Remember game rooms? They’re coming back and cooler than ever
Game rooms have typically been reserved for homes with extra square footage. But with the rising popularity of both contemporary and classic card and board games, as well as the recent reboot of popular vintage TV game shows, American families are carving out game space in homes of every size.
“We’ve seen a spike in residential game rooms in the last 2-3 years,” said Austin Frost, sales manager of local business Ace Game Room Gallery. “Parents like to know where their kids are, so they try to make their home the place to be.”
Whether converting a spare bedroom or infrequently-used office, repurposing wasted spaces, such as a traditional dining room that gets used just once or twice a year, or finishing a basement, the modern game room can easily be a family’s primary entertaining space. Jennifer Ford, owner of Jennifer Ford Art, says she and her husband, JR, decided to turn a spare bedroom into a poker room.
“We never have sleepover guests, so we decided to switch it up! It was fun to use art and decor to support the card theme, and we also put a small bar cart in the room for grown-up beverages. We all use it frequently,” she said.
The first thing to consider when building a game room is the primary style(s) of gaming that will be taking place. For video games, comfortable and supportive seating is a must, while for puzzles and board games, a generously sized table in a well-lighted area is key. Most families are into a few different gaming activities so it’s important to make the room whole-family friendly by offering different options, giving all members space for their individual interests. Create zones for the various activities, setting up a small cafe table in a corner for checkers or chess, allowing for games to be paused at length, if necessary. For music lovers, hang musical instruments from a peg board affixed to the wall and set up a drum kit underneath.
More traditional game room fixtures such as billiard, ping pong and foosball/dome hockey tables take up more space, but many versatile options now exist. In place of the classic billiard table, look for a bumper pool table, which is a smaller, octagonal table, with relatively similar game play. Shuffleboard tables found in commercial spaces are typically 22 feet long, but you can find 9- and 12-foot-long versions for residential spaces. Ping pong tables come in folding versions on wheels for easy storage in a closet when not in use, but a ping pong kit turns virtually any table top into a temporary table tennis court and is an affordable alternative. If space and budget allow, vintage stand-up arcade games like Donkey Kong, or even a pinball machine, are not only fun to play but also add a festive, unique flair to the room.
“Our basement has been completely converted into a game room. We have a custom arcade game that we built from tons of spare parts and with the help of some techie friends, and that gets the most use. It has thousands of vintage arcade games and just about every home gaming system before the millennium,” said Amy, who wishes to keep her last name private to prevent people from coming to her family’s game room uninvited. “It’s impossible for guests to avoid because it is one of a kind, for sure.”
A similar gaming machine can be found at Ace Game Room Gallery. “Our most popular game is our Multicade, which has 60 games in one machine, including classics like Pac-Man, Galaga and Centipede,” Frost said.
Regardless of room layout, a wall-mounted TV and sound system, with additional gaming systems if desired, should be centrally located so the room can be used during televised sporting events as well as for movie nights. Amy’s family opted for a projector screen, as opposed to a traditional television unit. For families into karaoke, place a costume box nearby for items which can be incorporated into the performances, and which can pull double duty for charades and other games. If space allows, a small, corner stage with velvet curtains takes performance games up a big notch.
Ample storage is vital for any well-organized game room. Closed-door shelves provide storage with a streamlined look for lots of boxed games and puzzles while open shelves let families display fun extras or the most popular games du jour; a healthy mix of both gives the room and family members plenty of options.
Repurpose old dressers, bookshelves and trunks instead of spending money which could be used toward gaming fixtures. Old tables can be stained or painted and, with a few well-placed hinges, turned into Murphy-style drop down tables, which save a ton of space. Instead of a traditional sofa, opt for a generously-sized day bed, piled with comfy pillows and with storage underneath, which can easily sleep overnight guests, should the need arise.
Open storage around the room, like soft baskets and bins, can be attractive and functional for holding small items, plush toys and blankets. Coffee tables with storage keep remotes, gaming consoles and video game discs, cords and accessories out of sight when not in use. Metal tool chests, such as from Craftsman or Stanley, offer cool and creative storage options and most come on wheels for easy moving, as the space and activities shift. Lockers offer functional storage for sports-centric game rooms and clear plastic, over-the-door shoe holders are perfect for corralling miscellaneous gaming pieces like dice, darts and place markers.
Have Fun with Decor
Because the game room is a non-traditional space in the home, feel free to loosen up when it comes to its decor. Great lighting, brightly hued and funky, amusing decorative accessories add to the convivial vibe of the room. Comfy toss pillows, multipurpose stools and bean bag chairs and a cushy rug underfoot will make everyone comfy and at ease. Outdoor furniture as well as indoor/outdoor rugs are durable and easy to clean. Use various lighting fixtures to delineate the spaces; a moody vibe for late night card games and bright, overhead track lighting for more boisterous games and puzzles, for example.
Install a swing in one section for fun, lighthearted seating for little ones, or a hammock for lounging with an unexpected twist. Framed jerseys, trophies and plaques (whether rightly earned or given/received as a gag), as well as banners and pennants make the space feel festive. Wall stickers in fun video game-inspired designs or sports themes offers a fun take on decor without committing to more permanent designs, and gel window clings and stickers are a fun and easy way to decorate seasonally. Hang a large roll of paper on the wall for easy scorekeeping as well as games like Pictionary. An inexpensive piece of thin wood, mounted to a door or propped against a wall, can be painted or stained and then be easily signed or carved into by teammates and opponents alike — it’s a fun take on a lasting guest book.
While arts and crafts aren’t games per se, offering artistic members of the family a space within the game room makes sure there’s something for everyone. Easels, a wall (or section of) covered in chalkboard paint and a small table in an easy to clean area, establishes an oasis for all kinds of creative activities like drawing, painting and modeling with clay. Hang a peg board for displaying finished artwork. Likewise, bookish types will appreciate a cozy area for reading time when the games are over.
As Amy says, “We planned our game room for everyone, and we love it. It’s a true family space.”
• ACE Game Room Gallery, 2525 W. Jefferson Blvd., 46802 (260) 432-3443
• Metal Tool Chests, Home Depot
• Table Tennis Kit, Restoration Hardware