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Chuck E. Cheese would have been killed for food 10,000 years ago

April 21, 2011

My father and I took my daughter and my niece to Chuck E. Cheese’s yesterday. Kids love that place. I mean, who wouldn’t, right? There are games to play and there’s pizza to eat. I loved it too when I was little (the presence of large animatronic mice notwithstanding). However, being the admittedly odd person that I am, while sitting there among the flashing lights and screaming children a question kept running through my head. Very simply, I wondered, how did we get here?

Of course, in that question I wasn’t asking how specifically did the four of us arrive at Chuck E. Cheese yesterday. That was by car… No, what I meant was how did we as a species get to the point where spending a few hours on a Wednesday afternoon playing video games and eating processed pizza-like food became our idea of a fun time?

Human beings were hunter-gatherers once; and not all that long ago really. For hundreds of thousands of years we struggled every day through harsh conditions for the chance to survive into the next day. If we didn’t produce, we died. Leisure time (as we think of it today) didn’t exist until we settled in cities and could have a conception of being “off” work. Competition was the way of the world. Yet now we’re at a point where we give our kids tokens to play games that they literally can’t lose (every kid gets at least a few tickets), and we call that fun. How did this happen?

Is it escapism? Laziness? Perhaps moving from a time when we could be killed by wild beasts at any moment to a day when the closest thing we see to a wild beast is the fake horse kids sit on while riding the Ken-Chucky-Derby game really should be considered the pinnacle of human achievement. I don’t know.

Frankly, I’m not even going to pretend to have an answer to these questions. It was the asking I felt important at this point, especially considering I was likely the only person in that building who even thought to ask them. And don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that we should head back to prehistory and live out on the plains under the stars. That would be kind of stupid. It’s something to think about though, which is all I hope to get other people to do with this post.

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