When we were kids, the place where we wanted to be all the time was Chuck E. Cheese’s. After all, it was the place where a kid could be a kid. What kid would ever say no to that? While as kids, we saw the magic in a place like Chuck E. Cheese’s, as I grew up to become an adult that’s concerned about things like crowds, safety, and germs, I realized that Chuck E. Cheese’s is kind of a nightmare land where dreams go to die. Well, maybe not, but it’s definitely not as fun of a place as I thought it was. At first, I thought it was just my relationship to the place changing as I grew up and didn’t find it as fun. That’s totally not the case though. I love video games, and I will close down an arcade with the best of them. It’s just Chuck E. Cheese’s itself. We shouldn’t be going there, and we shouldn’t be taking our kids there, either.
While some parts of the Chuck E. Cheese’s experience are decidedly magical, other parts of it are kind of a hellscape no human should ever have to endure. While there are fun things about the place, there’s nothing about Chuck E. Cheese’s experience that is entirely unique to that place. If you’re looking for mediocre and sometimes terrible pizza, you can find that somewhere else. If you’re looking for overpriced arcade games, you can find that somewhere else. If you’re looking for supremely terrible cake, you can find that somewhere else, too. The only thing that you can find at a Chuck E. Cheese’s that is unique to that establishment is the meeting of lots of terrible things under one roof. Here are fifteen terrible things about Chuck E. Cheese’s that should make us rethink taking our kids there.
15. Crazy Parents
The only people crazier than the children at a Chuck E. Cheese’s are the parents. Parents have a way of getting a little insane whenever their kids are involved. Just watch parents at a Little League game, for example. First, you’re looking at a group of parents that would act totally normally in a regular situation. The next thing you know, you’re looking at a mob scene of parents fighting with each other about the scores. The same is true here. Stories of parents fighting at Chuck E. Cheese’s regularly go viral. Some of these stories end in a funny story and not much else, but other stories end in arrests and convictions, all over an arcade game or some bad pizza.
A lot of different factors play into this, like sensory overload, alcohol, and more. “Many adults have poor impulse control,” expert Dr. Dean Leav said. “They frequently fail to consider the consequences of their actions even when kids are present.” Unfortunately, he went on to say that these incidents often lead to their kids acting out in the same way. “Many of these adults are ‘wired’ or have the predisposition to respond in such a maladaptive way,” Leav said. “The kids, unfortunately, learn how to be impulsive themselves by observing the adults.”
14. The Sensory Overload
I don’t know about you, but even as a kid, going to Chuck E. Cheese’s was sort of a mental drain after a certain point. Sure, it’s fun when you walk in and you want to play all the games and hang out in the ball pit all day. That’s all well and good…at first. Things change when you’ve gotten tired of all the games, and can’t stand to look at the ball put for another second. There’s also the fact that for as much time as you’ll spend in that arcade, trying to earn tickets for something cool, you’ll never actually get to the point where you get to get anything good. All of that is putting aside the annoying lights, loud noises, screaming children and more. Honestly, the place is fun…in small doses. In long stretches, Chuck E. Cheese’s might be a nightmarish prison for those who are in any way sensitive to sensory overload.
13. Granny Gets Beat Up At Kid’s Birthday Party
Carol Brown just wanted to go to her grandkid’s birthday party. She attended three-year-old Robert Olchanski’s birthday party at a Chuck E. Cheese’s location in Southgate California, but there was no way to know that it would turn out so wrong.
It all started when the Olchanski party had a disagreement with a neighboring family about swearing, and when they politely asked them to stop, a riot broke out. “It got into a confrontation where they came across at our table and a number of us were assaulted and the table flipped and I ended up underneath of that.” she said. She was hurt so badly that she was sent to the hospital.
While she doesn’t believe that alcohol played a part in the brawl, Chuck E. Cheese’s does serve beer to adults. As we all know, drunk adults and hyperactive kids hopped up on sugar and soda do not mix well. “I don’t think it was alcohol-related. I think it was just their particular demeanor.” she’d said. Honestly, I disagree, but then again I wasn’t there.
12. The Horrific Basis Of Five Nights At Freddy’s
The smash hit indie horror game series Five Nights At Freddy’s drew a lot of inspiration from a real life crime that took place in Aurora, Colorado in 1993. That was when Nathan Dunlap, a recently fired former employee who’d been disgruntled about hours, walked into the Chuck E. Cheese where he used to work and waited around in the bathrooms till closing time. He then walked out and opened fire on the employees still in the building. Four employees, Ben Grant, 17, Colleen O’Connor, 17, Sylvia Crowell, 19, and Marge Kohlberg, 50, wound up dead. A line cook named Bobby Stevens was shot in the face, but he survived, and it was his testimony that convicted Nathan Dunlap, and he was sentenced to death three years later. He’s one of the main cases people talk about when the merits of the death penalty are brought up. Honestly, part of me wonders why getting fired from Chuck E. Cheese would be the breaking point that makes someone commit multiple murders, but there’s no way to know the answer to that.
