24 Sep 2021 World leisure: news, training & property
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Attractions Management
2021 issue 1

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Leisure Management - Brent Bushnell


Brent Bushnell

"Online was always on our roadmap; closing the park made it a priority"

Entrepreneur and engineer Bushnell has pivoted Two Bit Circus to digital
Brent Bushnell and Eric Gradman launched Two Bit Circus in 2012
The LA park opened in 2018

Since its launch in 2012, Two Bit Circus has aimed to bring people together “elbow-to-elbow to play, eat, drink, and generally experience life at the highest resolution.”

Now – at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic means that elbow to elbow socialising is a long way from most people’s realities – the team behind Two Bit Circus have pivoted to an online model which enables them to continue to bring the Two Bit community together.

“It’s really been a weird, hard, traumatic time,” Brent Bushnell, the son of Atari co-founder Nolan Bushnell, told Attractions Management.

“Our doors have been closed since March, but we’ve learned that we’re not just a location-based entertainment company, we’re a social entertainment company. Online was always on our roadmap, but it just wasn’t a priority yet. Closing the park made it a priority; we pivoted instantly. With our new Remote offering, we now have a whole online product line that’s so much fun.”

Launched by engineers Brent Bushnell and Eric Gradman, Two Bit Circus started by creating interactive experiences and brand activations for festivals and corporate events. STEAM Carnival followed, a touring, pop-up-style event with the aim of creating a positive narrative around the STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and maths) with the addition of art (the A in STEAM), which helped to combat the ‘boring’ stigma of traditional STEM subjects and encouraged “creative, out-of-the-box thinking necessary for engineers and future inventors”.

The event, which reimagined the traditional carnival using “robots, fire and lasers,” kicked off in Los Angeles and San Francisco, before expanding worldwide in 2019.

In 2018, Bushnell and Gradman launched the first of a planned series of micro amusement parks in Los Angeles, providing a permanent home for a range of immersive entertainment games and experiences. Attractions at the 40,000sq ft entertainment complex include a range of immersive adventures such as story rooms, arcade games, private gaming lounges, a games arena and Club01 – described as a “100-seat interactive game show theatre.”

With the park closed and the Two Bit team working from home, “the crew went a little stir crazy and channelled their excessive energy into building a platform full of fun games that could bring people together,” says Bushnell.

The Remote offer is a play-from-home show emceed live by an experienced Two Bit Circus human host and “state-of-the-art GameShowBot3000”.

Together they lead players through a variety of games with “hilarious commentary and special guests, selecting lucky players to join live on the air alongside the at-home audience.”

“We built the whole thing from scratch, using some existing tools including Youtube and Amazon’s Cloud, but the software and the game experience is all of our original creation,” said Bushnell. “As well as the public shows – which run every Thursday on a variety of themes – we’re running private shows for teambuilding, birthdays and conferences.”

Two Bit Circus has also created Remote White Label so the software can be used and customised by others, and recently signed its largest white label customer, US family entertainment centre company Main Event.

The company is also scouting possible locations for more micro amusement parks across the US.

“As we perfect the one in LA, the opportunity to move fast with our expansion will become very real,” he said. “Ultimately, I could see room for 100 Two Bit Circus micro amusement parks in the US and 200 in Asia.

“This is a tragic moment for the locations based entertainment industry, but for those that survive there will be unbelievable opportunities on the other side.”

Originally published in Attractions Management 2021 issue 1

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