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This is How We Make Our Millions

Review: Chuck E. Cheese


In sixteen years of parenting I have only now found myself in one of these places. It was playing a '90s Kidz Bop version of Tiny Dancer. Giant screens graced us with the cleanest preteens to ever get cut from The Mickey Mouse Club lip-syncing while performing modified MC Hammer dances.

That said, Tilden, age 9, was as happy as he’s ever been. That's him literally just throwing a bouncy ball against the wall.

It was not quite as surreal as Pizza Planet from Toy Story, mainly because it was smaller and things didn’t glow in the dark. It was easy and safe, cleaned regularly by 15 year-olds who look like they might have lost parts their ear drums that they will never get back. But they were polite and maybe not the most miserable teen employees I’ve encountered. I see why people have birthday parties there.

It did try a bit to cater to adults in that it had a salad bar. Upon inspection, the only items with evidence of having been scooped out of their little containers were the bacon bits and grated cheese. The cucumber slices and carrot sticks remained untouched, sad little reminders of modern life.

But…it raises some questions about why we make kid spaces and adult spaces to firmly separate. Loud enough that adults could not hold on a conversation, and overwhelming enough that several kids had ear protection on, Chuck E. Cheese really makes no sense. This place actually holds adults captive, and even those who aren’t easily overstimulated start to develop a slightly demented stare which foretells that kids are gonna get yelled at on the way home. Why make it so terrible for adults? It needn't be jail.

To that point--and I am a serious as the grave about this--anyone with investin’ money needs to contact me, because I have a truly brilliant business idea but no money. I can guarantee that we’d make a profit. Part Chuck E. Cheese, part coffee shop, part children’s museum. Who is ready to invest?

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