11. Drugs In Bathrooms
Sometimes it’s not the kids at a Chuck E. Cheese’s acting like crazy people, it’s the adults. One good example of that is the time two men Daniel Lubach, 27, and Collin Zborowski, 28, got arrested for smoking heroin in a Chuck E. Cheese’s bathroom in Costa Mesa. Sgt. Patrick Wessel verified that the two went around the back of the restaurant to meet a drug supplier. They were eventually charged with possession of heroin. For one, while it’s possible to smoke heroin, it doesn’t seem like the most efficient way to do that drug. It also doesn’t seem like the best way to avoid getting caught doing drugs. For another, it’s not smart to do heroin in the first place. This isn’t the only instance of drug use in Chuck E. Cheese’s locations, either. In one instance, a mother was arrested after a riot because she threw bags of pot, Xanax and more out of a getaway car!
10. You Can’t See What Happens In The Tunnel Maze
Honestly, it’s really hard for me to hate on the big tunnel mazes. This was one of my favorite parts about going to Chuck E. Cheese’s, to be honest. My favorite thing was finding a corner of the tunnel maze and hanging out there, making my own strange fortress out of a single section. However, as an adult, I can hardly understand how I was allowed in one of these things. For one, in order to play in one, you need to take your shoes and socks off, which is almost hilariously unsanitary. While I’ve never seen anything dangerous in a tunnel maze, I might have just been a really lucky kid who never ran into anything weird in one of these mazes, like syringes or something. On top of that, it’s kind of unsettling to watch your kid put their shoes and socks away, climb into the tunnel maze, and essentially disappear into the maze until they come out. I’ve seen parents scramble to find a vantage point to try and find their kids to no avail, their only option to wait until they come out, hopefully without any physical or emotional scarring.
9. 20-Person Brawls
Brawls in Chuck E Cheese’s are pretty commonplace, but some stand out as a bit more horrifying. One good example of that is the brawl that happened in the Chuck E. Cheese location in Brookfield Township, Wisconsin. The whole thing started because a child was taking way too long to exchange tickets for a toy. Sure, that’s enough to be mildly annoyed, maybe even very annoyed given how old the child is, but there’s no reason for an issue that small to balloon out into a riot. CEC Entertainment Inc. issued a statement shortly after, explaining “99.99 percent of its 65 million guest visits in 2012 occurred without violence.” If we take these figures to heart, that means that 6,500 visits to Chuck E. Cheese’s end in violence, which parses out to something like eighteen violent visits to Chuck E. Cheese’s a day, all across America. Those numbers show that something has to give here.
8. It’s Basically Gambling For Kids
As you get older, you start seeing arcades with tickets as what they are: gateways into casinos and potential gambling addiction. This is the first instance that I learned that the house will always win. I never needed to crap out at a casino to learn that, because I learned it playing for tickets at Chuck E. Cheese’s. It takes a really long time for kids to learn that. I know some adults who still haven’t learned it. After all, casinos are still a thing. To add insult to injury, the prizes really aren’t that great. Even if you amass enough tickets to win something big, like an X-box, a video game, or a remote control toy car, you’ll have spent way more money to earn the tickets to get it there than you would have if you’d actually bought the prize outright. You might as well just go down to your local discount store and buy your prize there than try and earn tickets to get it at Chuck E. Cheese’s. Basically, the best way to earn a small fortune here is the same as how you’d earn it at a casino: simply start out with a large fortune.
7. The Arcade
Okay, arcades are amazing. I used to live at the arcade that used to be at the local mall. The arcade at Chuck E. Cheese’s is no exception. There are a ton of games there, so you’re bound to find something that interests you. Even if the place isn’t your cup of tea, you could keep yourself entertained in their arcades regardless of your age. The problem lies in how the arcade is set up. Basically, none of the cool games allow you to earn tickets. As a kid, I had to decide if I wanted a prize or if I wanted to play the games I liked. Most kids will try and balance out the fun games with the games that give out tickets to try and get the most out of the experience, but doing that guarantees that the only prize you’re walking out with is a piece of candy and a pencil. On the other hand, playing only games that give out tickets basically guarantees that you won’t have as much fun at the arcade, for the tradeoff of only a few more tickets. It’s a weird double-edged sword here.
