Dave and Robin Alef launched their Ultimate Game Truck business -- a mobile video game experience that combines an arcade-type feel with a party atmosphere -- in June with the hope of spicing up birthday parties and school functions throughout the Bay Area.
"I saw one at a party that we went to for my nephew, and when I looked at the truck, I knew I could do it bigger and better," said Dave Alef, who helps design hybrid cars and started the video game company with his wife in between jobs this past summer.
With four 55-inch LED televisions on the inside and two more on the outside, the Alef's mobile experience offers gamers a chance to play with up to 23 other friends in a limousine-type environment complete with leather seats, air conditioning, neon and a pulsating stereo.
Gamers can choose to hone their craft on the Xbox, Play Station 3 and Wii game consoles with their own games or on the Ultimate Game Truck library, which is stocked with all the current hits.
The colorful wrapped truck and trailer and a game coach, Tyler Richey, delivered the truck, complete with its own generator.
The Alefs live in Discovery Bay, but their new business travels the Bay Area. Since summer, they have done more than 100 parties from Piedmont, to Pleasanton, Danville, Antioch and points in between and beyond.
"You start running out of ideas" for parties, said Scott Pathe, of Brentwood. He booked the Ultimate Game Truck for his son Riley's 12th birthday. "(Riley) is all about video games, and we knew when we saw it that he would want it."
Pathe and his wife, Allison, said they have done everything from laser tag to paint ball to bounce houses for Riley and their other son's birthday parties and called the video game experience the most unique of the bunch. At his recent party, Riley and nine buddies spent two hours huddled in the 24-foot trailer playing "Halo 4" and "Call of Duty" in 3D.
Since its debut in June, business has gone so well that the truck, which starts at $225 for the first hour, must now be booked at least four weeks in advance.
"It was fabulous," said Tammy Maxon, of Pleasant Hill, who joined a friend in June to book the truck for their sons' 8th and 9th combined swim and video game truck birthday party.
"(The truck) was the hit of the party, and it was funny because each boy walked in and the reaction was the same, 'Oh my gosh.' "
The Ultimate Game Truck, which is one of three mobile video game truck companies in the Bay Area, is also giving a new generation a taste of a near-extinct attraction, the arcade.
Scott Novis, believed to have started the first mobile video game truck business with the launch of GameTruck in Arizona in 2006, said the cost of producing bulky arcade games, improved technology and a culture that prompts parents to know where their kids are at every moment led to the demise of the arcade.
"The fundamental video game is no longer at the arcade, and we made better games that you could play at home and not at the arcade," said Novis, who spent nine years as a video game designer and executive for Disney and Rainbow Studios. "The whole family entertainment center is now carnival-like."
Novis started GameTruck in 2006 after a friend threw a Halo party in his garage with several movie projectors to play the game on a first-generation Xbox with friends. Novis was intrigued by the party and thought creating a mobile home console arcade could fill a gap in birthday parties for preteen boys and beyond.
What started as one truck in Phoenix evolved into a franchise business recognized by Forbes with trucks in 25 states -- including California and two Bay Area locations in Pleasanton and San Jose that cater to kids and professionals.
And while Novis and Dave and Robin Alef have competing businesses, both said the true service is the experience they provide.
"I get jealous because he (Dave) gets to go to the parties and see the kids' faces and the party atmosphere," said Robin Alef. "They get so excited for this. It is like the ice cream truck times a thousand."