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Gaming van brings entertainment to Central Texas residents

August 28, 2009 by By Carl Hoover Tribune-Herald entertainment editor

Central Texas parents tired of kids spending indoor time to play video games now can get them out of the house — to play video games.

A mobile entertainment service called Games2U packs a specially designed extended van with Xbox and Wii video game consoles, up to 20 controllers, five high-definition screens, laser tag gear and even a 10-foot “hamster ball.”

The Austin-based company recently opened a Central Texas franchise, operated by cousins Kevin and Ed Tolbert, and aims to send its Games2U van to homes and venues in need of some gaming.

Alissa Murrey, 14, tries her hand at "Guitar Hero" during a recent Games2U stop at Waco's Best Buy. (Duane A. Laverty photo)

Kevin Tolbert, an Austin chief financial officer, and Ed Tolbert, a Waco engineer, handle Waco, Temple and Killeen areas for Games2U, and plan to make their Games2U van a familiar sight at local football games, festivals like Westfest, college parties and community events.

Games2U’s mobile units most frequently provide the entertainment for birthday parties — “Guys 5 to 18 are our sweet spot,” Kevin said — but they also have been used for school fundraisers, community functions, companies’ team building exercises, even wedding receptions. “They entertain the kids,” he explained about the latter. Dates are booked through the corporate Web site, www.g2u.com.

The Games2U vans have three indoor HDTV screens and two outside ones; inside air conditioning; a fog machine and laser light show capabilities; movable bunkers and gear for outdoor rounds of laser tag; a photo booth to snap take-home pictures of party-goers; and a giant hamster ball powered by a person inside.

Those renting Games2U’s services — the basic rate starts at $200 for a 90-minute session — pick from a list of games that includes “Halo 3,” “Guitar Hero,” “Madden NFL 2010” and “Tiger Woods PGA Tour ‘09.” Kevin noted they even offer parent-friendly versions of action games like Halo, with reduced bloodshed and less graphic violence.

Those wishing to play laser tag need to provide a space at least 20 yards by 15 yards, but the franchisee said some renters stage games at nearby neighborhood parks.

Though setting up a new business venture during a recession might seem like a gamble, Kevin said he has two factors working in their favor. “Everybody loves video games . . . and people spend money on their children regardless of the recession,” he said.