How have I held off on a video-game console for so long? I have no idea. But for my oldest’s 14th birthday, I’m breaking down, just a little. I’m renting him a game truck.
Kathy Wachtel is a franchise owner with Game Truck (888-602-4263; gametruckparty.com/NorthSanDiego). “It’s a 50-foot trailer,” she explained. “It’s climate-controlled, with both heat and A/C. We have our own generators, so when we come to you, all we need is a place to park. The majority of parties we do are held right in front of the person’s house.”
Inside, “There are four 50-inch plasma-screen TVs. Each one has Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and Wii. Each TV setup can have 4 players, so you can have 16 people playing at once. And since we system-link, there are some games where you can have all 16 playing the same game at the same time. We carry 35 multiplayer game titles.”
Wachtel said that the kids (aged 6–10) like Mario Kart and Super Smash Bros. The older kids go for “first-person shooter games like Call of Duty and Halo and the sports games: NBA, NHL, Madden. For the Wii, Rock Band is popular. Someone holds the guitar, another works the drums, and a third person will do vocals.”
In the event that not everyone in attendance knows their way around a remote, Game Truck provides coaches. “Our game coaches are expert gamers — mid-20s, mostly guys. Some of the older kids like to challenge the coaches and play against them, but for the younger kids, the coach is there to assist those who need help. The coach can also make game recommendations to parents to make sure that kids are playing age-appropriate games.
“People rent us for birthday parties, school carnivals, corporate teambuilding events,” added Wachtel. “Qualcomm rented us for teambuilding. We do events for singles at Miramar and Camp Pendleton. If there are guys who don’t have family or family events to attend, we’ll get 16 of them playing Halo or Call of Duty, and they love it. You can also find us sometimes at the La Jolla Farmers’ Market. Being there lets kids and parents test us out.”
Pricing varies according to length and event type. Birthday parties Friday–Sunday cost $350 for the first two hours, $100 for each additional hour. Parties held Monday–Thursday are $300 for the first two hours; $100 for each additional hour. The Slumber Party Special is $275 for parties booked on Saturday or Sunday from 9 a.m.–11 a.m. or 9 p.m.–11 p.m.
Graelon Brown is owner and game coach for Rolling Video Games (877-573-9873; extremegametruck.com). He offered a slightly cozier setup. “I’ve got a brand-new, 32-foot, climate-controlled trailer. But there’s plenty of room for people to move around if, say, they’re playing on the Wii. I’ve noticed that a lot of parents are picky about cleanliness; when you step into my trailer, it still has that new-car smell. I have four 46-inch HD TVs, each with an Xbox, a PlayStation 3, and a Wii. For seating, I offer a flat bench seat. It seems to be easier for the smaller kids to get onto than the individual seats. There are vibrating motors under the seat that are in synch with the TV, so that it moves according to the game. For example, if you’re playing soccer, you’ll feel the vibration when you kick.”
As game coach, said Brown, “I help everything run smoothly and make sure everyone gets a fair turn. Some of the games have timers; if not, I can just have kids rotate in after a certain amount of time.”
Brown provides 30 invitations with his party services and covers all of San Diego County, 24 hours a day. “Typically,” he notes, “people want 1 to 3 p.m. on a Saturday.” Cost is $299 for two hours; $99 each additional hour.
Rick Sandoval’s Game Force (951-963-5721; gameforceparty.com) offers an outside-play feature. “Our trailers are 26-feet long with five TVs, so 20 people can play at a time. But we also have a TV mount for the outside of the trailer, so we can set up one station outside. We usually do that for the Wii games — things like Rock Band or Michael Jackson’s dance game. The kids like to jump and do rock-star kicks. Sometimes parents like to sit outside and watch a movie while the kids are in the trailer.” Cost is $299 for a two-hour party and $89 for each additional hour.