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  • (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)

(upbeat digital music)

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The Video Game Genius Behind Chuck E. Cheese’s

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    joey joey posted on 2021/05/27
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