Game Rooms Gone Wild

Game Rooms Gone Wild

This Via-designed game room has something for everyone – the gamer, the golfer and the ping pong enthusiast.

Gaming is alive and well, but it has moved beyond Atari and chatting with friends over headsets while leveling up in World of Warcraft in a dark, dank bedroom. Homeowners are instead opting for a game room that enhances the experience.

“That style of gaming is very isolating,” says Robert Gilligan, senior technology adviser for ultra-high-end electronics installation company Via, based in San Francisco. “It’s you and your computer, and you’re kind of strapped into your virtual reality-style experience. It’s very much about escapism. It’s not necessarily conducive to family harmony.”

Gaming is now more interactive. Wii kicked things off with the motion-sensored Wii Sports games. When this took off, the company’s library of action-centric offerings exploded. Then Xbox joined the fun with its Kinect bar. Family members can now play tennis with one another or have a dance off. 

“In many ways, that technology ushered in a new era of the rec room or the game room,” Gilligan says.  

It’s important to create the right kind of space for this kind of activity. You can’t really play Dance Central in a tiny room with obstacles like coffee tables and decorative vases. Gilligan has not only designed rooms around interactive gaming, but has also taught game room design classes for the Custom Electronic Design & Installation Association (CEDIA). He knows his stuff.

Gilligan also draws from his own family’s experience. While his kids are into gaming, his wife’s occupation as a fitness website editor makes her anti-couch potato.

“Professionally I started getting involved in it around the whole concept of bringing the family together, as a shared experience,” he says.

Now they have a dedicated gaming area that makes everyone happy. It has a front projection screen, and they use the gaming console and Kinect as the interface. But the best part, in Gilligan’s opinion?Cinematech reclining chairs.

“This is kind of weird to say, but the best game room technology is a recliner sectional,” he says. “It’s actually more about the seating. You want to have sectional seating instead of dedicated theater chairs, so you can have the space that you need to play games, with the benefit of having a motorized recliner. He recommends high-end Euro-designed and steel-framed CinemaTech recliners.

What are other builders doing, as far as game rooms go? Here are three builders’ game rooms gone wild, all equipped by Via



Gamer’s Delight

Party Barn with rear projection screen.

In this spaced dubbed “Party Barn,” built by Gentry Construction in Portolo Valley, Calif., a rear projector screen takes up the entire wall.

In this system, the projector is placed behind the screen, shooting forward via mirrors.

“That is often the technology we will employ with these game rooms, and that’s because you still need ambient light in the room,” Gilligan says. “And the front projection is negatively affected by ambient light in the room.”

If homeowners want a large image, Gilligan says flat panel displays max out at 90 inches. The rear screen can be 12 feet wide, though they need space behind the rear-screen projection display to put the projector and the mirrors.

“It requires planning and working with the architect and the homeowners in advance of the build-out to make sure there’s enough room to do a rear screen projection system,” says Gilligan. He also notes that as flat panels get bigger, the need for rear projection will disappear.

To give you an idea of the size, the room is 48 by 30 feet with very high ceilings. The screen uses a multi-view display for sports, motion video games such as Xbox Kinect and Nintendo Wii, as well as general entertainment. The video system was paired with a high-fidelity Steinway Lyngdorf sound system. The room also has motorized window treatments to block outside light.

And where does all the wiring go? Via uses centralized equipment racks that are meticulously designed, managed, installed and labeled for flexibility and serviceability. 


Lights, Camera, ACTION!

If builders would rather opt for actual tennis that eliminates the weather factor, indoor courts are not out of the question.

This Lerch Construction “Keep it Simple … Yet Spectacular” house in Palo Alto, Calif., is 24,000 square feet, which is more than enough room for an area that brings back the old sports club feel. The large subterranean sports court is used for roller hockey, basketball, volleyball and rock climbing. It is acoustically treated and equipped with a professional sound speaker array and feeds that include the distributed audio system, a local iPod dock, microphone inputs for public address, and a paging function on the telephone system, affectionately called the “voice of God.”

Now mom can call plays instead of telling kids not to play ball in the house.

Just be sure to include good ventilation in any basement-like gaming areas.

Via indoor volleyball and basketball court.


Dance, Dance!

Sometimes homeowners want a fun room that is off the beaten path. This room can be a musician’s personal performance stage, like the photo shown to the top left. It can mimic the forests of Rivendell from the movie “Lord of the Rings,” like the one on the top right. It can also be the product of one crazy imagination.

(Clockwise from top left)

The “After Hours Disco” in San Francisco, shown above, was made possible by Via and CR Hunt Builders.

According to Via, “installing distributed video and audio and integrated lighting loads to create a club-quality experience required extensive coordination between the architect, builder and interior designer.”  

By day, it’s a living room. By night, it’s a discotheque. With one button, smoke crawls onto the floor, video projectors drop from the ceiling, a window wall becomes a video wall, stage lighting, lasers and mirror and disco balls pop out of the ceiling, a backlit waterfall appears behind the bar and music pumps through the speakers.

“We actually tied a theatrical lighting control system into an AMX home automation system to enable our clients to really turn the room into a full-fledged disco with a push of a button,” says Gilligan.

Soundproofing in a room like this is essential. To minimize sound transmission to other areas of the house, floating acoustical ceiling treatments, an isolated floor system and isolated wall construction was incorporated into the room.

Disco room control  panel.

About The Author

Kelly Mello is a TecHome Builder Staff Writer, creating timely, investigative articles for its eMagazine and Special Reports. She graduated from the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth in 2006 with a bachelor’s degree in English: Communications & Rhetoric. She began her writing career in 2007 as editorial assistant for GateHouse Media. From 2010 to 2013, she was local editor for various Patch sites, including

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