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GameTruck has a fresh take on party entertainment for children and adults

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“Are you guys ready to go?” asks Joe Howe, owner and operator of D.C.’s GameTruck franchise, as a group of 11 kids line up outside one of his video game trucks.

“Yeah!” the kids scream.

Video games have their pluses and minuses. According to a recent Wall Street Journal article, new research shows that gamers can be more creative and faster decision makers. But video game detractors point to the dormant nature of the games as part of the U.S.’s obesity problem.

Jason Smith, 10, probably didn’t think about any of that when he asked his parents whether the Game Truck, a neon green trailer on the back of a pickup, could come to his party to celebrate the end of the school year.

Video games are not something Jason plays all the time, according to his mother, Marjorie Smith, a computer programer. She’s standing next to a row of four 50-inch televisions in the dark trailer, which is lined on the ceiling with neon green lights. The children sit quietly, eyes glued to the screens. “This is longer than he would normally play,” she says.

For two hours or longer, the game truck sits wherever the party is, while as many as 16 people, children and adults, play dozens of different video games inside.

“I was born to play Halo,” says one kid, sitting on the 20-foot-long black leather couch in the trailer parked outside the Smiths’ house in Alexandria.

The kids quickly become engrossed in the games. They choose their games, then sit down, four to a screen, and compete against each other — so there was no waiting.

“A lot of times, the kids come in and they’re so wound up, it takes 15 minutes to get them into the game,” Howe says. “Obviously, this is a good group of video gamers.”

The games are all vetted by parents before the trailer opens to the kids. Howe has as many as 50 games to choose from, including all of the newest and most popular offerings. A board by the door lists the games that the kids are allowed to play, and a coach assists everyone with game changes, battery issues or gameplay.

“We have an Xbox on every TV and Wii on every TV,” Howe tells the kids.

While Howe does a lot of kids parties, he accommodates adult also: bachelor parties, tennis tournaments and corporate team-building events. GameTruck started six years ago in Arizona, and Howe has been running trucks — he has two — here for about three years.

At parties, everyone gets along in the game truck, Howe says. There’s no drama, and he and his game coaches stress fair play and gaming with others. The only rule: no food or drink in the truck, except bottled water.

Chris Smith, Jason’s father who also works as a computer programer, stands at the door with his wife watching the gamers. A couple more neighborhood kids join the party and the truck gets a little louder. Last year, Smith says, they had a water-themed party to end the school year. This year, they got the ever-popular moon bounce along with the GameTruck.

But don’t expect Jason and his friends to turn into couch potatoes. They had to cut the party short because Jason had soccer practice.

Where: Anywhere in the DC Metro area How much does it cost? Monday-Thursday: $349 for two hours, $95 for each additional hour for up to 16 people at a time in the truck; Friday-Sunday: $395 for two hours and $175 for each additional hour for up to 16 kids at a time in the truck. Ages: 5 and older. For parties with 5- and 6-year-olds, Howe limits the party size to 12 children. For more information: Visit www.gametruckparty.com/DCAlexandria or call Joe Howe at 703-955-6009.

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