Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Wes Upchurch Recommends Go-Karting as a Family-Friendly Activity

Wes Upchurch recently took his son to an indoor go-kart center near his home in Columbia, Mo. After enjoying a fun-filled afternoon weaving and winding along the track, Wes Upchurch aims to make this activity a regular tradition for him and his entire family. For newcomers to the sport of go-karting, Wes Upchurch describes the different types of machines and gives details about his personal favorite track. 

Q: What makes go-karting such a great family activity? 

Wes Upchurch: Go-karting provides a rush of adrenaline for all family members. The excitement of driving one of these machines is second to none. Plus, it gives families a sense of togetherness that is too often lacking these days.

Q: How is a go-kart defined? 

Wes Upchurch: A go-kart is a small vehicle with four wheels that may or may not be motorized.

Q: Is there a standard type of go-kart? 

Wes Upchurch: Go-karts come in all forms and shapes, from motorless vehicles to more advanced racing models.

Q: How fast do these go-karts typically travel? 

Wes Upchurch: It depends on the model. Superkarts are go-karts that have defeated racing cars on longer circuits.

Q: How are these go-karts powered? 

Wes Upchurch: These go-karts are powered either by electric motors, two-stroke engines or four-stroke engines.

Q: What’s the best quality of an electric go-kart? 

Wes Upchurch: The go-kart’s speed can be controlled by the operator, perfect for amateurs and more experienced drivers.

Q: Are passengers allowed? 

Wes Upchurch: Most models are single-seated units, but some recreational models will accommodate a passenger.

Q: What’s the most prominent go-kart track in Missouri? 

Wes Upchurch: The Track, located in Branson, is perfect for the whole family. The whole complex includes 14 different tracks that will appeal to drivers of all ages and experience levels.

Q: Any particular favorite track? 

Wes Upchurch: The crown jewel is called the Heavy Metal High Rise, which boasts a four-story corkscrew pattern.

Q: Where are indoor tracks built? 

Wes Upchurch: Indoor tracks are often built insides warehouses or refurbished factories. They’re usually shorter than outdoor tracks.

Q: How popular is go-karting? 

Wes Upchurch: Its popularity continues to increase. There are about 80 indoor kart tracks located throughout the United States. A number of tracks host competitive leagues and races.

Q: What about the rest of the world? 

Wes Upchurch: The Indoor Karting World Championship brings together many of the top racers each year.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Wesley Upchurch Recalls the History of Video Games

When Wesley Upchurch started looking into the history of video games, he was surprised at how far back they actually went. What didn't surprise Wesley Upchurch, though, was the realization that those engineers worked hard to develop the earliest computers, and that they needed something for recreation.

All the way back in 1947, Wesley Upchurch found that engineers filed a patent on a “cathode ray tube amusement device,” which let players fire at “airborne” targets by using knobs and buttons on a WWII-style radar screen. The system, Wesley Upchurch says, never made it to market, but it laid the groundwork for later video games. In ’51, says Wesley Upchurch, a television engineer pitched the idea of a home video game that could take viewers from passive observers to interactive players, but the idea was killed. Other early video games from the ’50s and ’60s, Wesley Upchurch notes, no longer exist in any form since those primitive computers are now long gone. However, Spacewar was a groundbreaking game that was developed by MIT students in ’61. Wesley Upchurch describes Spacewar as a two-player game with spacecraft, missiles and stars, like a Stone Age version of later arcade games.

It wasn't until the ’70s that video games really began to come into their own, says Wesley Upchurch. Atari’s Pong, the Magnavox Odyssey home video system, Space Invaders, Galaxy and Gun Fight all broke open the market for video games. As simple as those games were, Wesley Upchurch notes, they pointed the way to the future. In 1978 the arcade video game industry got its start with Space Invaders (which went on to sell more that 360,000 arcade cabinets), followed soon by Galaxian, Pac-Man and Asteroids. More importantly, as the technology advanced, says Wesley Upchurch, game developers started to innovate with bold, imaginative new games. Action role-playing games, cinematic platforms, run-and-gun shooting games, stealth games and more all came onto the scene, says Wesley Upchurch. By the ’90s, as Wesley Upchurch read, the graphics, stories and sheer variety of video games far outstripped what the developers of the first video games could ever have imagined.

