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Mom Creates Outdoor Gaming Center To Stop Her Video Game-Obsessed Sons From Spending All Their Time Indoors

Mom Creates Outdoor Gaming Center To Stop Her Video Game-Obsessed Sons From Spending All Their Time Indoors
Jacquie, Danny, Max and Joe Rumble (Rumble Live Action Gaming / PA Real Life)

A mom-of-three has told how her battle to stop her video game-obsessed sons from spending all their time cooped up indoors with their consoles has sparked an ingenious business idea – and led to her selling her home to create a massive outdoor gaming center.

Jacquie Rumble, 47, was increasingly irked by the hours her three boys, Joe, 18, Danny, 16, and Max, nine, spent online playing shooting games – a complaint many parents share.

So Jacquie from Oakham, Rutland, England, and her husband Billy, 50, sold their four bedroom home to fund a woodland center – where players become the stars of their own real-life video games and Bluetooth headbands tell them when they have been 'hit' by weapons.

The Rumble family (Rumble Live Action Gaming / PA Real Life)

Jacquie, a former executive assistant and marketing manager who quit her job to work on the gaming center full-time, said:

“As parents, we've always been advocates for getting our boys outside – and they're all very sporty – but as they got older that became harder to do."
“They became obsessed with video games. They would come in from school, shove on a headset and sit at the TV for hours. I'd have to become the fun police and limit their screen time."
“It really started to bug me, I just thought, 'If only there was a place outside with guns and a bit of blood and gore. They'd all be there in a heartbeat.'"

The Rumble family (Rumble Live Action Gaming / PA Real Life)

Busy juggling her part-time job with raising her children, starting her own business was not something that had ever occurred to Jacquie.

But all that changed in the summer of 2018, when she noticed her older sons were becoming increasingly addicted to video games like Call of Duty and Fortnite.

She said:

“The more they played, the more negative changes I would notice. They became grumpier. It was as though they were plugged into their games so much that when you unplugged them, they'd get withdrawal symptoms."

She continued:

“They would have a bit of an attitude – which I know is normal for most teens – but it seemed to be exaggerated when they played video games."
“I'd try and limit their screen time to an hour or so, but it's a fine balance, because you don't want them to resent you, or for them to just go and play at their friends' houses instead, so it took a lot of compromising. But we always made sure the boys only played age-appropriate games."

Then, while talking to Billy, who works in renewable energy, one day in July 2018, Jacquie came up with the idea of replicating video games outside, so children could play while enjoying the benefits of fresh air and exercise.

The Rumble boys working at the site (Rumble Live Action Gaming / PA Real Life)

“Billy thought it was a brilliant idea – straight away we were both invested in making it happen," she said.

However, at first, her sons were not so sure.

“I'm no gamer, and the boys were a bit worried that it wouldn't be cool enough, or that we wouldn't get it quite right," she said. “But I think they were reassured when we told them we'd listen to their input and they could help us to make it happen."

The Rumble boys working at the site (Rumble Live Action Gaming / PA Real Life)

The couple were so sure about their idea that they took the huge risk of putting their home on the market at the end of 2018, in the hope that they could use money from the sale to fund the business.

Jacquie added:

“At first I was hesitant, because I'm a worrier, but Billy is ever the optimist, so we agreed it was worth it."

In February 2019, the property sold for a substantial amount. Next, the family moved into a four bedroom rented property, using the leftover cash – including thousands from the sale of their home – to launch their business, Rumble Live Action Gaming.

Around the same time, they secured a commercial deal with Anglian Water which allowed them to use eight acres of woodland around Grafham Water – England's third biggest reservoir – as their outdoor gaming center.

“When we first got to the site, it was overgrown with bushes and brambles. You would've needed a machete to even walk through there," she said.

“But over the next five months, we transformed it. The boys and their friends would come down at weekends and help us clear the woods out. It took a while to convince them to help, but once they were there, they loved it."

The Rumble family (Rumble Live Action Gaming / PA Real Life)

The determined family decided to create three different 'zones' where gamers could play out their real life battles.

“Each of the missions are completely different so players will have to adapt their skills if they want to succeed – it requires a lot of strategy," she said. “And just like in a real game, throughout the zones players can find special hidden boxes that can unlock extra lives and weapon upgrades."

And to bring everything to life, Jacquie enlisted the help of some American manufactures to deliver state-of-the-art equipment.

The Rumble boys working at the site (Rumble Live Action Gaming / PA Real Life)

“Each player is given a Bluetooth headband that can detect when they have been 'hit' by weapons, which work by firing an invisible pulse of light," she explained. “We also have a variety of weapons so gamers can also switch between a primary and secondary gun depending on the job in hand."

No gaming expert, by her own admission, she often relied on her sons for feedback and advice.

“The boys became like our technical advisers on how to make it work. Video game speak is like learning another language, so that took a while to get my head around," she said.

“They were always coming up with ideas on how to improve the games, like coming up with new mission ideas, including one to save the President."

Finally, on May 27, 2019, Rumble Live Action Gaming was ready for a test run – just in time for Max's eighth birthday – where the family invited his friends and to the site to test out the game.

Though nervous to show off the final product of months of hard work, Jacquie was relieved when it was a resounding hit. The company then officially launched the following month – and soon became a huge hit with children and adults alike.

An adult enjoying a day out at Rumble Live Action Gaming (Rumble Live Action Gaming / PA Real Life)

Punters pay £15 (~$19) per session and each game typically has 20 participants, split into two teams, who embark on different missions – playing in one of the three zones available.

Each zone has a central Ranger's cabin, kitted out with large TV screens, which display stats and explain who has won each round.

“Some parents would turn up just to watch, but by the end, they'd be joining in with all the kids and having a brilliant time," Jacquie said. “That's what's so special about it – it's for all generations. A group of mum's even came back to play without the kids!"

An adult enjoying a day out at Rumble Live Action Gaming (Rumble Live Action Gaming / PA Real Life)

She added:

“But the most special part for me is watching grandparents play with their grandchildren."
“We thought we might get a couple of negative comments but never have."

Sadly, in March 2020, Jacquie and Billy were forced to close their doors as the country went into lockdown in a bid to slow the spread of the virus. Thankfully, they were able to reopen in July – marking out briefing areas to ensure two-meter gaps all around and ensuring the equipment is sanitized between each session.

Now, despite a new report by small business insurer Simply Business finding that one-fifth (17 percent) of small businesses don't think they'd survive another lockdown, Jacquie and Billy are feeling positive, and even hope to expand across the UK in the next few years.

Jacquie said:

“The business has actually bought us closer together as a family. We've all loved pitching in together to bring it to life."

She also believes that helping to launch the company has instilled a good work ethic in Joe, Danny and Max.

A group of adults enjoying a day out at Rumble Live Action Gaming (Rumble Live Action Gaming / PA Real Life)

Jacquie concluded:

“Setting up a business is a huge risk, especially when you have a family. We've shown our children the importance of having a good work ethic and have a brilliant business, which we love."
“We're not anti-video games, but we wanted to recreate what people love to experience in the virtual world – in reality. It has all your favorite features of video games, but instead of sitting inside staring at a screen, the game is set in a beautiful woodland."
“It's brilliant exercise – and it's quite strategic too – you really have to think about each mission. Children have been playing war games and missions since the beginning of time, and as the world has evolved, so have the games and were just adapting to that."

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