By Steve Overmyer

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – There was a time when our favorite truck rolling down the street was the ice cream truck.

Kids in New York City are still excited to see a truck on their street – though this one is driven by the NYPD.

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It’s called the NYPD Game Truck. As CBS2’s Steve Overmyer reports, it allows officers and kids a chance to connect through their shared love for video games. With PS5s and Xboxes and Nintendo Switches, it’s a mobile arcade.

(credit: CBS2)

“I’m feeling excited” said one student standing outside of P.S/I.S. 323 in Brownsville, Brooklyn.

“Our children are going through a lot with schoolwork, and dealing with the pandemic and vaccine, they’re going through a lot,” said Chief Jeffrey Maddrey of NYPD Community Affairs. “We want to provide them with a safe space and a place where they have a lot of fun.”

Each truck has four screens inside and two outside under awnings.

“I won again,” exclaimed one student in a four person game of Mario Kart.

The NYPD has a long history of engaging with youth through sports. This is another version of community outreach that’s clearly working, Overmyer reported.

Madison Fenderson is an eighth grader. As a reward for perfect attendance, she was allowed to step away from school for an hour to play in the street.

(credit: CBS2)

“There’s a lot of people in class that say they don’t like it, but honestly I love NYPD because… actually they’re really good,” Fenderson said.

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For the NYPD, the key is connecting with their audience while speaking in a language the kids understand: Video games.

“This is their language,” said Maddrey. “But many times, when I come in here and start talking with the kids, I start asking ‘What grade you in? What school do you go to? What’s your favorite subject?’ I get to engage them in so many different things.”

The game truck was created thanks to a child actor turned philanthropist. Brock Pierce funded the creation of both trucks, and has worked with the NYPD on this from the start.

(credit: CBS2)

“To see the game fully on, and dreams become a reality, is such a beautiful thing,” said Pierce. “I grew up playing games. Games inspired me. It taught me how to ‘level up’ in life.”

Now officers are building good relationships in the community, even if that means losing.

Overmyer asked Captain Tarik Sheppard what it feels like losing to a child.

“It’s embarrassing… but I remember being this age, and I’d be able to beat any 40-year-old myself,”  Sheppard said.

His 12-year-old opponent was on the other end of a lopsided win.

“I feel good. I’m the king at this thing. So, it ain’t no surprise,” he said.

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For the kids, it’s a safe space. For any adult picking up a controller – maybe not.

Steve Overmyer