one of our favourite places for lunch or dinner. So, it stands to reason that we would be checking out their take-out menu right now. Along with their regular take-out and delivery options, they also have come up with a great daily feature for families, at an affordable price point.

You really can’t beat $40 for a family or 4, and if you have small ones or light eaters, you can stretch these meals to 5 people. What excited us about this is that, although we want to support local restaurants, ordering take-out is kind of a luxury around our house at the best of times, and right now we are watching our spending. This offers the option to treat ourselves at a reasonable price and support a local small business. Wins all around!

BIRTHDAY PARTY SUPPLIES

Parties are cancelled, but birthdays are not. We are all looking for ways to make birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, and other occasions special when we can’t throw a party or plan a big event. One thing we can still do is pick up some party supplies.

Don’t get me wrong, I have spent my fair share of time in Party City stores and on their website. But we thought it would be nice to focus on local and Canadian stores.

There are two local Calgarian party supply store to check out.

Canuck Amusements is one of my favourites to browse. I like to walk around the store, checking out all the themes and occasions, picking up what I need and planing future celebrations. Right now you can browse their website, and call them with your order for curbside pickup or shipping. Great way to support a local business!

Reid’s Stationers is an iconic Calgarian store, with a delightful mix of stationary, novelty items and party supplies. Again, this is a great one to browse in person. Call or email them to find out their current open hours, or how you can order from them.

For those who are looking for easy online ordering and front door delivery, here are two Canadian owned options, both of which made me want to start planning a party.

The first is Open a Party. Tons of themes and occasions covered here, plus candy buffet supplies (who says you can’t have a candy buffet for 4?), pre-made loot packs, and craft supplies. They even have learn-at-home resources!

Next up is Party Things. Also Canadian owned, this site has lots of themes covering many occasions. Check out the pre-made party packs and all the great stuff on Clearance. My favourite theme on Party Things is this the video game one!

There is one more thing I wanted to tell you about. The Happy Birthday Project. This is based in Calgary, and they provide birthday party supplies to kids who would otherwise not get to celebrate. “Our mission is to bring joy to the lives of children and families facing adverse circumstances through the celebration of birthdays, holidays, and other special life events.” There are a number of ways to help, including donations, sending in party supplies and ordering gifts on Amazon to be delivered to their office. It’s an easy way to add a little giving to your celebration. 

However you decide to celebrate special occasions right now, we hope that you find ways to make memories and have fun! 

LOCAL SMALL BUSINESS: A1 POOPER SCOOPIN

Here is a new feature on our blog, one that has nothing to do with video games or birthday parties. 🙂

It seems like this would be a good time to showcase some local small businesses on the Gamers Fun Truck blog, because if we can help anyone push through these hard times and keep their business open to the other side, we’d like to do it! 

We are going to start with businesses we use, and expand from there. If you have a small business or know of a small business we should feature, send us an email party@gamersfuntruck.com

Yesterday, the weather was delightful, and it is again today. And that made me realize…our back yard is a disaster. This dude has had the space to himself back there all winter. Now that the snow has melted…not so good.

Our dog does not wish to clean it up himself, selfish little thing. And although I am not opposed to picking up after him, the initial spring clean up is overwhelming. Enter A1 Pooper Scoopin to the rescue. We used them last year, and they were great! Even our dog liked them. They have a number of pricing/service options, they are quick and responsive by email (which I love!) and payment options made the process easy.

To be honest, the last month has been very hard on our business, and we’ve been very careful with our money, not spending unless we need to. I considered not hiring A1 Pooper Scoopin this year, but the thought kept coming up, they are a small business, too. Their prices are reasonable and it is important for us to support other small businesses.

I contacted them this morning for this year, and they are coming tomorrow!

​Highly recommend https://www.pooperscoopin.com!

LOW KEY BIRTHDAY IDEAS

Right now, most of us are limiting our socializing, and spending most of our time at home. We have had lots of cancellations because of social distancing, and it leaves me feeling sad for all the kids who don’t get to have their birthday parties as planned. It also makes me think of all the other reasons people may not be able to throw a big birthday party for their child. Although they will not have the Gamers Fun Truck pull up in front of their house, and all their friends arrive to share in the fun and excitement, there are still ways to make birthdays special in a time when big parties and events are not possible.