Today, Wesley Upchurch has noted that despite the decline of arcade games due to home consoles, chains like Dave and Busters and Chuck E. Cheese still prosper with arcades. In Columbia, Mo., Wesley Upchurch has set out to make Gunther’s Games a Columbia staple by combining arcade games with a wide range of other family-fun attractions. Not surprisingly, says Wesley Upchurch, a lot of older games like Pac-Man and Donkey Kong still have a nostalgic draw for gamers, especially alongside Gunther’s other fun features.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Q&A with Wesley Upchurch: Gunther’s Games

Today we talk to Columbia entrepreneur Wesley Upchurch about Gunther’s Games, a longtime fixture in downtown Columbia, Mo.

Q: Hasn’t Gunther’s Games been around for a long time, in one form or another?

Wesley Upchurch: Yes, but it’s had a few different lives. It really started all the way back in 1980 when it was called Pin Pan Alley. Back then, it was pinball machines and early video games, and then they changed the name to Gunther’s Games later on.

Q: What happened then?

Wesley Upchurch: Well, between the competition from other arcades and home video games, the original Gunther’s Games closed its doors in 2007. It’s only been this year that I’ve moved toward reopening it.

Q: What are you planning on doing differently?

Wesley Upchurch: I wanted to offer way, way more than what was available before. At the same time, I wanted to keep the traditional arcade feel. Eventually, these ideas split. Downtown, we are bringing back everything that made Gunther’s great. But for the new venue, I’m going all-in with laser tag.

Q: Tell us about the new laser tag environment.

Wesley Upchurch: I’ve seen renderings, and it’s totally unlike anything else you’ve seen. Sci-fi oriented settings have become so clichĂ© that we’ve overhauled ours to look like a ruined urban cityscape, complete with a downed Apache helicopter.

Q: What other attractions have you worked in?

Wesley Upchurch: We’ll have 10-pin bowling, a ’50s-style cafĂ©, and glow-in-the-dark miniature golf.

Q: Did you say glow-in-the-dark miniature golf? What’s that all about?

Wesley Upchurch: It’s great! We hired outside consultants and incorporated Amazon-style obstacles for a really interesting course, instead of the tired old windmills and zoo animals.

Q: I heard something about LAN gaming centers, too?

Wesley Upchurch: Yeah, this is a fairly new idea. LAN gaming means that players can play the latest games on Xbox or PlayStation machines, all linked together through the same computer. They can also play online games with players in other parts of the country, via high-speed Internet connections. We’re planning on doing tournaments with the LAN games as time goes on.

Q: Any parting words?

Wesley Upchurch: Yes, we want to invite everyone to come on down to Gunther’s Games, right in downtown Columbia. It’s a fun, family friendly, place, and is just like you remember it.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Wesley Upchurch Answers Your Questions about LAN Gaming Centers

Q: Tell us how LAN gaming centers are different from other game setups in arcades.

Wesley Upchurch: There’s a pretty big difference, really. LAN gaming centers have home gaming consoles like Xbox, PlayStation or even Wii machines networked together so that multiple players can all be on the same game together.

Q: How did LAN gaming centers get started?

Wesley Upchurch: The first LAN gaming center was at Eastern Michigan University several years ago. That original center set up the first intercollegiate LAN tournament.

Q: How many players can network together?

Wesley Upchurch: Depending on how you set things up, you can get anywhere from eight to 400 players on the same game together. We can also let gamers play with people in other parts of the country via high-speed Internet.

Q: Do you charge by the hour?

Wesley Upchurch: Yes, we figure on about $3/hour for gamers, with a buddy rate for two players and two hours.

Q: Aren’t there LAN gaming centers in other parts of the world?

Wesley Upchurch: Yeah, they’re really popular in Korea, where they call them “PC bangs.” PC bangs also usually sell noodles, soft drinks and other snacks for gamers.

Q: I presume there will be house rules.

Wesley Upchurch: Yes, there will have to be, but we still want everyone to have a good time. Of course, that set of ground rules helps ensure a good time.

Q: What kind of rules are you thinking?

Wesley Upchurch: Nothing really harsh. Kids under 12 must have an adult around, no downloading anything (ever!), keep your game’s volume down, no obnoxious behavior like yelling, screaming or profanity.

Q: Can you join in with other players’ games?

