A gamer's dream party

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Tricia Despres

 

Chances are, at one time or another, you have encouraged your child to get off the couch, put down the video game controller and go outside and play. But while no one wants to raise a couch potato, video games can have their benefits. Not only are they a great form of exercise for the brain, today's video games now encourage players to get up and get moving.

Do you have a gamer in your life? If so, a gaming-themed birthday party just might be the perfect idea. And when it comes to a game party, it doesn't matter whether you are a boy or a girl or what age the guest of honor is….the simple fact is that everyone loves to play.

Before you run out to the store to pick up invitations, sit down with the birthday child and come up with a theme based on the games that will be played. Work off a theme, whether its sports, dance or a particular video game character. In terms of decorations, colors can run from red and yellow to blue and black. Fill the party room with balloons and streamers. Also, consider stopping by a local video game store and ask the clerk for any extra posters or signs you might be able to put up on the wall.

As partygoers arrive, set up an "athlete's" table where everyone can receive their video game team assignments. Consider outfitting each team in their own color and possibly personalized, therefore serving as a fun take home gift. Once everyone has checked in, set up a large tournament board which can list each team and event and the order of team play. Perhaps the first 2 teams compete and the winner plays the winner of the next two teams in that event. Of course, don't forget to take pictures of all the teams, which can then easily be sent home as a goody bag memento or enclosed in the thank you notes.

Not sure if you have own enough games to keep your guests busy? Scatter hand held games throughout the room to keep gamers busy when they aren't involved in the tournament. No matter the game, make sure to award winners with theme inspired prizes, such as a Super Mario doll for the younger ones or a gift card to a local video game rental facility.

If you plan to take the party out of the home, consider scheduling it on a weekday afternoon after school, since party packages are often cheaper during the week. A party outside the home can go far in offering partygoers the chance to play a bunch of games they just can't find at their local video game store. "We serve as a test floor for a number of video game companies, so we offer a ton of unique games that you are not going to find anywhere else," explains Michael Hernbrott, General Manager of Rink Side Sports in Gurnee. "There is a little bit of something for everyone."

"It's nice to get the kids off of the couch in their living room and out with their friends to play their favorite video games," explains Adrian Castaneda, VP of Operations at Game Pazzo in Downers Grove, Chicago's largest game center. "We have a wide variety of games for all sorts of different crowds and party themes."

Once at your destination, the clank of video game tokens will be enough to get these gamers excited for the afternoon ahead. At Hollywood Park in Crestwood, party attendees receive at least 20 tokens each, along with other package features such as admission to the bumper cars, rock wall or mini-golf. Worried about keeping everything organized? A party host or hostess will be on hand to show everyone the ropes.

It's also important to keep track of the games that will be played at these centers to ensure nothing is too violent or inappropriate for young eyes. At Game Pazzo in Downers Grove, parents can pick out video games ahead of time that partygoers will be able to play during the center's two hour birthday party packages. "We can customize any party," explains Castaneda. "For a sports themed party, we can set up the video stations with games such as bowling or car racing. If the child is into music, they can take advantage of many of our Wii or Xbox 360 dance games, or better yet, use our full size Rock Band stage and 120 inch projection TV."

Pizza and soft drinks are an easy option for these no nonsense gamers, but why not get creative? Wrap chocolate shapes of hockey pucks or baseballs for a sports themed gamer party. No matter what, a gaming themed birthday party will keep them moving, and talking long after the game is over.

"As a parent myself, I remember going to these so-called birthday places and there was always too much downtime for the kids," concludes Hernbrott, whose facility offers everything from video games to laser tag. "I'm so proud that we have a place that offers so many different things to do under one roof to ensure we keep the kids on the move."

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