1. Decorate! Make this a family activity, maybe even including the birthday child in the fun of it. Find unused party items you’ve saved, even if they are all different colours and themes. If you don’t have any leftover decorations handy, make chain streamers out of colored paper, newspaper, magazine pages. Be creative and find things around your home to use to make the birthday space feel special.

2. Food! Order (or make) a special meal. Maybe you order the birthday child’s favourite meal, or maybe you make it at home. Make sure its something they love, and don’t get all the time. Set the table with fancy dishes and napkins. Sugar the rim of fancy glasses, and fill them with slushy made in your blender with ice and juice, or chocolate milk.  (If you sugar the rim of regular glasses, your kids will think its amazing!)

3. Cake! Nothing new here, just make a cake, or the birthday child’s favorite dessert. My kids always liked to help with the baking, because then they could lick the bowl after. You don’t have to be a cake master, just make something that tastes delicious and it will be perfect.

4. Fun! So, no Gamers Fun Truck, or trampoline place, or even friends coming over. You can still have fun! Play board games, make music, watch a movie, play video games with the kids, make a craft, dance, sing, dress up, anything that your kids love to do. We used to have pajama parties. Everyone put on their favourite pajamas early in the evening, and each time it would be one child’s turn to choose. They got to pick the music we listened to, they got to choose a craft, a game, a movie, the snack food. It was really fun and made the child who was choosing feel really special.

5. Presents! Have each member of the family wrap up something for the birthday child, so it feels like they have a few things to open. These could be gifts you’ve ordered online, dollar store items, or things you’ve made for them. Another way to change their perspective a bit is to sit down at your computer with the birthday child, or whole family, and ask them to help you choose a charity to make a donation. Maybe its a society that provides birthday parties to less fortunate kids, or maybe its a local charity helping people get what they need during this crisis. Its a great opportunity to talk about how they are feeling about the situation, and who might have bigger needs than theirs. 

Whatever you do to celebrate those birthdays during social distancing, I hope you find ways to make it special. Share your ideas int he comments! I know our kids will remember these birthdays that were unlike any other.

WHAT HAPPENS AT A GFT PARTY?

In case you are starting to plan ahead for a good time, now that you can gather your friends and all play together in one place, I thought I’d answer the age old question, what happens at a Gamers Fun Truck party? From beginning to end, here’s how we try to make sure you have the best party experience.

The night before parties, we update all of the game consoles that require it. That doesn’t mean those wild and crazy video game companies won’t release updates again the next morning. Anyone who plays video games knows that can happen. But we watch for big updates that will take hours to complete, and we make sure those are done before a weekend of parties begins.

Our Crew (driver and assistance) will pick up the truck and trailer at least an hour before the first party of the day, to ensure they have lots of time to drive, park, stabilize, set up and get the party started on time. They will make sure they have all the updated consoles, games, cleaning supplies and phone. We schedule one hour between most parties, which is usually enough time to pack up, drive and set up for the next party. Unless they are driving from Okotoks to Auburn Bay! 

Once the crew arrives at the party location, they consult with the customer about the best parking location. They will suggest a spot they think is best based on space, angles and level ground. They will also do their best to accommodate the customer’s requests. Of course, it is always best if the guests can walk straight from the front door of the house into the trailer!

After the truck is parked, the driver will stabilize the trailer in the front and back so the kids don’t get dizzy from the bouncing. And the assistant will get the power and heat/air conditioning going inside the trailer, and start up the gaming consoles. They will pre-load the most popular games for the age group, or the games requested by the customer. When everything is ready to go, they will put on their masks and bring the guests out to the trailer and get the party started!

Although we are operating in basically a big, black box on wheels, it is usually quite comfortable inside. We have a propane heater which warms things up nicely in the winter, and air conditioning to cool things off in the summer. Our crew monitors the temperature in the trailer, and adjusts as things change. The number of guests, and the time of day can make a big difference in the temperature inside the trailer.

There is a long, comfortable, padded bench in the trailer positioned right in front of our 8 big screen TVs. Guests can choose online or offline games, XBox, Switch, PS 4 and WiiU consoles, and many multiplayer games. The crew will help them decide on games, change games for them, help them re-group for game changes, and even challenge them to a game! Their goal is to make sure everyone at the party has a great time, and gets to play at least one game of their choice. The guest of honour, of course, always gets first choice. With the extra TV’s in the trailer, we can have 2 guests playing VR at the same time, while other can watch or join in with regular controllers.

