6 Things Your FEC’s Birthday Party Needs

It happens once a year for all of us, whether we want it to or not: birthdays. As adults, we might dread them, but as kids, we couldn’t wait to attend them and have them ourselves. The entertainment industry is full of them, and Frank Price has been ensuring birthday party success for over 25 years now.

To better understand how to easily make these events enjoyable and profitable, Frank offers 6 things every great FEC’s birthday party needs to have:

1. An Easy Ice Breaker Game

Begin with a get to know you game with high energy to set the tone. “Toss something in the room around a circle,” Frank says “and when kids catch the object, they say their name and their favorite princess, animal, cartoon – anything that goes with the theme of the party.” This will help all invitees to feel welcome, and themes the experience right from the start.


2. Ideal Numbers

From start to end, an ideal party should be “2 hours long with a clear start and end time,” says Frank. “Don’t leave the parents to do the supervising by letting the party kids run around for the last 30 minutes.” In other words, finish the party as a group just as it was started, as it’ll lead to less chaos and more fun.

For an ideally staffed party, Frank suggests “one host who stays with the group the whole time, plus a runner to get food and props to the room, and support from a park supervisor who oversees the venue.” This allows the dedicated party host to be engaged with the kids for the entirety of the party, adding priceless “memorable  value” (see #6 for more on memorable value!).


3. The Extra Mile with “Imagi-Theming”

Tangible themes – plates, napkins, wall decorations – “those are for the parents,” Frank says. The most effective theming with kids, he argues, is imagination-based theming, something he dubs imagi-theming; “When a party host lines a princess-themed party group, they ask each person to get up and do their princess twirl and curtsey as they get in line.” Or a teenage mutant ninja turtle-themed party uses the theme song in musical chairs, and losers are sent back to Splinter to train their Ninjutsu skills on the sidelines. “This imagination-based theming offers higher memorable value than the tangible themes will,” Frank emphasizes. The best part? It doesn’t cost your venue anything extra!


4. Imagi-Theming of Your Laser Maze Challenge®

To make the attraction special for the birthday party, “add a prop like a Frisbee in their hand. Now they’re the pizza delivery guy on an alien planet, and they have to get through the maze without dropping the Frisbee pizza,” imagines Frank. By changing how to interact with attractions like the Laser Maze Challenge, you’re adding value to the experience by making it unique to the party’s theme and group of kids.


5. Surprises for the Birthday Child

“The birthday child is surrounded by their friends, who are there as supporting fans,” says Frank. They, and only they, get to spin a prize wheel, have an extra turn at the crane game, or win an exclusive gift. “You’re better off making it a giveaway they can win because then it’s a bonus value added to the parents, versus an expectation,” says Frank. The key, he says, is to make sure the prize is something a kid would want: “Not like a sweater at Christmas or 20% their next trip in…make it something the child themselves will be excited to get!”


6. Memorable Value

Saving the best for last, Frank reveals the pricelessness of “memorable value,” which is how your brain remembers the party due to high-touch actions from the host. “A great party host who uses their imagination, makes the birthday child feel special, and creates a nicely packaged experience is going to leave the most lasting impression,” Frank says. “Sure, the kids might have a great time at the high-tech attractions, and that might be what brings them to your center in the first place, but that experience can be easily duplicated anytime they come back during a normal day.” With a great party host, there’s something elusively special about that birthday party experience that can only be replicated by booking another party at your venue. Hence, memorable value.


Want more tips and insight on birthday parties at your venue? Check out BirthdayUniversity.com to learn about Frank’s industry-leading training seminars. Thank you to The Wreckroom, Lost in Fun!, Flying Squirrel Victoria, Max Adventures, and Loveland Laser Tag for the pics featured in this post!

Original Posting Date: 6/8/18

Tour of Funovation HQ

From Funovation’s humble beginnings in our Co-Founders’ basement, we’ve grown to an almost 12,000 square foot building headquartered just north of Denver in 10 short years! We’re thrilled to be located at the base of the Rocky Mountains and gain inspiration from the beauty of this part of the world. With 300+ days of sunshine, Colorado is just a great place to funovate, plain and simple.

Haven’t made it to Funovation HQ yet? That’s quite alright; allow us to take you on a tour!

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Our Fun Lobby is always stocked with games – the staff favorite this month is Exploding Kittens. The lobby is also home to our world map, where there’s a pin for every new product location. With over 340 locations and counting, looks like we’re going to need to buy more pins soon!