Wesley Upchurch: Absolutely, you just need to ask permission first. That’s really just gamer etiquette and common courtesy, isn’t it?

Q: Any other ground rules?

Wesley Upchurch: Yes, we really don’t want any loitering. If you’re playing, you need to pay. If you’re not playing or paying, you can’t stay. Simple, really.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Wesley Upchurch and the Thrill of the Adrenaline Rush

Wesley Upchurch from Columbia, Mo., is a web master and the visionary behind local businesses Gunther’s Games and Virtual Arena. In his free time, Wesley Upchurch seeks adventure of the most thrilling kind. Where some people may relax by reading a good book or running through the park, Wesley Upchurch seeks an adrenaline rush wherever he can find it. Here, Wesley Upchurch talks about the call of the adrenaline rush.

Q: What is an adrenaline rush? 

Wesley Upchurch: An adrenaline rush is a short-lived, intense sensation in the body that comes on when faced with a “fight or flight” scenario. Adrenaline is an endorphin created by the body to help protect us from dangerous or potentially deadly situations. The body will make and release adrenaline during a car accident, during a fight, or when someone is running from a wild animal, for example. For a moment, adrenaline helps the body by increasing strength and diminishing pain when a person needs it most. There have been instances where adrenaline has helped people perform enormous feats of strength, like a mother lifting a car off of her child who is pinned below.

Q: How do you get an adrenaline rush without putting your life in danger? 

Wesley Upchurch: Luckily for me, the body sometimes doesn’t know the difference between real or perceived danger. Anyone can trick his or her body into producing adrenaline. I get adrenaline rushes from being terrified in haunted houses, exploring wild caves, and riding the tallest and fastest roller coasters I can find. While I may be completely anxious and scared in a haunted house, I’m quickly relaxed after the whole thing is over. I get a similar feeling from caving. I can be hundreds of feet underground, knowing that so many things could go wrong—I could get lost, fall or miss a handhold. That knowledge of potential danger or death is exhilarating to me. When I get out of the cave, again, I feel relaxed and proud of my ability to conquer something so extreme.

Q: What places do you recommend for other adrenaline junkies? 

Wesley Upchurch: The Darkness, a haunted house an hour outside of Missouri, will blow your mind. There are nearly 6,000 caves in Missouri, too, so pick any one of them and head down under!

Monday, May 13, 2013

Wesley Upchurch Aims High for Adventure

Wesley Upchurch, certified webmaster and visionary behind Gunther’s Game and Virtual Arena, is a thrill-seeker at heart. When he’s not immersed in technology or business, Wesley Upchurch looks for an adventure and usually finds one up in the air. Here, Wesley Upchurch explains differences in coasters and offers some advice on some of the best coasters in the U.S.

Q: Where did rollercoasters originate?

Wesley Upchurch: The first wooden coasters for riders were made in France in the early 1800’s. Before that, there were close approximations, but France had the first true coaster. The first tubular steel coasters didn’t come along in the U.S. until the 50’s.

Q: How do rollercoasters differ?

Wesley Upchurch: Typically, rollercoasters differ and are judged by height, speed, length, inversions (upside-down turns), and steepness. Rollercoaster themes also vary to attract the attention of potential riders and add to the overall thrill. Floorless coasters offer a simulated flying experience that’s hard to beat.

Q: What are some of the best rollercoasters in the U.S.?

Wesley Upchurch: This, of course, can change based on personal interest, but speed is always a major draw for coasters. Right now, the fastest coaster in the U.S. is the Kingda Ka, located at Six Flags in Jackson, New Jersey. Only 3.5 seconds after launch, this coaster can get up to 128 miles per hour. While Kingda Ka leaves riders breathless, there are other fast coasters out there that are not quite as intense, like the Millennium Force at Cedar Point in Ohio and the El Toro, which is a wooden coaster that reaches 70 miles per hour.

Besides speed, thrill-seekers are also impressed by height, inversion, and steepness. Bizarro, Top Thrill Dragster, and Kingda Ka are all over 400 feet tall at certain points. This type of height and the drops that follow offer the tremendous feeling of weightlessness. Other coasters to check out that boast exceptional drops are the Appollo’s Chariot in Williamsburg, VA, and the Ghost Rider, a wooden coaster with a 108 foot drop. Coasters with high inversions or multiple loops are also a ton of fun.

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