Teaching your children not to gamble……at Chuck E. Cheese

This last week we went to Chuck E Cheese. By the way, it’s really stupid to go on a Saturday. This is the lesson that we went through with our children and how it came about. We have a whole bag of tokens and initially I was just going to give an equal number to each. Before I did though, I realized that I wanted to talk to them about how they might use them. We talked about the different types of machines that take tokens and what makes them different. We went to 5 different kinds of machines and put a token in each. Then I asked them these three questions:

Was it fun?

How long did it last?

What did you get out of it? and therefore

Was it a good use of a token?

Based upon their answers to these questions I have categorized the machines into 5 categories:

Skill Games: Skeeball, Basketball, air hockey, knock the big purple monster’s teeth out,  etc. Usually ranked high on the fun scale, high on the duration factor. Getting out of it was usually based upon the experience because these games are usually not high ticket producers. It was decided that these games are a good use of a token.

Rides: Monster truck, trolley, dragon, etc. These machines rated moderate on the fun scale and the duration scale. The value soley comes from the experience because there are no tickets awarded. SIDE NOTE: We did discuss a basic strategy issue when it comes to rides. I asked Dove and Eden if they each had a token which would be better: For Eden to ride the monster truck alone and for Dove to ride the dinosaur OR For both Dove and Eden to ride the monster truck together and then both ride the dinosaur together for a total of two rides each instead of one. I will let you ask them what they concluded. It was decided that these games are a good use of a token.

Fun Games: Arcade games that involve putting out fires, driving a car or snowmobile, catching an apple in the bears mouth but not getting bonked with the acorns, etc.  These scored relatively high on the fun factor and moderately high on the duration factor. Depending on your ability to catch apples and dodge acorns the winning tickets are even a possibility for some of these games. It was decided that these games are a good use of a token.

Product Games: Believe it or not there are actually 2 machines specifically where you end up with a product for the token that you insert. One is a car ride that takes your picture while riding it and prints it on this dot matrix recipt type printer. The other is this seat that you sit in and Chuck E. Cheese himself sketches a picture of you (even making mistakes that he corrects himself from) resulting in a black and white sketch type picture of yourself when you are done. These games both were rated high on the fun scale, high on the duration scale (there’s quite a bit of time spent waiting for the picture) and high on the return scale. While they do not give out tickets they do give out a personalized product. It was decided that these games are a good use of a token.

Slot Machines: The final category of machines is sort of an enigma. They scored extremely low on the fun scale. The duration scale was universally off-the-charts low. The return scale was a little bit harder to assess. Almost all of these machines have lights and huge numbers that promise varying numbers of tickets with the end goal being the “jackpot” which will shower the token bearer with so many tickets that they could take a shower in them. It occurred to me that in asking my kids questions about these particular types of machines I had already been in a similar teaching situation with them before….in the casino. Our family happens to frequent a local casino  when we receive tickets for the free buffet. On the way to the buffet we would pass by the “adult video games” as our kids came to refer to the slot machines. One time in particular I took the time to explain these enigmatic machines to our kids. “You put money in and it give you less money out.” “But wait!” my kids explained “Why do people play them?” “Well, some people win a lot of money sometimes but it costs everyone else money and in the end no one wins except the casino.” At the casino we all agreed that adult video games are a waste.

In order to further facilitate this discussion I have created an un-biased, objective chart that compares slot machines with this brand of Chuck E Cheese machines.

It is interesting noticing some of the other correlations which would not fit on the chart. One of the most dramatic is the rate at which these machines consume tokens. I have watched grown women pump tokens into these things for the lure of more and more tickets. The only other time I have ever been this amazed is the first time I was in Vegas and I watched grown adults staring at the screen and it was like they couldn’t push the button fast enough. In casinos the trend has been to create machines that now take multiple credits. That way you can create a penny slot machine but it will actually play up to 100 pennies at one time. That is approximately one dollar! Evidently Chuck E Cheese thought those slot machines were onto something because their token pusher also accepts 3 tokens at a time but they take them in a much friendlier way, you are giving them to Jasper, Chuck, or Munch:

Anyways, It’s all fun and games right? Who cares? They’re just tokens you say. Relax! Yes, I agree. But I have noticed that in walking my children through this very simple exercise it got us all thinking. You’ll be interested to know that when it was all said and done I have them each a designated number of tokens and told them that they could use them on whatever they wanted and even though they were drawn to some of the items at the ticket store neither of them used any of their tokens for the slot machines. It does make me wonder how the people would answer the same three questions I asked my kids about the machines at Chuck E Cheese.  I leave you with this quiz that you can take for fun. If you take the quiz please post your answers as a response to this blog post and remember this is the honor system!!