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Speaking of locations, our CEO has just made a sale! Without warning his coworkers, he celebrates by ringing the official sales gong – located in the middle of the office and ringing out to all corners of Funovation. Our Global Sales Manager in Tennessee rings his smaller version in his office, as well. #teamwork

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Startled by the noise, our marketing team momentarily pauses to celebrate and then gets back to business. Engaging fans on social media, working with advertising industry leaders, and designing collateral, our team is ever-excited to remind the world to play!

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The operations team gathers in our conference room to talk strategy around our newest product, RAID®. Our software engineer joins from his home office in Georgia and gives everyone an update on the newest level – Tokyo – where the symbols and lasers are harder than Washington DC’s level. Brainstorming is best done together, so ideas are bouncing around the room as we work through the logistics of this turnkey attraction. The fresh popcorn machine doesn’t hurt, either.

Making lots of noises, our manufacturing and production area is busy today. They’re building laser modules, checking on the 3D printer, and performing a full test on every component that’ll be shipped out. It may not be the prettiest office at HQ, but it’s certainly one of the most important rooms here!

Just past manufacturing is our Funventory, which houses over 5,100 parts that all come together magically to create a heart-pounding Funovation attraction. Our shipping department is ready to send out the parts to the newest Laser Maze Challenge® location. Our shipping department tops the package off with one last smile-inducing ingredient.

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Conveniently towards the back of the offices are the FunLabs. Here, our team of Fungineers experiment and test their innovations for new products that our customers have come to know us for. We’re secretly surprised they haven’t set anything on fire yet! (but there’s a fire extinguisher very close by at all times…we like to be prepared). In their front offices, Fungineers are also known for their eclectic office décor. If you’re ever in need of a nerf war partner, we have a seriously impressive contender in our offices…

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Also in the back are our top secret Fun Design rooms. Funovators can be found here almost every day, mocking up the next Laser Maze Challenge or RAID attraction to be shipped out to our customers. Each laser maze design is custom mapped to take into account their exact wall heights, obstacles, doors, and upgrades like Oculas 3™, our moving laser.

While no two mazes are the same, each RAID attraction is turnkey. So instead of customizing the layout, our team builds the attraction in our Fun Design rooms to ensure each one works perfectly and looks sleek before it’s shipped out.

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Saving the best for last, we now come to the world famous (at least in our eyes) Funasium! This includes our own working Laser Maze Challenge and RAID attractions, a ping pong table, shelves full of toys, and room to grow our expanding line of products. The Funasium area is a staff favorite when in need of a break!

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Thus concludes our HQ tour. If you find yourself in the area, swing by and say hello. Be prepared to compete in a Funasium attraction, and cover your ears if we’ve made a sale that day! From all of us at Funovation, we hope to see you soon!

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Original Posting Date: 6/15/18

Photo courtesy of Marie Freeman.
Photo courtesy of Marie Freeman.

People and Lasers: Edible Lasers

Dr. Lauren Woods, PhD, has been working to develop an edible laser with her team at Appalachian State University in Boone, NC. What is an edible laser, you ask? Read on and find out.

Dr. Lauren Woods (Phd) Headshot

Dr. Lauren Woods (PhD)

As with all good ideas, Dr. Woods’ edible laser project was born at a party. “One of my good friends, Dr. Andreas Velten, and I started talking about gin and tonic lasers that they built back in the 1970’s. We were discussing how much lasers have developed since then, and that we could probably build a better one. So, we started with a ‘tonic laser,’ trying to develop that in Wisconsin,” says Dr. Woods. When she made the move to Appalachian State University a year later, Dr. Woods took the project with her. There, she’s partnered with a physics professor to keep the momentum going. “I started collaborating with Dr. Brook Hester in the Physics and Astronomy Department, who is also the advisor of the Physics and Astronomy club. I’m actually the advisor for the Chemistry Club, but we couldn’t get any of the chemists to be interested, so we have two physicists working on the project!” she reflects jokingly.

Jack Griffin, physics student. Photo courtesy of Marie Freeman.

