A few weeks ago Nathan Murray and I headed over to Gamerz, an entertainment venue in Reynoldsburg, Ohio. I’d try to sum up what Gamerz is in one sentence, but it’s a little hard to do, because Gamerz is different than most traditional gaming establishments. It’s not an arcade like Gameworks, and it’s not a sensory-overload party center like Chuck-E.-Cheeze. Gamerz is a cool, relaxed environment where you can play regular console games, running on popular systems and displayed on crisp, beautiful plasma TVs.
To put it simply, Gamerz rents time on systems and TVs, and the rate depends on the size of TV. Their building has a casual feeling to it, almost like an internet café, with clean color aesthetics and several comfortable couches and chairs to game in. At the same time, the space feels geared to hardcore gaming; posters of games like Halo 3, Gears of War and Assassin’s Creed adorn the walls, and a number of cardboard standee displays are set at the entrance. Gamerz strikes a perfect balance between a non-threatening casual environment and a tech-equipped gaming center that a hardcore gamer would feel at home in.
Some might argue that the purpose for Gamerz, renting time on systems, is redundant. After all, places like Blockbuster already let you do that, and why not just play in your own home? I had these questions going in, but again Gamerz’ uniqueness and purpose surprised me. The main goal of Gamerz was to provide an affordable solution for console LAN parties and tournaments. Hosting these things at home is troublesome—you have to set up a number of TVs and go through the annoying process of linking all the consoles together. It’s much more of a hassle than a wireless LAN party with PCs, and Gamerz offers an easy alternative.
They have 31 Xbox 360s networked, perfect for large scale Halo or Call of Duty 4 matches. Gamerz has also managed to acquire 7 Wii consoles, and while the Wii is less suited to LANs it still helps the family oriented nature of the business. The Wii is getting more popular with crowd pleasers like Wii Fit, and Gamerz is a good place to go try these elusive titles. For the old school crowd, Gamerz also has an Atari Flashback and a Nintendo 64. Gamerz has a pretty impressive library of games for its consoles, including original Xbox and GameCube titles. You can switch games as often as you like, because the time is rented on the TVs, not on a game per game basis like a typical video rental store. This keeps the price reasonable, and Nathan and I both found the rates to be fair.
We tested out a number of games for each console, and even on their smallest screen size (42 inch) the games looked great. The Atari and N64 games were a bit blurry, but this can be attributed to the limitations of the consoles—those systems were built when SD TVs were the only option, so they weren’t designed to display on large, high resolution plasma screens.
Players can take a break and buy something from Gamerz’ modest snack bar, which is stocked with sodas, Bawls energy drinks, candy and other party foods. I was pleased to learn that you can bring your own food into Gamerz—for example, if you’re having a party there you can order pizza or Chinese take out. Overall, I thought Gamerz is a great place to host a party or just relax and play some games with friends; they’re open to hosting tabletop gaming too. I just wish it was a little closer to my home in Columbus.
We had some good conversations with the management and staff, and they are all very friendly, helpful people. The owner, Ken Jones, was returning from a LAN party he hosted for the Army and he looked tired, but he still took time out of his busy schedule to talk with us. His wife Barbara was also very accommodating and helpful, and shared more particulars of their business with us. I’d talk more about the specifics of Gamerz and what they have planned, but it’s better to let the owners tell you in their own words. We’ll have the second part of our Gamerz coverage up soon, in which we interview Ken Jones, Barbara, and their head staffer Charlie. Check back for part 2, but in the meantime, check out Gamerz official website
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