My niece recently celebrated her birthday at Chuck E. Cheese’s. The dark, dank den of arcade games and animatronic entertainment that I remember fondly from my youth has been replaced by a much brighter, more sterile franchise. The lighting is what kills me. The best part of 1980s Chuck E. Cheese’s was that you got to run around in the dark, snorting pixie stix and pretending that your parents were far, far away. It was like a nightclub for kids, or even Pinocchio’s Pleasure Island. God that place was rad.
That does not fly with today’s helicopter parents. No dark, no sharp edges, no mysterious carpet stains, no nightmare-inducing band of furry robots to serenade you, nothing nefarious. It’s a shame, really- but as long as the kids are (sort of) enjoying themselves, it’s all good. I would normally never subject myself to so many toddlers in one place, but I promised myself I’d shoot more family events and the location was intriguing. I made a couple of frames of my niece and tried to evoke the feel of the old establishment by lighting it the way I remember it used to feel.