DigitalCulture.LA

148: Entering Two Bit Circus

August 29, 2018 Episode 148
DigitalCulture.LA
148: Entering Two Bit Circus
Chapters
DigitalCulture.LA
148: Entering Two Bit Circus
Aug 29, 2018 Episode 148
Brittney Gallagher
I love games… from board to video - to competitive to cooperative. My guest this week is friend of the show Brent Bushnell, CEO and co-founder of Two Bit Circus, when we spoke to him last they were launching STEAM Carnivals in LA and SF, but now they are doing something a bit more permanent in the center of Los Angeles: Two Bit Circus, a Micro Amusement park. There’s classic carnival games, Story Rooms, a VR Arena, pinball, group games… and so much more. We talk about what a microamsuement park is, how they are not a VR arcade, and group gameplay, but first we start with the origin of Two Bit Circus.
Show Notes Transcript
I love games… from board to video - to competitive to cooperative. My guest this week is friend of the show Brent Bushnell, CEO and co-founder of Two Bit Circus, when we spoke to him last they were launching STEAM Carnivals in LA and SF, but now they are doing something a bit more permanent in the center of Los Angeles: Two Bit Circus, a Micro Amusement park. There’s classic carnival games, Story Rooms, a VR Arena, pinball, group games… and so much more. We talk about what a microamsuement park is, how they are not a VR arcade, and group gameplay, but first we start with the origin of Two Bit Circus.
Speaker 1:
0:07
I'm Britney Gallagher, reporting to you on digital culture for digital village. I love games from board to video, too. Competitive to cooperative. My guest this week is friend of the show, Brent Bushnell, CEO and Co founder of two bit circus. When we spoke to him last, he was launching these steam science technology, engineering, art and math carnivals in Los Angeles and sf, but now he's doing something a bit more permanent in the center of Los Angeles. Two bit circus, a micro amusement park. There's classic Carnival Games, storerooms of Vr arena pinball group games and so much more. We talk about what a micro amusement park is, how they are, not a vr arcade and group Gameplay, but first we start with the origin of two bit circus,
Speaker 2:
0:57
so to Pittsburgh is a big band of nerds in downtown La. We've been working together for years. Started with my cofounder and I in 2008, just collaborating, making interactive art that we could take to parties and people liked it so he kept making more stuff and brand started calling and all of a sudden we were doing huge branded events and then finally said, Gosh, you know, we're setting up all these events for everybody else. Like what if we do our own events? And so at the same time we'd had a lot of parents and teachers saying that they thought that the stuff we were doing was, was exciting for kids and you know, the fact that we were all a bunch of seminars. We felt like we had a special opportunity to get kids excited about science and engineering. So we launched a big traveling carnival and in the early days there were stem.
Speaker 2:
1:35
This was sort of 2012 timeframe. One person at risd was talking about steam and so we got really excited about that and launched steam carnival on kickstarter. Ended up doing a huge one and in la. And then in San Francisco, 120,000 square feet. 5,000 people a day. One half, all of our high tech entertainment and one half a bunch of hands on projects for kids to learn about programming and fabrication and electronics and creativity and at the end of San Francisco we were like, Gosh, you know, like on the one hand, like people really liked that and it was super fun and on the other hand we want to die. He said all this stuff up for a weekend, you know, do we need to have our heads examined? So we came back and said, Gosh, there's all these other trends, right? There's this glut of retail space and maybe it's time to go permanent. And so the end of 2015, we started thinking about a permanent site and looking around and came up with a whole plan and went out and raised money for it. And we are now literally weeks away from, from opening the doors to our first what we call a micro amusement
Speaker 1:
2:35
park. So let's talk about the micro amusement park. So it's split up into different sections and I guess we'll go through them each individually. So you have the midway, what's the midway? What do you expect to see there?
Speaker 2:
2:47
So picked the term micro amusement park because we wanted to really set the expectation that there were different zones and the carnival midway is all about social stuff. We took a lot of those classic midway mechanics tossing and rolling swinging and then modified them with modern tech. So we've got computer vision and projectors and all kinds of stuff like that. So the Games are social. They're four or five, six people, but then you know you're still doing some of those classic mechanics. So one of my favorites is called the big top balloon pop. And this we took. Or if you think about the classic one where you throw darts at the balloons, we smash that together with candy crush. So using ball pit balls, you throw them at a projected wall of balloons, a camera tracks where you throw the ball, what the color is. And so if you throw a red ball at a yellow balloon, it turns red. You throw a ball at a green balloon, it turns blue. And what you're trying to do is get three balloons in a row to be the same color and then they pop and go away and you're just racing to try to do that as much as possible.
Speaker 1:
3:44
Do you still have something like ski ball in there?
