Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Oh, Chuck...

So, a while back Jacob expressed an interest in going to Chuck E. Cheese.  I have no idea where it came from initially.  Perhaps a friend at daycare went and couldn't stop talking about it.  Maybe it came up as we drove by one day.  In any event, he wanted to go.  He knew there were games there, and after his experience a few weeks ago at his friend's birthday party, he really wanted to go.  Coincidentally, his daycare set up a fundraiser.  Just go, and 15% of what we spend goes toward daycare.  While that wasn't a super-enticing thing, it made for a good excuse to go.

As much as I've heard bad things about Chuck E. Cheese, I wasn't sure what to expect.  I mean, yes, I had heard the pizza was bad and the kids are out of control, that it's gross and, as a friend of mine commented on Facebook, "a cesspool of disease".  I didn't expect perfection, that's for sure.  My memories of this type of place go way back to the days of Showbiz Pizza Place in Amherst on Niagara Falls Blvd., which we frequented from time to time when I was a kid.  I loved that place and looked forward to days off from school when we could go there for lunch.  There was a great animatronics show (with the Rock-afire Explosion, as I re-discovered via Wikipedia the other night) that I loved, cool games, a one-person ferris wheel-type ride, and of course, the ball pit!  I absolutely loved it there.  I have no recollection on the cleanliness, the quality of the pizza, or much else, but it was a lot of fun back then.  It turns out that Showbiz was actually part of the Chuck E. Cheese world (I think they owned them but kept the names separate until years later), but eventually Showbiz was phased out.  The one in Amherst turned into a Major Magic's as I think Chuck E. Cheese had moved into the market by then.  Major Magic's didn't last long.  I was sad to discover that there are no longer ball pits or animatronic shows at Chuck E. Cheese.  Just bad pizza and lots of games and little rides.  On the bright side, each one only costs a single token. 

The problem with Jacob, of course, is that he's obsessed with sports.  And most of the sports games at a place like this are pretty far beyond his age.  I mean, yes, we can stand him up on the game and let him throw big basketballs, footballs, or hard baseballs at various targets, and that's fine (though moderately unsafe), but in a room with a hundred games, I don't think Jacob so much as glanced at 95 of them.  He wanted to play basketball, football, baseball, air hockey...and that was pretty much it.  He didn't want to climb in the play structure, he didn't want to ride the little rides (save for one little bus), and none of the age-appropriate games interested him in the least.  Here he is when we tried to get him to play a modern computerized version of whack-a-mole...
Is it just me or is the "You LOSE" on the screen a bit harsh?
I did encourage him to look around at other things, and at one point did take him down (willingly) to see the one animatronic figure, Chuck himself. 
He was singing some schmaltzy song. Boring. Give me the Rock-afire Explosion and their fun takes on rock music any day.
And here's Jacob on the bus with Chuck, as well.
The most annoying part of the evening?  When unsupervised kids (one of whom was seriously old enough to know better) came up when Craig and Jacob were playing baseball and started throwing balls, too!  From our game!  Ummm, hello?  Not your game.  Get your own token and play yourself.  Who teaches these kids manners, anyway?  Obviously no one.  I get that places like that are a bit of a kid free-for-all sometimes, but that just seemed way over the top to me.  Add in that the pizza did stink and a number of the games weren't spitting out tickets, everything just felt cheap.  We did benefit from the ticket issue, though, because I played a game, and just as I finished, a mother and daughter walked up with a worker who fixed it.  They played before me and won 10 tickets, and I won three.  But as we stood there, tickets streamed out.  There must have been a lot of people who played it and left ticket-less before us.  We were going to split the tickets, but seeing as it was the girl's 7th birthday, I took a third of them and left.  The mom came over to me later with another stack, begging me to take them.  Not that we needed more of the crap you can get with the tickets, but it was nice. 

All in all, it was just an odd experience.  I just didn't really enjoy it.  And I'm really pretty okay with other "fun center" kind of places.  The games, the crazy kids, the bad pizza...all fine with me, but something about Chuck E. Cheese bugged me.  Maybe because it seemed cheap, like they were living off the name and not making an effort because people will go there anyway.  It just wasn't the pizza and games experience of my childhood, that's for sure.  It'll be a while before I consent to going there again, but I'm sure we will.  I just hope it's not of our own free will...

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