Chuckilepsy: the Chuck E. Cheese Disease

By Scott Finn

Earlier this month, Chuck E. Cheese’s celebrated its thirtieth anniversary. The kid’s restaurant is famous for video games, pizza and its mouse mascot. In fact, an independent survey shows that Chuck E. Cheese is more popular with kids between the ages of six and eight than Mickey Mouse, Ronald McDonald, and Barbie. 

The restaurant’s slogan is, “Where a kid can be a kid.” But I’m not so sure.

Last week I was home with my kids, alone, and it was a hundred degrees outside, I needed to find someplace air-conditioned where they could run around until they tired themselves out. Then it came to me – I’ll take them to Chuck E. Cheese’s. It seemed brilliant at the time. I had no idea it would end so badly. Here’s my four-year-old, Iris, after the meltdown.

Me: We just got out of Chuck E. Cheese’s and you’re upset, why are you upset?

Iris: Because I didn’t get the other glasses.

Me: You wanted to get a different type of glasses.

Iris: Yes.

Me: And how do you feel right now?

Iris: (sobs) I don’t know…

Now, you need to know that my daughter is usually a pretty happy kid. So what reduced her tears? I blame it on Chuckilepsy.  

Chuckilepsy is the state of consciousness created by the blinking lights, loud music and animatronic life-sized puppets at Chuck E. Cheese’s. The symptoms are glazed eyes, high heart rate, and a general state of agitation. 

The minute you walk into Chuck E. Cheese’s, your senses are assaulted. (Nat sound of restaurant) There’s the noise of all the games – video games, little cars to ride on, skeetball, et cetera. Then there’s the stage with an eight-foot-tall robot mouse – the famous Chuck E. Cheese. In back of him are music videos blasting from several large-screen TVs — like this one: “Chuck E. Cheese – keep dreamin’ of you…” 

It’s sung to the tune from the 1984 smash “I feel for you” by Chaka Khan. I used to dance to that one in junior high. Now, an animatronic mouse breakdances to it for the entertainment of small children.  So on top of the wretched noise and the flashing lights I was forced to confront the fact that I am, indeed, that old.

Soon, my daughter was begging for tokens to play the games. I put a five dollar bill into the machine and heard a familiar sound — the clink, clink of coins.

I started to think – what did this place remind me of? Then it hit me – a casino. This place is just like a casino. You look around at both places, and you don’t see a lot of smiles. Some of the faces are excited, others are glazed-over, but I wouldn’t call them happy. I’d say they have Chuckilepsy. 

But what really gets me is the slogan: “Chuck E. Cheese — Where a kid can be a kid.” 

Let’s review what happens at Chuck E. Cheese’s: Kids labor over computer screens so they can earn tickets so they can buy useless trinkets. That’s adult behavior, if you ask me. 

In my book, being a kid means playing games that use your body and your imagination. It’s playing army in the forest or having a tea party for your dolls – not interacting with some machine. 

As we were leaving, we traded in Iris’s tickets for a pair of fake sunglasses. But with all the noise, the lady behind the counter gave her the wrong glasses – they had dollar bill signs on them and not the stars that Iris wanted. Thus, the meltdown. 

But later, my daughter surprised me. When we got home, she wanted us to make our own glasses out of cardboard and pipe cleaners. So we did, and when I tried mine on, she did more than smile. She gave me a full-on belly laugh. Now that’s the Iris I know and love.

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One Comment on “Chuckilepsy: the Chuck E. Cheese Disease”

  1. Samara Coonts Says:

    I would never take my own children to Chucky Cheese after I recently heard that other workers were going into the kitchen early in the mornings before anyone else came in to fix themselves breakfast.The kitchen is supposed to be a sanitary place and not for all employees to use.As I heard it, it was supposed to have been an employee who reportedly works on the gaming machines.I dont know if the rumor is true, but if it is, the helth department should be notified.

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