To test out if the gain efficiency of the proposed edible material would work, Dr. Woods’ team, including Appalachian State University physics majors Jack Griffin and Jose Salazar, evaluated “several other materials and calculated the quantum yields. That’s not exactly the same as a gain efficiency of a laser, but it gave us an idea of if it would work or not when we got to the edible gain media,” she says. The chosen substances for testing were beet juice, turmeric spice, Vitamin B, and tonic water, which were mostly unheard of in the laser world as gain media. “The energy source we’re using to create this laser is another laser, and that wavelength is at 450 nanometers. So we’re trying to find something that can excite at that level,” says Dr. Woods. The pump laser is blue/purple, with the laser created varying depending on the gain medium, mostly coming out as yellow/green.

So, what is the edible part? Can you eat the laser beam? Well, no. Basically, Dr. Woods’ research team are “making solutions with Vitamin B in water or ethanol. That makes it consumable.” These mixtures are used as the source of optimal gain, or gain medium, therefore making a part of the laser edible. “Our overall goal would be to have a flow cell coming through, so we could distribute drinks or something like that.” So, no eating laser beams…yet.

As for how tasty the cocktails would be, Dr. Woods isn’t about to sell you a bottle of these just yet: “Honestly, Vitamin B tastes terrible, so I don’t think anyone would want it right now. It’s more about the potential for future things than the marketability of our current laser cocktails,” she admits.

The edible laser emits a purple light. Photo courtesy of Marie Freeman.

Surprisingly, the future of this project may be even more exciting than the edible laser part. “We’re trying to use cheaper parts for this project,” Dr. Woods emphasizes, “because a lot of undergrad institutes don’t have a lot of funding to have a full optics course with a lot of lasers. By developing an eye-catching project that could be used for outreach purposes to draw the public in, we can teach the public about how a laser works, its properties and benefits. Universities could use this to fund the development of an optics lab. I’m hoping to publish a “How To Guide” sometime in the next year, to share with interested institutions.”

As for where laser technology is moving, Dr. Woods is excited about the future of medical tools. Her post-doc research involved “combining laser spectroscopy and laser microscopy with ultrasound to examine cancerous tissues. We can use these techniques to apply to various exciting and meaningful biological applications,” she says.

Dr. Woods’ team are working to have the edible laser lasing by June 2018, and available for safe public demonstration by early 2019. In the meantime, you can stay up to date on her work by following Appalachian State University online.


Thank you to Dr. Woods for this interview!

Original Posting Date: 3/14/18

Photo Compliments of The Wreckroom
Photo Compliments of The Wreckroom

Customer Spotlight: Stass Panagakos

The Wreckroom Logo

By leveraging photos of their center on social media, Ontario, Canada’s The Wreckroom attracts top quality attractions, opportunities, and customers. And there’s a lot to love about this venue; “Our place is like a mini dance club for kids,” says owner Stass Panagakos. Weekend party packages are often the focus of their social media – with themes and smiling kids, there is no shortage of photogenic birthdays, which come with unlimited Laser Maze Challenge plays.

As owner Stass Panagakos picks up the phone, it’s clear that The Wreckroom is a busy place this week. “We’re actually bringing new arcade games in today. There was an auction that came up in Toronto from a place that was closing down,” Stass says, with beeping trucks in the background delivering new arcade games.

Rock Climbing Scene

This ever-fresh feeling is common at The Wreckroom in Ontario, Canada. In search of the perfect balance of attractions, Stass may never feel he’s completely finished; “There’s a lot of elements that I’m constantly planning to go back to, finalize, or update.”

Opened in 2016, this indoor fun house already boasts a growing list of attractions, including a custom built 17-foot rock climbing wall, huge jungle play gym, Laser Maze Challenge®, and a plethora of arcade games. “We have a lot of retro arcade games dating back to the 80’s,” Stass says. “They are as much of a hit with the parents as they are with the kids.”

In fact, there’s not much at The Wreckroom that isn’t a hit; with a lounge area, party rooms, magnetic chalkboards, overhead sound system, and ever-changing lights overhead, it’s “almost like a mini-dance club for kids.”

And it’s that exciting environment that The Wreckroom highlights so successfully on their social media feeds. The space is available for parties by appointment only – meaning they’re mostly open Saturdays, Sundays, and occasional Fridays. But this doesn’t stop them from posting enticing photos most Birthday Party Scenedays of the week. The Wreckroom’s Instagram account regularly highlights scenes of laughing birthday parties, exciting arcade jackpots, and fervent rock climbing runs. Pair that with their ever-present playful logo, and you can tell that their branding efforts are not haphazard. By cultivating an environment of excitement online, The Wreckroom is setting up their branding to align both in-house and online. This helps future customers to think of The Wreckroom next time they’re looking for a party venue – they’ve already seen the fun that happens there, and they’re more ready to experience it themselves.

