Game Rooms Bring Entertainment Home for the Holidays.
By MICHELE BLOOMQUIST for The Columbian
This year, instead of putting an exotic vacation or flat screen television on your wish list, consider joining one of the latest trends in home entertainment -- build a game room.
Linda Prugh, owner of West Coast Darts and Billiards in Vancouver, says thanks to the renewed popularity of game rooms, business has never been better.
"Usually we're slow in the summer," she says. "But not this year. We were busy."
Prugh says she believes a national trend toward nesting and investing in the home is to thank. Like spa style bathrooms or gourmet kitchens, game rooms offer a top-of-the-line experience right in your very own home.
Locate Your Space
The first step in designing your game room is to decide where it will go.
"You start with the space," Prugh says. "That will determine what types of games you can have, and what other accessories you can add."
While bonus rooms, converted garages, and finished basements are all prime game room locations, Prugh says more and more homeowners are putting games front and center.
"A lot of people are actually converting their formal living rooms into game rooms," she says. "In many homes it's space that rarely gets used, especially if there's a family room as well. And living rooms are usually one of the largest rooms in the house, which makes them perfect for game rooms."
Thinking through the space requirements of each game is critical before you shop, Prugh says.
"Not allowing enough room around games is probably the most common mistake people make," she says. "It isn't fun if it's not functional."
Don't have a room to dedicate solely to games? No problem. Many pool and card tables easily convert into attractive dining room sets when not in use. Darts and wall games can easily tuck out of sight when not in use.
Choose Your Games
Once you've nailed down where the games will go and how much space is available, it's time to choose which games to include.
Prugh says most people start with one "central" game, such as a pool table, and surround that with smaller games such as darts, card tables, arcade-style games, or pinball machines.
"For family-style entertainment, pool tables are by far the most popular choice," she says. "Up to four people can play at the same time, and they look great, too."
Pool tables also offer versatility, she says. Convertible table tops can quickly turn the surface into a ping pong or card table.
Still, a pool table isn't for everyone, Prugh says. So if you aren't a fan, don't feel obligated to include billiards.
Other "central game" options include air hockey, shuffleboard, ping pong, foosball, or bumper pool.
"The most important thing is to choose games you and your family like, and will use," she says.
Think Long Term
Prugh cautions customers against buying the first piece of game equipment they see.
"You can go as expensive or as inexpensive as you like in your game room set-up," she says. "But what you don't want to do is buy a game and then have to replace it because it falls apart or breaks after just a short time."
Prugh urges customers to think long-term when buying game equipment. For example, always choose slate, not composition, tops for pool tables, she recommends.
"No matter what anyone says, composition products will warp over time," she says. "And once that happens, the table is ruined."
Also shop for high quality felt (Prugh recommends 22 ounce weight), good bumpers, and quality balls, cues, and accessories.
Likewise, avoid foosball tables with printed paper surfaces that wear off quickly or stiff handles that are difficult to move and spin.
"After all, if you're going to play foosball, you want to really play," she says, sending a ball sailing into the goal with a flick of her wrist to illustrate the point. "You might save a few hundred dollars on a less expensive table, but over time you'll find yourself frustrated when it doesn't function well."
In addition to space requirements, homeowners should take a game room's electrical, lighting, and other special requirements into consideration when planning.
For example, is there wiring in place above the pool or card table for overhead lights? Is there an adequate power source nearby for air hockey or arcade games? Is there an outlet for the bar's mini fridge? Does your circuit have enough juice to power all of it at once?
If not, you'll either need to alter your game locations or choices or add the necessary wiring, which can increase the costs of a game room set up.
Ask if delivery and professional installation are included in the purchase price, Prugh recommends. Many games, such as pool tables, need to be leveled and balanced to work properly.
"If a pool table isn't level, you may as well not even play on it," she says.
Other considerations include easy access to a restroom, and a traffic flow that keeps dart throwers from colliding with pool players, for example.
Be sure to include plenty of storage in your game room as well, including a rack for your pool cues.
"In our area, pool cues warp quickly because of the moisture," Prugh says. "They absolutely need to be stored properly."
Finally, decide on a "look" for your game room.
The fun part? Rules that apply to most home decor literally go out the window when it comes to a game room. It's pure personal expression.
"Think fun," Prugh says. "You want to walk in and immediately get that feeling that this is a space about entertainment."
A family-style game room might take on an arcade or soda fountain motif, complete with neon lit pictures and a bubbling jukebox.
Those creating an adult escape might want to mimic the look and feel of a quaint pub or tavern, complete with neon beer signs, a bar, and pub tables.
Yet others might choose to imitate a casino atmosphere, complete with card tables, professional quality gaming chips, and bright lights and buzzers to add to the excitement.
"Thanks to the popularity of card games like Texas Hold 'Em, poker tables and gambling supplies are very hot right now," Prugh says. "
Let the Games Begin
Prugh says one advantage a game room offers over electronic entertainment is that they help build strategic thinking and relationships.
"These games are interactive, not passive like television and computer games," she says. "They're social, relaxing, and intellectually challenging."
Whether the objective is to build family relationships or to create a place to entertain friends--or both -- a game room has it covered.
"A lot of my customers remember how much fun they had with a ping pong table or pool table when they were growing up," she says. "Now they want to recreate that experience for their own family and friends."
And that, she says, is money well spent.