Can you guess which of these games I could find at my local casino and which I would find at my local Chuck E. Cheese?

Get a piece of paper and write down your answers!

1. Tower of Power

2. Catch A Wave

3. Merlin’s King Quest

4. Heaven ¢ent

5. Leopard Spots

6. Wonder Wheel

7. Smokin’ Token

8. Fairy’s Fortune

9. Lucky Larry’s Lobstermania

10. Enchanted Forest

ANSWERS (flip your monitor upside down to read)

How’d you do? Post your score!

BONUS QUESTION: Can you guess which add is for the casino and which one is marketed for children for Chuck E Cheese?


18 thoughts

  1. I suppose you’re right. But just to be clear, my intention was not to take the fun out of Chuck E.Cheese any more than it was to take the fun out of slot machines.

    What did you score on the quiz?

  2. I got 2 wrong. I switched up Leopard Spots and Wonder Wheel.

    Seriously though, you can’t tell me that you wouldn’t ‘pay your dues’ at a Wheel of Fortune machine if you thought it was possible to make that jackpot of hundreds of thousands of dollars. Look at all the old asian ladies that are now rich beyond their wildest dreams because of those machines.

  3. I got 7 right and of course, the bonus question. When we lived in the South, we went on one of the riverboat casinos with a friend. They had a Ford F-150 truck that you could supposedly win at the slot machines. Our friend, who is normally the biggest cheap skate (not ordering a meal at the restaurant to just wait for the rest of us to finish ours and eat from everyone’s plate, etc.), became mesmerized and convinced he’d win the truck. We had to cut him off!

  4. I got 8 right – I said Catch a Wave and Merlin’s King Quest were from Chucky’s.
    And I also decided that if I had realized that I could use my prize from a casino to buy cotton candy, then I might have developed a gambling addiction by now…

  5. Yeah. Everyone speaks from their story and my story is that I have PTSD from my parents not INTENDING to do shit and nevertheless, it got done.

    I scored 0 out of 10.

  6. So Stephanie, I’m reading your post and I’m a little confused.

    First of all upon googling PTSD I’m assuming you’re referring to post-traumatic stress disorder.

    Secondly, I’m assuming by your bold use of the word “INTENDING” I’m assuming that you are linking my actions at Chuck E Cheese with my kids to the actions that your parents did that caused YOUR PTSD? Is that correct or am I misreading this?

    Thirdly, I am wondering if you think that there are any lessons that could/should be taught at places like Chuck E Cheese, Disneyland, or McDonalds or if you think that the sole purposes of these places should be to have “fun”?

    Fourthly, Did you really score 0 out of 10 or are you just being sassy? I have been rather surprised at the high scores of other respondents.

  7. Here are some funny links that I found while writing this post just from Googling ” Chuck E Cheese:

    Mississippi was not allowing CC in their state because they were saying that it was gambling

    Some guy protesting Chuck E Cheese coming to New York

    Lists of names of slot machines…some of them are pretty funny

    Funny CC review where the guy refers to the place as a casino for kids (the last paragraph is worth reading)

  8. You said your intention wasn’t to take the fun out of Chuck E Cheese and I’m just saying that even though people can do things without intending to do them, they still do them. So it’s just good to be aware of this. (This is why I’m saving for my kids’ therapy instead of their college.)

  9. I only got 3 right. My parents didn’t take me to The Cheese very often as a child (I’m learning to let go of the bitterness) and I frustrate easily at slot machines.

  10. I like to see parents taking an active role like this. There is much to be learned in almost everything, so why start realizing this as an adult? In the same fashion as this Chuck E. Cheese experiment, why give your kids an allowance without teaching them first how to budget and make wise spending choices?

    I’d rather learn how to have fun with 5 bucks as a dumb little kid before I’m faced with the proposition of playing with 500 at the local casino. I applaud you, Ben.

    For good measure, I got 9/10 on the quiz (mistook Leopard Spots) and I got the bonus right (ONLY because I can read).

  11. I didn’t even know they had slot machines or similar at CEC. I always, only, had eyes for the videogames…

    (Well, skee ball is pretty awesome too.)

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