Most exciting has been “seeing what we dreamed up on paper come to life,” says Stass. “And now, we’re looking at the future and the potential of where we can grow.” An exciting dream for owners Stass and Arthur, who are both full-time real estate/mortgage agents and fathers that set the bar high for themselves. “We actually built The Wreckroom ourselves, with the help of builders and an interior designer,” says Stass. And the hard work pays off when customers visit the venue, “their eyes open wide, and their mouths drop. They say “Wow, what is this?”.”

Toronto’s fun center scene will continue to evolve with The Wreckroom’s success. “We still have so much more we want to do,” concludes Stass. “We’re actually scratching our heads right now thinking – where are we going to set these new games up?! How are we going to fit it all? But you know what – we’ll make it work.”

Keep an eye on The Wreckroom’s social media channels to see what they’re cooking up next. Thank you to Stass Panagakos for this interview!

All photos courtesy of The Wreckroom.

Original Posting Date: 3/12/2018

Customer Spotlight: Scott Lieske

Lincoln Nebraska got a whole lot more fun back in 2007 when Lost In Fun! opened its doors. In this Customer Spotlight, Scott Leiske, Lost In Fun!’s owner, looks back at what makes this locally-focused indoor play center a community favorite.

After installing a Laser Maze Challenge in 2011, Lost In Fun! upgraded their maze this year to include Beam Buster and video capture. In a facility focused on kids aged 2-10, the ability to break as many beams as possible is enticing; “Our 2- to 4-year-olds…understand the game objective of Beam Buster, because they go in and automatically just want to touch the green lights!” says owner, Scott Lieske. Kids and young-at-heart parents can now run and jump around the maze under a 30 second time crunch, in addition to the Laser Maze ninja play.

Lost In Fun! is no stranger to keeping their venue fresh by upgrades like Beam Buster – this month they are bringing in more new equipment: “We change things up all the time and get a variety in here!” says Lieske. The Laser Maze Challenge is an optimal booster attraction for this facility already brimming with attractions. Lost In Fun! also boasts a foam pit, arcade games, inflatables, play-sets, and something called a “jumping pillow” that is exactly what it sounds like…an inflated trampoline canvas that resembles an over-sized pillow. “This is Lincoln, Nebraska, so especially in winter, you don’t really want to plan a whole lot to do outside. So birthday parties really ramp up in winter, because we bring the fun of an outdoor play-land indoors.”.

Celebrating their 10 year anniversary this year, Lost In Fun! has no plans of slowing down in this tight-knit community. “It’s really been fun watching the kids grow up,” reminisces Lieske. “It’s so cool to see them when they start coming in at age 2, and now they’re 12! Even some of our staff had their 5th birthdays here, and now they work for us.”

The community feel and focus on fresh fun shines through the business. And as Lieske points out, “at the end of the day, it’s all about the kids. That’s why we’re here.”

Learn more about Lost In Fun! on their website.


Original Posting Date: December 18, 2017

PR: RAID®, Funovation’s Second Attraction Released

Funovation’s newest product release, RAID® (Rapid Alien Invasion Defense), offers mission-based challenges in pursuit of an ultimate goal: To beat planet-consuming probes sent to earth by an alien race – the Foci Storm. The entertainment attraction industry’s leading engineers have created a new technologically-advanced gameplay featuring aliens, puzzles, and an opportunity to save the world. The release was announced today at the Orlando-based IAAPA Attractions Expo.

“Our newest attraction puts players at the center of the Aft Covin Union – a secret government organization charged with protecting the planet. The ACU asks players to go undercover and disable the probe without gaining the attention of alien surveillance,” says John Bonvallet, CTO of Funovation. Gameplay requires nimble navigation and puzzle solving within a time limit to evade alien detection and ensure mission completion.

“Pioneering technology for fun is in the DNA of Funovation,” said Ryan Borton, CEO of Funovation. The company’s premier product, the Laser Maze Challenge® with Beam Buster®, has continued to set the standard for the industry since its 2007 introduction, incorporating Oculas 3 moving lasers and TriNet 2 technology to enable component updates without shutting down gameplay. “Our team of engineers are devoted to continuous technological innovation, and Funovation extends that dedication with this new release.”

RAID’s fully inclusive turnkey installation means customers need only to provide the power and an 120 square foot area for the attraction.


Original Press Release Date: November 14, 2017