Speaker 2:
3:46
You know, we, I forget to obsessed to skee ball. I love it too. That's why I ask who we, we, we had to put a skee ball in because it was just, you know, well we made a lot of this stuff. This place is a big platform. We've got lots of other partner stuff in there and skeeball was just a no brainer. So we got three skeeball lanes and my goal this year is I'm going to break $400. Come hell or high water. What sort of art pieces do you have? Yeah, so we've got art all over the park and what we call them trinkets. And the idea is, you know, we've got a lot of different kinds of games and games have a beginning, middle and end. But we've also got trinkets which are just fun little interactions, maybe fun moments to take a photo. Got this one photo booth partner of ours, Dan doubting made it from the brewery arts lofts and, and you sit on what basically old theater seats and in front of you are these hanging televisions. And what happens is, is with cameras pointed at your face, it basically, it looks like you have a tv for a head and the camera replicates your face on the television. So it's a ton of fun. You're sitting there, you know, looking ridiculous on an old crt monitor.
Speaker 1:
4:49
One thing I thought was super cool was the almost immersive theater vibe that you get all the hidden stuff. There's a whole show almost underneath the show that's there that you are on a quest to find.
Speaker 2:
5:01
So there's no pantageous for immersive theater. Right? There's a lot of immersive theater happens at random site, specific places ranging from old mortuaries to the streets of La. And we really felt like there was a lot of great shows out there that could use a place to be able to either be remounted or, or crafted from the beginning. So we've got a lot of secret stuff all over the park, secret doors, secret cubbies, secret hallways, and then a bunch of ways in which theater can be remounted and, and ways to discover that stuff.
Speaker 1:
5:31
That's really exciting. So the next big part are the storerooms a broader take on the escape room theme. Can you talk a little bit about those?
Speaker 2:
5:39
We started making what are now called escape rooms in 2010. The time is capers didn't exist and we just wanted to live action adventure where you are the character and you're having to do all sorts of different stuff that uses, you know, your whole body. And so we were. So we were making those and uh, you know, nobody knew what we were talking about. They were like, Huh, you mean like an iphone app? And we were like, no, it's a physical that you go to. But we've always felt like the current state of escape rooms are basically a subset of this much bigger category. We call story rooms. And the idea is what happens if the story's not about escaping the room and you want to do something for a Barbie or Nascar or physics or what ended up in our park. We have, you know, you can flow down a haunted river and you can pilot a spaceship.
Speaker 2:
6:17
So we have a bunch of those in there and they are, you know, there a little longer than those carnival games. 10, 15 minutes, maybe even 45. But they're all multiplayer. A few of them are multi role where it is actually a different experience in, in one we call space squad in space. There's a captain, a pilot, a navigator, a gunner. We're all on the bridge of a starship and we're all having to collaborate to make sure we don't crash into a planet. And it's literally unplayable with three, just three people we, you know, die every time. Well, and there's two things about this is as a multi-role thing, you really can come back and it's a different experience playing as the captain or the navigator and it also as a big platform allows us to do episodic stuff so you could play episode one where you're figuring out how to turn on the ship and piloted around and navigate through the airfield and then episode two, right? We're looking for a planet and we're going to go explore that planet and being able to run different kinds of content allows for this. It really does sort of level up like a traditional video game rather than escape rooms where oftentimes kind of one and done you, you don't need to go back.
Speaker 1:
7:16
So for the Vr arena that you have, could you talk about that? Because some of the challenges with Vr is obviously the number of people that can do it at once. The space it takes to do movement Vr and, and how you guys are solving for that.
Speaker 2:
7:29
All true. Well, you know, so I'll start by saying we are not capital and not a vr arcade. We Love Vr. It's super exciting, but part of why you know, but it's 20 percent of our offering and that is very much by design. You nailed it, right? The RS, low throughput. It's got high operational overhead, right? I need a staff member there to fit you with a headset and clean it after you're done. And it's very unlike things that are much more scalable. You can just believe in arcade game and you don't need a staff member there for every person who plays so. But on the flip side, the RS exciting, right? It's freaking awesome. There's so much great content out there now. It was really magical. Some of the free room stuff that you can do and so while we have some of it, we've augmented the rest of the offering with, with other stuff so that you can go there and do vr and be part of that, that excitement.
Speaker 2:
8:14
But also while you're waiting for your turn on Vr, you can be playing other stuff. You know, we really want to make sure you can have a pact entertainment experience in two or three hours and you know, I also feel like our place as a showcase, as a, as a platform, as you know, as a rotating gallery. Vr is hot now and it won't always be, if we were to call this vr circus, it's going to look like vhs land in a few years. So this is really about being able to be a showcase for lots of different kinds of entertainment so that when a car comes online we can have that and then after it, when it's direct neuron interface, it will be ready. Yeah, you
Speaker 1:
8:49
can, you can constantly just change out that section to whatever it should be. Let's talk about the new take on the arcade because one of the that I found, which is super simple but really fun was air hockey, but with four people
Speaker 2:
9:02
it's real intense. We found from a partner and it's an incredible, you know. Yeah. There's a person on every side of a, of a square and yeah, totally frenetic. So we've got that. We've got a couple of other classics like Pac man and the original battlezone that one specifically because we also now have a vr version of battlezone from rebellion, so we kinda got bookends of where that started and where it is now. And then we got a bunch of our own cabinets. We have a six player tabletop game. We have what we call Skidoo, which is sort of our version of, of pinball and a shuffleboard and whatnot, but every one of ours are a platform and very much this park, you know, kind of as the movie theater for interactive, whether it's us making content or partnering with Third Parties. We look at this as a way for, you know, games to get to market and crossed the whole game industry.
