Dayton Gaming Parties

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With a visit to Big Robot Game Cafe, people can take a trip into the past, the future and another life through video gaming or entertain themselves the old-fashioned way through board games.

Greg Enslen, owner of the cafe at 114 E. Main St., combined his personal love of gaming with a desire to open a retail operation downtown and give people, particularly younger ones, something to do locally.

"I was looking for something that would be fun, someplace where people could come and play," Enslen said. “I also wanted to help create things to do in Dayton.”

In developing a business plan, he researched the video gaming industry, visited cafes in Detroit and Indiana and surveyed local kids ages 12 to 15 about what games they would play, what they wanted from a birthday party, what they'd pay and what concerns their parents might have with a gaming cafe.

Visitors to Big Robot Game Cafe are greeted by paintings of robots and a flying saucer on the front windows.

Inside, there are three pods designed like miniature living rooms where groups can play games such as Guitar Hero, Dance Dance Revolution or Wii.

"It is like your rich uncle's basement," Enslen said of the setting and all its toys.

There also are individual game stations of PCs and Xboxes; tables for birthday parties; drinks and snacks; and retail items for sale such as video game consoles, accessories, Lego sets, and Star Wars toys. Upstairs there's an area set aside for parents and friends of gamers to play board games, read or hang out.

Three ways to play are offered from pay-by-the-hour to member and VIP accounts.

Electrical upgrades and painting were among the work needed to convert the former Tippecanoe Frontier Trading Company building into the cafe.

Enslen said creating the business in the 1860s building is a work in progress. "I like it. You are in an old building and come in and have all the newest equipment," he said.

He's given numerous tours of the cafe already, explaining to the uninitiated the business concept. He said he hopes to attract players of all ages for the video and board gaming. He also hopes to become a Dayton birthday party mecca – for kids of all ages.

Enslen, 40, lived across the country growing up in an Air Force family. He and wife, Samantha, moved to Tipp City, the home of her parents, from Washington, D.C., in 2005.

The game shop offers Dayton fun Wednesday and Thursday 3pm-9pm; Friday 3pm-midnight; Saturday 11am-midnight; and Sunday 11am-5pm.

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