So what do you do when you have to set up entertainment for a birthday
party with a dozen youngsters who have long outgrown bouncy castles? writes Brian Byrne.
That was Majella Leighton’s conundrum a few years ago when she needed to
arrange a party for her son and his friends, all gamers. But there were
only a couple of game consoles in the home.
She and her husband Paul, who have lived in Kilcullen for ten years,
managed to gather loans of some extra consoles from friends, and the
party went off fine. But the problem triggered a business idea for
Majella, who was on a break from her work in senior management in the
hotel industry so as to have time to look after her children. “I guessed
it was a similar problem for all parents at party times for their
children, and wondered if there was some way I could solve it.”
After some research, she found that in the US, and to a lesser extent in
the UK, there were mobile party gaming theatres available. The
operators provided vans kitted out with screens and consoles and
libraries of popular games.
That was over three years ago. At the height of the recession, but that
didn’t deter her. She bought a Mercedes-Benz Sprinter van and had it
wrapped in an eye-catching ‘Game Machine’ exterior and fitted out the
interior with screens and consoles and suitable video games decoration.
Getting the idea going meant she was giving all her spare hours to it.
And that’s still the case, but now the operation employs five people,
mostly at weekends, providing Game Machine at parties throughout Kildare
and Dublin. Majella recently put a third van on the road, decorated in
the theme of Morpheus, one of the current most popular games. The
interior is kitted out like a military bunker, and when there are a
dozen young gamers playing away at one time, it’s a busy place. “From
the outside, you can see the van rocking on its springs,” Majella says,
The new Morpheus van is the most advanced, and includes virtual reality
headsets as well as screens, so the players can get truly immersed in
the latest VR games experience. All main game platforms are used,
including Xbox One, PS4, Xbox 360 and Wii U.
The young people whom Game Machine caters for range in age groups
between 7-16, and Majella’s operation has a ‘massive’ library of games
suitable for every group. “We’re very strict on each age group, so, for
instance, we won’t let a 7-year-old play in with the 14-year-olds. And
it’s not just boys who are interested, around four in ten players are
Typically, a party event will involve an hour or so session before
everybody goes back in the house for food, then another session
afterwards. One advantage is that parents who bring their children to
the party can stay on and socialise while the youngsters are enjoying
themselves, and not be in the way. The van operator supervises all
sessions and is also a trained games coach, and can help those
unfamiliar with some games as well as give tips to the more experiences.
Each van is fully self-contained and only requires plugging in to the
electricity supply in the home where it is parked. “We have a generator
for occasions when we’re doing outside events where there isn’t mains
electricity. Each van also has its own 4G WiFi internet system, as many
of the latest games need internet access.”
The newest van was officially launched recently by Deputy Martin Heydon
at his office in Newbridge. “It’s really great to see this kind of
entrepreneurial spirit, where a small idea can be grown into a business
that is innovative, and provides employment,” Deputy Heydon said.
“Majella Leighton and her family are an inspiration to potential other
small enterprises in every town in Kildare.”
Further information from Majella Leighton at 045 484800; 089 4082008; or firstname.lastname@example.org.