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Brent Bushnell, CEO and Roustabout of Two Bit Circus – Interview Series

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Brent Bushnell,  is the CEO and Roustabout of Two Bit Circus, a multi-faceted celebration of the new wave of out-of-home entertainment: custom escape rooms called Story Rooms, VR Cabanas (private rooms), VRcades, reimagined arcade games, free roam VR, and live interactive game shows.

What initially made you fall in love with gaming?

Cosmic Osmo and The Manhole on early Mac computers. Hypercard stacks where we could make our own games. Despite their low-fi graphics, they still were portals into another world.

Could you discuss the genesis story behind Two Bit Circus?

Eric and I have been interested in getting people together in public for over a decade. It started with interactive art for parties and grew to huge events like the Super Bowl and Olympics. Ultimately we ran our own event, a traveling carnival, for two years before settling down in our permanent micro-amusement park in downtown Los Angeles.

Two Bit Circus features a lot of classic arcade games such as Street Fighter 2 and Ms. Pac Man. Why do you believe these classic games have held up so well after all of this time?

Great games are less about the graphics and technology, than the core game mechanics that drive the play. Early video games didn’t even have the option of great visuals so the mechanics had to be good! Chess is about as low-fi as it gets, but the mechanic is so compelling you can invest ages into it.

Two Bit Circus features the Virtual Reality Playground. How important is VR to the entire Two Bit Circus experience?

We aim for our showcase to be experience led. VR is a super immersive, rapidly evolving space that’s excellent in a lot of contexts. It’s a thrilling part of our park but we do think of it as just one piece of a much larger pie.

The Hologate is a 4-player VR system that features many different games to choose from, what should players expect from this experience?

Hologate is an excellent example of social VR. You and three friends choose from a variety of games — from rhythm to snowball fights to zombie shooters — and all the while you’re able to talk with your squad over the headset. It’s high energy and sometimes even a good workout!

VR Pods are also feature which offer a one player gaming experience. What are some of the games that are offered, and do you have a personal favorite?

We aim for as many social experiences as possible but do have the occasional one-player game. One of my favorites is Baumgartner’s Line Wobbler. This one-pixel dungeon crawler is so clever.

One fun option for players are the Story Rooms, could you elaborate on what players should expect from this experience?

Story Rooms are some of my favorite Two Bit experiences. These 3-6 player games often last about 20 minutes. Players work together on various tasks, like piloting a spaceship, working in a surgery center or rafting down a haunted river.

COVID-19 has sadly forced you to temporarily shut-down your physical location, what sort of virtual events have been held?

We’ve extended our interactive game show out onto the interwebs with a platform we call REMOTE. These play-from-home game shows take place in your web browser and each show has a live host streaming over YouTube together with a leaderboard, a live chat and a variety of games spanning all the game show mechanics you can think of.

Is there anything else that you would like to share about Two Bit Circus?

We run a regular public game show every week on Thursday at 7pm Pacific Time. Sign up here.

Antoine Tardif is the CEO of Gaming.net, and has always had a love affair for games, and has a special fondness for anything Nintendo related.