BUCKHANNON – Jesterline – the new high-end gaming center coming soon to downtown Buckhannon – isn’t a bar.
Nor is it a “barcade,” a colloquial term for a bar with arcade games.
Lacy and Jarod Ramsey, owners of Jesterline, attended Thursday’s Buckhannon City Council meeting at the invitation of mayor David McCauley.
While there, the two explained their vision for Jesterline, emphasizing what it will – and won’t – be.
Jarod Ramsey said the high-end gaming arcade, which will be located at 46 E. Main St. next to the Chinese restaurant, aims to incorporate “family core values and forward-thinking” into its business model.
“I’ll answer the one big question we’ve been getting from Facebook – no we’re not a bar,” he said. “The one thing that I want everybody to know is that this is a family-run business. This is something my wife and I have been looking into for the past two years.”
Jarod, who works in the IT department at Weyerhaeuser, said the couple has four children and has lived in Buckhannon since 2009. The Ramseys’ four daughters – as well as Jarod himself – are all gamers.
“We’re looking to take this into the next level with the gaming industry,” he said. “The gaming industry is growing by leaps and bounds, and what better place than to bring it here to Buckhannon, which has welcomed us with open arms.”
“What we plan to bring to Main Street is the opportunity for virtual reality, e-sports, console, competitive tournaments and interactive entertainment for all ages,” Jarod added. “This is something that is done across the country now, and we’re looking to bring that here, and we have the opportunity to be a pioneer in this project for the entire state, so that’s what we’re excited about.”
Jarod said he and Lacy realize technology isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, so they want to create a safe, family-friendly environment in which people can bond while playing games.
“We understand that there’s a lot of negativity out there,” he said. “There’s a lot of things that are scary as far as being online and predators, so our first goal is to have a safe environment.”
He noted Jesterline will be hiring employees, all of whom will undergo background checks.
Lacy said she isn’t a gamer herself, but as a mom of four gamer girls, she’s been focused on how she can help mold Jesterline into a non-threatening environment that’s accessible to even those who aren’t technologically savvy.
“We are not going to be a daycare, but if they’re old enough, if you would feel comfortable leaving them at home alone, if you drop them off and they want to play, that’s fine,” she said, “and we want to make sure parents feel safe and that we have a place that is trusted.”
Lacy said Jesterline will likely offer educational games during summer months and winter breaks, family game nights, and virtual reality games that are “fully immersive … ones that you can work up a sweat playing.”
As luck would have it, the Ramseys began refurbishing the inside of Jesterline – which was formerly The Shoppes at 46 Main – the day West Virginia Wesleyan College made the announcement about introducing a new varsity e-sports program in early September.
“That just was for us … reassurance that what we’re doing is headed in the right direction,” Lacy said. “It is something that’s coming and with Wesleyan having that team, and I know that they’re the first in the state. We’ve been working on this for two years, and the Wesleyan coach echoed this – it’s exciting that both [Jesterline and Wesleyan’s esports team] are the first in the state, and they’re right here in little old Buckhannon.”
The Ramseys told council they hope to open their doors by the end of 2018 but are at the mercy of the construction process. However, they’ve already set their hours, Lacy said.
Jesterline will tentatively be open Monday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to midnight; it will be closed Sunday.
Council members asked about admission fees and gaming costs, and the Ramseys said patrons will be charged by the hour to reserve a chair for games. However, because virtual reality games can be more intense, VR players will be charged in 15-minute increments.
Jarod said the Ramseys plan to invite the developer of the Fallout 76, an online multi-player role-playing action game, to Jesterline for a belated release party. The game, which is set in West Virginia, was developed by Bethesda Game Studios and released Nov. 14.
“One of the things that we’re looking to do is, once we make the contact, is we have resources available to bring the developer of that game here to have a release party,” he said, “and it could be something where we could celebrate having a game that’s based on the entire state and the center that is right here in Buckhannon. That would be great.”
McCauley asked the couple if they planned to serve food, and Jarod said Jesterline will offer limited fare at a snack bar, although they plan to encourage patrons to sample surrounding restaurants.
“We don’t want food to be our main thing,” he said. “We want people to go and be able to experience other restaurants. We wanted to stay in our realm. We didn’t want to compete.”
Councilman David Thomas asked the Ramseys about the addictive aspect of online gaming.
Lacy said the couple wants to encourage learning through games whenever possible.
“Number one, [children] are not going to be able to [play] if mom and dad don’t open up their wallet for them, and number two, during summer, snow days and breaks, we’ll offer maybe gaming but an educational component to it verses just mindless gaming,” she said.
“If you are emphasizing family values, you’ll probably have more boundaries than some kids have in their homes,” Thomas replied.
Council members welcomed Jesterline to Main Street.
“This is not one of these passing whim fancy things, guys, this is big stuff,” McCauley told council.