Calgary's Favorite Video Game Truck

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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!

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! 

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. 

GO STAMPS!

This is our favourite time of year here at Gamers Fun Truck! The snow and cold weather (that can make our jobs a little more challenging) has gone. The roads are clear and things are warming up outside, and its time to clean out and air out the winter mustiness from our trailers. Kids can come in and play without worrying about jackets or boots. And the sun is shining!

One of the things we love about this time of year is all the fun Gamers Fun Truck events coming up. School carnivals are always exciting and busy! Stampeders Fanfest and pre-game Fan Zones are one of our favourites, we love to challenge football fans to some Madden or NHL.

June is packed with birthday parties, sports team events and end of school celebrations! And the July brings Stampede breakfasts and barbecues! Throw in summer weddings and rolling up to entertain at summer camps, and all of us at Gamers Fun Truck are excited about the upcoming months! 

Look for the Gamers Fun Truck at events all over the city this Spring and Summer, and come in for a game or two!

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