John Oliver reveals Chuck E. Cheese's dark history

Originally published at: John Oliver reveals Chuck E. Cheese's dark history | Boing Boing


:joy: That’s John Oliver in top form right there.

I never understood the point of Chuck E. Cheese after arcades went away. I honestly didn’t know it still existed until fairly recently. What’s the point of them after the arcades were gone? It’s just a bad pizza restaurant then? The whole deal was that you put up with the bad pizza because there was an arcade. This ‘80s kid is a little mad they still exist, on basic principles.

A lot of folks may not know this, but Bushnell tried again with this idea in the 2000s. He started a chain called uWink, which was a restaurant aimed at adults. Every table had these computer terminals on it where you ordered your food and could play games. There were no waitstaff, only table runners. All the ordering was done on the computer. Then there were a few larger games in the lobby as well. It was… not great. We went once while I lived in LA and saw no reason to go back. I think we were the only customers in there. They had half the chairs and tables stacked in the back, perhaps so it didn’t look so devoid of customers.


In my experience the main reason for their continued existence was as an easy, relatively affordable all-inclusive venue for hosting children’s birthday parties in which the parents didn’t need to worry about coming up with a way to entertain the kids between serving food and cake, present opening, etc. Whenever I took my kids there it was to attend a party, and most families there also seemed to be attending one party or another.

And I never saw one without an arcade. Is that really a thing? Weird.


Well there was one in the video. It looked like any modern fast food restaurant but with no arcade games. Because, well, arcades no longer exist in commercial form outside of hipster brew pubs.

Are there Chuck E. Cheeses that do still have the arcade? If so, what’s in them? It won’t be Pac Man and Defender anymore, so what is it? Those shitty ticket games like in Dave & Busters I suppose?

These are honest questions. I haven’t been in a Chuck E. Cheese since roughly 1985 so I struggle to imagine what they would even be now. Hence my surprise at learning they still existed. If anyone knows, please share.

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I’m pretty sure it’s a franchise of hell, here on earth…


There are two of them in my general area and they both still have arcades. Skeeball, racing games, whack-a-mole, stuff like that. Plus one of those hamster-tunnel-like climbing structures. Nothing terribly exciting but it’ll keep the kids occupied.

One nice, probably newer feature is the “sensory sensitive sundays” where they turn the volume on everything down. The rest of the time it’s loud as hell.


Ah, okay. I looked at the pictures on their site, and yep- shitty ticket games.

I guess kids don’t care about the difference between shitty ticket games and real arcade games like they used to have. They should care though, goddammit.

Grampa Simpson Meme GIF by MOODMAN


My guess is that having a bunch of older, arcade-obsessed weirdos showing up to play the classic arcade games would make some parents uncomfortable and less likely to choose the place for parties. And who can blame them? I mean, have you seen those characters in The King of Kong?


Are you saying that parents can’t be arcade obsessed weirdos? :thinking:


I spent a year in high school working at a Chuck E Cheese. It was not the best job I had.

The sky crawl, the bane of all Game Room Technicians, because a good night was one where you didn’t have to crawl in there to mop up either piss or puke.

In the mid 90’s it was about an even split of arcade/pinball and ticket games, with a few arcade games that gave tickets.

That is one very accurate way to sum it up.


… it’d take a lot more quarters to pay the rent :thinking:


I only went as an adult for some kid’s birthdays… I can imagine working there is truly awful.


Haha, fair.

They wouldn’t want to run actual classic arcade games today anyway. They are very high maintenance (terrible for a retail setting) and the kids would find them mostly quite lame, I’m sure.

The biggest problem for the retro arcades and bars that have sprung up in the past ten years is maintenance. These machines are going on 40-50 years old in many cases, and they weren’t designed to last even a quarter that long. Parts are hard to find and a lot of technical expertise is needed to keep old CRTs and linear power supplies running. The only bars and such managing to do it are those who have a deep-pocketed retro arcade enthusiast on their staff to keep everything going.


Between Billy Mitchell from Florida and Chuck E. from NJ, I’d take the latter.

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