6. Crazy Kids
You will never find more crazy kids than you will at a Chuck E. Cheese’s. It’s basically a conglomeration of everything kids love, turned up to the extreme. That means you’re going to be seeing children fighting over games, getting into fights with each other over dumb things and more. There’s also the kids who will eat too much candy and get a sugar high, and the children who will eat too much terrible pizza and get sick from it, sometimes at the restaurant itself. I don’t envy anyone who works at a Chuck E. Cheese’s because they probably deal with more vomit than anyone except actual medical professionals. Then, when you’re done with your magical day, parents need to wrestle with their kids in order to actually leave the establishment. That means having to deal with possibly hysterically crying, temper tantrum throwing children who don’t want to leave even though the parents have long reached their limit with the place. It’s enough to make you just want to put a lifetime ban on the place to avoid the hassle.
5. The Ticket System
Have you been to an arcade that lets you convert tickets into receipts? I’m not even just talking about Chuck E. Cheese’s, either. A lot of arcades have this option now: kids across the country are feeding their arcade tickets into a machine the way you’d feed pennies into a Coinstar. It works pretty well because you don’t have to carry a cup full of tickets or worry about losing any.
The problem is that no one knows how to use this thing in the best way. For one, these machines often break. For another, everyone is terrible at using it. Kids try jamming more tickets in there than the machine can take, or worse, they tear off single tickets and feed them in one by one. Adults do this too, and afterward, they wonder why they end up with a bunch of receipts rather than just one large one. This leads people who know how to use the machine to wait behind people who don’t for way longer than they’re supposed to because of course the person who doesn’t know how to use the machine just won a jackpot and is about to buy a big prize. It’s Murphy’s law in action, and it has caused a lot of literal violence.
4. The Pizza
Maybe it’s because I’m from New York, but I’m very particular about how my pizza needs to be. While I’m aware that no one actually goes to Chuck E. Cheese’s for the pizza, we need to at least have some standards about it. It’s decent pizza, but it’s clearly frozen pizza. If nothing else, at least the pizza is made in an oven and not a microwave, but it’s still frozen pizza. My only comfort is this department is that it doesn’t cost a lot of money to go to Chuck E. Cheese’s. If you’re planning a birthday party there, it won’t cost a lot per head to make it happen. This is a good thing because kids have a nasty habit of taking two bites of their pizza and then leaving the rest of the slice. Some others will even do this, then take another slice of pizza, only to repeat what they’ve just done. If this is pizza that allows for this and not for finishing the entire slice, I want no part of that pizza.
3. The Cake
The cake at Chuck E. Cheese’s is kind of terrible. The one time I had a birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese’s, the cake stuck out in my mind because I wanted no part of that cake. Watching others eat it made me realize that I was right. The cake is really crumbly, to the point that it was crumbling as people were eating it. I’m not really a cake person, but I remember thinking that it would have been smarter and even easier to bake a cake myself. There are some locations that don’t even cut the cake, either. This is putting aside the issues of kids wearing the cake instead of eating it. Anyone who’s ever been to a raucous children’s party knows what I’m talking about. Either the kids end up running around with their plates, or some parent decides it would be funny to shove cake in their unsuspecting faces. Regardless, it just makes for a big mess.
2. The Show Itself
There’s a reason why Five Nights At Freddy’s is scary, guys. It’s based on this restaurant and for good reason. In fact, when the games first came out, I originally thought that they were using actual animatronics from the real restaurant. I liked the arcade at Chuck E. Cheese’s, but there’s something about the animatronics that is really unsettling. The worst part is that the animatronics come out while you eat pizza, so if you want to eat, there’s no avoiding them. The animatronic rat that comes out every hour dances around and takes pictures with people. The problem with that is that the rat is terrifying, and kids with good sense know well to stay away from it. There’s also Girl Chuck, which is just an animatronic girl rat. Other locations have different shows, but I can just speak to what I remember, which was that there’s no reason for this to exist. Combine this with the big countdown clock that marks the time until the big robot rat arrives in a very annoying computerized voice, and you’ve made a thoroughly distasteful environment to eat pizza in.
1. Going Home
Since Chuck E. Cheese’s is still magical for the kids, if not for the adults, getting home can be a challenge. This isn’t because it’s impossible to get home (although depending on where you are finding a Chuck E. Cheese’s is impossible) but because trying to bring your kids home after a day of sensory overload, terrible pizza, Herculean amounts of sugar and the frustration of not winning prizes is kind of a task in itself. You’d think that kids would be totally tuckered out from using all of that energy, but all of the elements of the establishment together just seem to turn regular children into hell beasts bent on staying in the lotus eater machine known as Chuck E. Cheese’s. You might not think this restaurant is all that bad. I actually don’t think the place is all that bad in moderation. However, this establishment is touted as the place where a kid can be a kid when it’s really the place where kids become terrible and adults become worse.