Speaker 2:
9:49
Whether you're talking about touch screen games or console games or board games, you know, it's hard to find audience and it's even worse if you're in Vr because there's not that many headsets. You know. And so we built this park, it's own SDK and its own Api so that as game developers have contents, they can publish it on our platform. And one of the things that's special about public is for a home game, you need like a hundred hours of play, right? Those console games are so expensive to make because they're so deep and rich and broad and you know, there's so much going on in public, I need five minutes, maybe 10. And so what we can do is work with those groups to say, hey, give us a slice of your game, right, give us a bridge level one and we'll give you a new revenue stream and a big ad. And so for whether it's the arcade or Ar Vr arena, we've got a, you know, a platform for game developers to be able to publish their stuff. And then, you know, because people are paying as they, as they go, we can then split the revenue with the, with the developer.
Speaker 1:
10:43
Yeah, that's really, really exciting. And Andy's still have some pinball machine size suspect. Those are going to give you the most trouble of anything there.
Speaker 2:
10:51
Nothing like mechanical things. Uh, you know, everything that everything that physically moves, we want, wants to break.
Speaker 1:
10:56
The last big part is clubs, zero one, and that is something I have never seen before. So it's. I'll let you describe it, but group Gameplay.
Speaker 2:
11:06
Yeah, this is our hundred seat interactive theater and the idea here is touch screens on every table facing a big stage, a big projector on the wall and this is a platform for all kinds of, of live entertainment. So imagine game shows, right? We're playing a big trivia game and you and me and are at 98 friends are all competing and then we pull you up on stage and you're competing against amber and then the two of you go down and then I go up on stage and you know, and we're able to do live competition in real time and then you know, with the hosts guiding everybody but then also changed from game show too. We have a full blown wine tasting game where you get four glasses of wine and got the wine there on, on your table and you're learning about the difference between a Cabinet Pino. And then, you know, you're challenged against everybody else in the room for how well you can identify the various flavors. And then ridiculously we all work together mad lib style to make a snooty wine label naturally. So it's a very. And then we have 100 person escape game style thing we've done with scrap. This thing is a, is a big platform, you know, I think of it almost like Tedx for live television.
Speaker 1:
12:10
Yeah. It was really cool because each person is sitting there and they have their own screen. So if you're doing trivia and you're trying to answer questions as fast as possible and then you know, and you're automatically assigned teams based on color. It was, it was a really, really cool way of bringing a large group of people together. And there's so much that you could do with it. Like this is only the beginning. It's fascinating.
Speaker 2:
12:30
You know, we're launching with tiny slice of shows, but we have so many in development. Like it's, it's, it's the room I'm the most excited about.
Speaker 1:
12:37
Yeah, I think it's something that it's clearly something no one's done before. So this is obviously for people of all ages, uh, but there is something that's for a little bit of an older crowd and it's the, the amazing robot bartender.
Speaker 2:
12:51
So we had a lot of fun, right? We really love robots. We've made a lot of robots over the years and you know, we've got a full restaurant, a full bar, right? The hardest liquor license to get, which is, you know, liquor and kids, which fun fact, the only way you can do that is if you're less than half the revenue comes from, from alcohol. So, and you have to serve a hot meal. So. Interesting. So we've got that robot bartender who we call Guillermo del Toro, and if it's a show basically between the bartender and the robot, the human and the robot work together to make your drink. Uh, interestingly enough, the ABC requires that a human be the one that hands you the drink. So even though the robot is doing all the work, you know, the humans are still now
Speaker 1:
13:33
platform side of this. What, who are you looking for to help?
Speaker 2:
13:37
I really want to invite immersive theater creators. Game makers to reach out, we'd love to connect new forms of content and we're always looking for cool experiences to showcase at the park. We have a whole Beta audience which is basically a group who is open to trying new stuff and so you know on off nights and Monday and a Tuesday we'll run Beta knights with new potential stuff that we're going to put in the park and then the best things graduate to prime time. So we're always looking for more Beta users. We're always looking for more great developers and content creators. We're getting ready to open a micro amusement park in the middle of the arts district of downtown La. It's a 50,000 square foot entertainment complex with a vr arena, 100 seat interactive theater, a carnival midway, full restaurant and bar, you know, a robot bartender and you know, a ton of other craziness, you know, it's been depending on when you index either three years or 10 years in the making. We can't wait to show you.
Speaker 1:
14:31
My guest this week was Brent Bushnell, CEO, cofounder and roused about at two bit circus. There are micro amusement park opens in September in downtown la where you can escape reality and a story around or maybe vr play classics like pinball and skeeball or four way air hockey. Be served by Guillermo del Toro and play a with 100 of your closest friends. If you're interested in playing or creating, you can find out more at their website at two bit circus. That's two bit circus.com. That's it for this week's edition of digital culture. I'm Brittney Gallagher. You can find out more on our website@digitalculture.la. Follow us on twitter at ditch culture la, or follow me on twitter at [inaudible]
Speaker 3:
15:14
quantum world.
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