We went to Chuck E Cheese tonight for my son’s birthday dinner. Since it was a weekday evening, it was quite a bit calmer than it is on the weekends, when I’ve usually gone.

Still, despite the slightly mellower atmosphere and the fact that my kids are older, so I can let them roam about with greater confidence, my old impression of the place still stands: it still feels unnecessarily designed to make it hard to keep track of your children. I get that it’s not day care, and it’s perfectly clear that it’s about as hard for kids to resist as crack; but it strikes me that the games, exits, and seating area could be designed to make it a lot easier for parents to see their kids while they’re playing.

Having a more structured set of entrances to the play areas, arranging the seating so that it forms a perimeter around the games, and having more windows in the tunnels: these wouldn’t cut into the company’s profits, or the kids’ enjoyment, even while they increase parent comfort levels.

I’ll bet some architecture students could take this on as a design exercise, and come up with something imaginative, economical, and far superior to the present design.

Some parents deal with the whole ambiance by finding other things to do, like working on spreadsheets while their kids ate:

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I suspect the parents aren’t the only ones occasionally overwhelmed by it all: the kid check was deserted when we left.

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Nice Andy Warhol reference, though. That’s cool.

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