The fun continues for 2 hours! The kids usually yell excitedly at each other, jump up and down with excitement, laugh, and enjoy besting our Game Masters at their favourite games. Then, with a couple of time reminders, the crew will say goodbye to your guests, and watch that they exit the trailer safely and get to the front door of your home. Then the cleaning begins. Every controller is wiped with a disinfectant wipe, as is the bench, and door handles. Everything is tidied and reorganized. The trailer is double checked for items left behind. Stabilizers are removed and the crew is on their way to the next party! Pass the hand sanitizer, please!

If anything, like traffic, mechanical or technical issues, or weather, should cause a party to not run smoothly, or be delayed, you can rest assured that our crew will be doing all they can to rectify the situation, and give you two hours of happy gaming time. They really are the best Game Masters, and they want nothing more than to make each and every party the best party ever.

That’s what a Gamers Fun Truck party is like. We hope to see you once it is safe to party once again.

VIDEO GAMES AS AN EQUALIZER

We started Gamers Fun Truck 3 years ago, because we have 3 boys and we thought they would love to have their birthday parties in a video game truck. They were, of course, our invaluable consultants when it came to designing and building the trucks. And they also have worked in the trucks from the beginning. We have all learned a lot along the way, but there is one thing that I didn’t realize about video games, that running this business has taught me. Video games are a great equalizer.

Letting kids play video games gets a bad rap these days. I think parents can all agree, there needs to be some limits, and physical activity should never be replaced with on-screen time. However, there is something about video games that make them, in one way, different than other activities. Everyone can play them. And everyone can play them together.

Gamers in Super Mario video game truck

Over the last three years, we’ve helped kids include their friend in a wheelchair in their party. We allowed kids with physical limitations have a birthday party that all their friends enjoyed. We’ve seen kids on the spectrum play along side their friends of every personality type and ability level. Shy kids play quietly sitting back, while in the same game an excited one jumps up and down and shouts at the screen. And they all have smiles on their faces.

We also see people of every background, age and gender play together. Video games equalize the differences. Adults play with teens and teens play with younger kids. Guests in the trucks switch games, meet and connect with new people, and they instantly have something in common with those new people…the game they all like to play. Players help each other learn new games, challenge each other on their favourite games, and laugh together while playing silly games. 

Imagine a birthday party at a gymnastics centre, bowling alley or swimming pool. Those are great parties, super fun, our kids have had them and been to them and they loved each one. But there are some kids who can’t participate. With a party in a video game truck like Gamers Fun Truck, everyone can play. Anyone can find a game they like, compete or cooperate in a virtual world, and anyone can win! It isn’t something we thought of 3 years ago when we started, but it is definitely one of the coolest parts of what we do. 

BIRTHDAY PARTY THEMES

For me, sometimes, planning the birthday party is almost more fun than the party itself.​ This is especially true if we come up with a great party theme! And there are lots of themes that work well with Gamers Fun Truck parties.

The obvious choice is Minecraft, and let me tell you, I wish the Gamers Fun Truck had existed when we did our son’s Minecraft party! Put the super fun Minecraft decorations, cupcakes and favours together with two hours of playing the game in the truck, that would have been awesome! (FYI: That black tape that I used to turn my dining table into a crafting table, it ruined the finish on the table. But it was mostly worth it.)

Another popular theme is Lego. This one is pretty easy as far as decorations and favours. You can used the Lego that is already all over your house! And in Gamers Fun Truck, you can start the party with your child’s favourite Lego video games, like Lego Batman, Star Wars, Jurassic World and Ninjago.

One of my kids’ favourite birthdays was their Star Wars themed one. Don’t get me wrong, 12 boys hitting each other with plastic light sabres in my basement was exciting, but had they been battling each other with virtual light sabres in the Gamers Fun Truck, I might have been a little less anxious. 

A theme that makes me wish one of my kids had a February birthday this year is the Winter Olympics. Finding Olympic themed decorations and favours would be easy right now. Add in Mario and Sonic at the Winter Olympic Games, plus a few more sports related video games, and you’ve got a great themed party! (We can even organize an NHL hockey tournament in the truck!)

Of course, you don’t need to have any theme at all for your kids to have a great party in Gamers Fun Truck. But if you are like me, and you kind of enjoy adding the little extras to your kids’ parties, check out our Pinterest page for more ideas. And share your party ideas with us, as well!

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