A mum-of-three’s battle to stop her video game obsessed sons spending all their time cooped up indoors with their consoles sparked an ingenious business idea – and led to her selling her home to create a massive outdoor gaming centre.
Jacquie Rumble was increasingly irked by the hours her three boys, Joe, 18, Danny, 16, and Max, nine, spent online playing shooting games.
So the 47-year-old and her husband Billy, 50, sold their four bedroom home to fund a woodland centre – where players become the stars of their own real life video games and Bluetooth headbands tell them when they have been ‘hit’ by weapons.
Jacquie 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.’”
Jacquie, from Oakham, Rutland, quit her job as an executive assistant and marketing manager to work on the gaming centre full-time.
Starting her own business had not occurred to her until 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.
“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.”
While talking to Billy, who works in renewable energy, one day, 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 couple thought it was a brilliant idea but 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 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.”
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 centre.
Over five months they transformed it, their boys and friends helping to clear it of overgrown branches and brambles.
The determined family decided to create three different ‘zones’ where gamers could play out their real life battles.
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.
No gaming expert, by her own admission, Jacquie often relied on her sons for feedback and advice, and they came up with plenty of ideas for new missions and improvements.
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.
The company then officially launched the following month – and soon became a huge hit with children and adults alike.
Punters pay £15 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 mums even came back to play without the kids!”
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.”
Jacquie and Billy were forced to close their doors in March as the country went into lockdown but reopened in July – marking out briefing areas to ensure two metre gaps all round.
They 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.
“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.”