The Video Game Genius Behind Chuck E. Cheese’s

The Video Game Genius Behind Chuck E. Cheese’s


(upbeat digital music) – [Narrator] This isn’t
any ordinary gamer. – [Nolan] I had the reputation at the time of this mad genius. – [Narrator] He created
a bunch of companies focusing on robots … – [Nolan] Automobile navigation. – [Narrator] Microwave components. – [Nolan] And a bunch of others. – He is the man who launched
the video game revolution. (upbeat digital music) – [Narrator] But there’s
one more creation you may not know about … A place where a kid can be a kid. – [Announcer] Let’s welcome
creative genius, Nolan Bushnell. – [Broadcaster] Nolan Bushnell. (upbeat digital music) – [Narrator] In many ways,
you can trace the history of video games all the way back
to this man, Nolan Bushnell. In 1972, Nolan co-founded one of the first video game companies. They called it Atari. Their first hit is a table
tennis game called, Pong. It sets record sales
and permanently changed the arcade world. Even though arcades were
hitting critical mass, families were still
hesitant to accept them into their lives. To change hearts and
minds, Nolan knew that arcades needed a new and friendly face. This is the story of how
he introduced the world to a new mascot of
gaming, Chuck E. Cheese. (upbeat digital music) In the 1970s and ’80s, this is
what a video game looked like. Yeah, it doesn’t look like much. But back then, games
like these turned Atari into a multi billion dollar company. (digital music) – At Atari, we had explosive growth. We were just printing money
because we were lean and mean, and had good games. – [Narrator] But having
good games wasn’t enough. The market was saturated,
and Atari needed to break into a new demographic. – [Nolan] I wanted to create
a chain of big arcades focusing on kids. – They’ve even passed laws
restricting the use of the games. – But, there were certain
cities that didn’t wanna have arcades
because teenagers came and they’d cause trouble. So I felt that disguising
it as a restaurant was a good business strategy. Chuck E. Cheese was an arcade,
masquerading as a restaurant. (laughing) – [Narrator] Though Nolan had
the idea, he needed someone to turn it into a reality. So he tapped one of the brightest business minds within Atari. A man as ambitious as he was. A man as crazy as he was.
– Come on, baby. Meet the first president of
Chuck E. Cheese, Gene Landrum. (upbeat music) – I have been pretty competitive in my life. I was 20 years old, I was
Mr. Ft. Lauderdale. I won a hundred tennis tournaments. So, I did business kind of the same way. I happened to be an aggressive
guy, and go get it done, and win the game. (upbeat music) When Nolan hired me to do this,
I actually looked at myself and said, “What do you
know about food, Gene?” Nothing. – [Narrator] But that was a
risk Nolan wanted to take. He knew that creating something unorthodox required visionaries, not
experts set in their ways. – Experts don’t understand the future. Too many times you have
to un-teach experts. So, when it came to spinning
up the Chuck E. Cheese project, I thought Gene would be the perfect guy. – [Narrator] So, where did Gene start? Well, with food. – [Gene] Pizza makes sense
because families love pizza. And, guess what? It takes 20 minutes to make a pizza. So, while they’re waiting,
the kids are playing the games, and I had Chuck
actually deliver the pizza. And I went down south
and found a guy who did costumes for Disney. I said, “Look I don’t want a mouse.” Disney’s got Mickey. And I don’t want a rat, it’s too hard core. I want a soft rat. And he did it. – [Narrator] And after
only three months of work, Chuck E. Cheese Pizza Time
Theater opened its doors for the first time on May 17, 1977. (upbeat music) – Everybody was willing to say that talking robots in a pizza
parlor with a lot of games was a really stupid idea. And in fact, the day we
opened I knew we’d screwed up. The place wasn’t big enough. – My joint was filled. There wasn’t a seat. And once I learned how to do
it, I opened a store a week. Fifty stores I opened in one year! – I had no fear. I knew that it was gonna do well. (subtle dramatic music) – [Narrator] Chuck E. Cheese’s
initial stores were a hit. But at the parent company
Atari, things were going a little differently. – Warner bought Atari, and all of a sudden you had a whole bunch of
New York suits pruning my pet projects. I was really upset about
that, and it dawned on me that I was having a
lot more fun working on Chuck E. Cheese than on Atari. – [Narrator] And so Nolan
eventually left Atari. Over time, the company
struggled and faded away as the spotlight turned to new
gaming giants like Nintendo. But while kids today may
not know the name Atari, Chuck E. Cheese is still
a childhood hot spot. After 40 years, the buck
tooth, pizza-serving stuffed rat still stands as a testament to Nolan’s innovation in
the video game industry. (subtle dramatic music) – It was a whirlwind. It was more successful than
I thought it would ever be. But, Chuck E. Cheese, it’s a viable concept. It makes sense. It still makes sense. – Chuck E. Cheese’s is better than ever. Thank you, thank you, thank you. – There’s a vanishingly
small number of places where parents and children
can have a fun night out. And that was one of the goals. You know, I feel good about that. I saw it, I did it. I was at the beginning. Enough. (laughing) (ding)

4 Comments

  1. One time when I was 6 crawling through the tubes I dead ass watched another kid take a shit at the top of the slide and another kid cut infront of me trying to go down first. YOO HE WENT THROUGH THE SHIT.

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