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Playing video games on screens bigger than a pool table

By Staff | Jun 17, 2012

NASHUA – Your television might be big, but Joshua Gallien has eight screens that are a lot bigger, and he hopes they will be the key to his new gaming business.

Gallien, 29, recently opened Gamers Sanctuary in a strip mall next to Nashua Community College. It has room for up to 36 customers to play video games like “Call of Duty” or “Madden NFL.” Sitting in high-tech padded chairs with enclosed speakers that shake when a player’s character gets hit by a grenade or blind-sided by a linebacker, people can pay $12 an hour to play games on their own, with their friends or, via the Internet, with people around the world.

The business, which Gallien decided to start after getting laid off and figuring it was time to be his own boss, will hold birthday parties, host competitive tournaments, be home to gaming sports leagues and have midnight events for new releases of big-name games.

In other words, it will use video games to create an entertainment venue that fits the role also filled by movie theaters or bowling alleys.

“A lot of people can’t wait for it to open,” said Dick Welch of
Gizmo-net, an IT company just up the street. “It’s a great location, right next to the tech college. … I wish I’d thought of it.”

The idea behind Gamers Sanctuary isn’t unique. Similar “LAN gaming” businesses have come and gone over the years – Nashua may remember 100Main; Londonderry may recall Area 51.

The big difference with Gamers Sanctuary is that Gallien doesn’t use computers connected over a local area network, or LAN; he uses gaming consoles connected by WiFi.

Gamers Sanctuary is equipped with Xboxes and PlayStations, plus one Wii, and uses digital projecters hung from the ceiling to project the game onto huge screens he made himself out of wooden 1-by-4s and sheets of blackout cloth.

That last point, he says, is key. Computer games are generally hooked to TVs, which even with today’s monstrous flat panels limits the size of the image.

“If it’s just a TV, you might as well stay home,” Gallien said.

Gallien’s homemade screens are up to 7 by 9 feet in size, meaning that even when playing multiplayer games in which the playing screen is divided into quarters, each person is dealing with an image as large as a big television.

He also has a screen the equivalent of a 100-inch-diagonal TV, used by standing players for motion games like Dance Dance Revolution or golf.

The consoles use WiFi to send signals to projectors.

The business at 493 Amherst St. had a “soft launch” Friday, June 15, and will officially launch Friday, June 22. Pricing and details are on the website: gamerssanctuary.vpweb.com.

For $12 an hour ($10 with school ID or rewards program), Gallien argues this high-level gaming is as cheap as going to a 3-D movie or a pinball arcade.

A 2002 graduate of Nashua High School, Gallien has done most of the preparation work himself, from stringing HDMI cable through the ceiling, to painting, to stringing the LED lights that will be the room’s only illumination.

The 3,500-square-foot space has held many tenants over the years, including a furniture store, bread store and tile center, and Gallien said he’s had to do more fixes to the building, especially the electrical system, than anticipated. As a result, startup costs are more than he anticipated – roughly $24,000. That included buying all the equipment, getting a lease and licensing with the firm iGames, which will allow him to be part of global tournaments with cash prizes.

He has used money originally saved for upgrades to his house, plus a lot of sweat equity from himself and some family members.

The proximity to the community college as well as the Relentless Dragon game store, a few spaces down in the shopping center, should provide some clients. Gallien said he has already heard from students who have a Madden football league who are eager to have it at Gamers Sanctuary.

In fact, he decided to open the store while operating a portable version, where games were projected onto an inflatable screen.

“Every time I handed out fliers, people asked me where I was located,” he said.

He also thinks that a relative dearth of entertainment venues for teenagers in his part of Nashua will help.

Either way, he’s ready to get going.

Noting that many of his family members have their own businesses – his father has Hamm Septic in Hudson, his uncle a tax service in Nashua, his brother an heating service in Milford – Gallien said being his own boss was almost inevitable, although video games wasn’t the initial goal.

“I always said I wanted my own theater,” he said.

David Brooks can be reached at 594-6531 or dbrooks@nashua
telegraph.com. Also, follow Brooks’ blog on Twitter (@GraniteGeek).


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