Children's parties are a curious ordeal for parents, other kids, and really anybody other than the birthday boy or girl. And they're about to get a lot weirder.
How much weirder, you ask? Well, consider the phrase "Chuck E. Cheese's Virtual Ticket Blaster Experience."
That's right: Chuck E. Cheese is officially becoming an early adopter of Facebook's newly acquired virtual reality headset, the restaurant and arcade chain announced this week. It's first being introduced in select locations in Dallas, Texas, with others already planned in San Diego, California and Orlando, Florida.
What does this mean, exactly? Will we someday soon being blowing on virtual pizza to satiate our brain-stomachs? Well, the "ticket blaster" is a large tube that whirls paper prizes around the entrant's head, challenging them to snatch as many prizes as they can before the wind stops blow. So probably not. But seeing as the Rift hasn't even made it to market yet, it's not too late to drop some other ideas into the virtual suggestion box.
The thought of watching a horde of small angry children wrestling over a VR headset might inspire feelings of dread for parents concerned with their own sanity—not to mention sanitation. But establishing the Rift in places like this could actually be a great idea. Virtual reality is still a nascent market at best, after all. The amount of people who are interested in using the Rift undoubtedly dwarfs the number of people who will actually go out an buy themselves a pair once it hits the shelves.
Roger Cardinale, president of Chuck E. Cheese owner CEC Entertainment, alluded to this goal in a statement given to the press in which he acknowledged that the Rift arrives at a time when children already "have unprecedented access to game consoles and tablets."
Buying a smartphone, an iPad or an Xbox for a kid to play with isn't an odd thing to do anymore, in other words. But buying an untested virtual reality headset? This would give even the most fervent Matrix fans pause.
"Our challenge is to deliver an experience not available at home, and there is no doubt virtual reality does just that," Cardinale added. "Oculus Rift technology is the next frontier in the gaming industry, and we're thrilled to be able to say it's part of the Chuck E. Cheese's lineup."
Making it a fixture of the modern arcade experience could give the emerging tech just the sort of commercial boost it needs. And it may help revive arcades at the same time.
Or maybe, as Naughty Dog's Ed Pereira snarked on Twitter, it will just give a lot of kids pink eye.
We'll just have to wait and see what this bright, cheese-covered future holds for the children of tomorrow.