First I have to give a shout out to my friend Nolen Lee from Punching Pandas. He does a daily “Scribble Time” where he draws his Panda character crossed with various themes, and takes suggestions from his live chat. I honestly had no idea how to draw the last panel on this strip, so I went to one of his scribble times, and asked him to draw a “Transformer Panda who had just won a ton of arcade tickets.” Then I used that picture as reference for my own. I’m sure he thought the idea was pretty random at the time.


I will admit, there have been several times during the quarantine where I wished Chuck E Cheese was an essential business. The girls love to go there, and to be honest, I get a lot of enjoyment of trying to maximize my dollar to ticket ratio. I thought I’d share some of my tips that I’ve compiled over the years to help make your trips less of a money pit.


First of all, Chuck E Cheese sells access to their ticket games in two different ways. You can either buy points/tokens, where each game generally costs 1 point, or you can just buy “time” where you can play as much as you want, until your time runs out. There is always a coupon where you can get 100 points for $20, making each point cost 20 cents. Never pay more than that for points, and if you ever see them go for less, then it’s a good deal. It is almost always a bad deal to buy time. It generally costs $17-20 for an hour of play. If you do the math you need to play a game every 36 seconds or so to equal the value of points. If you have ever taken your kid to Chuck E Cheese, you will discover that most of your time is spent deciding what to play, and it’s a miracle if you play one game every 2 minutes.


At the prize wall, you will find that Chuck E Cheese, actually sells tickets for 1 cent each. Meaning, that in order to “profit,” you must earn at least 20 tickets every game you play. This is impossible for a child. The average payout on a game is probably 2 to 10 tickets. If you child is short tickets for the prize they want, just pay the difference in money. For an adult, there are a few games where you can consistently earn 20-30 tickets, but it does depend on skill. Note that even if you do earn 20+ tickets a point, you cannot “beat the house” as the prizes are often overpriced anyway. A toy that goes for $20, will often cost around 4,000 tickets.


However, an extremely “fun” thing I’ve found is to pay for a time card, and try to maximize it’s value by swiping your card as many times as time will allow. The card does have a “lockout” period between swipes, where you can’t swipe again until the lockout period is over, so the goal is to always be swiping the card as soon as the lockout period is up. This requires a tremendous amount of running and keeping track of all your kids. Try to find two games that your kids want to play that are close together, and then swipe the time card as fast as you can between the two, to allow them to play simultaneously. If you have more children/adults with you then they can also swipe the card while the others are playing to maximize your time. Inevitably, you will end up with times where your kids can’t decide what they want to play next, and don’t understand the time pressure that you are under. When that happens, while they diddle daddle, you find one of the machines that needs an actual token/coin to play. When you swipe your card, you can just take the token/coin and pocket it. When your time is up, then you can play all your tokens and it won’t count against your time. Having multiple adults and 2+ kids really helps with this strategy. The ultimate goal is to end up with more tickets than money that you put in. For example, if I paid for $15 worth of time, the goal is to have more than 1500 tickets at the end of the night. It is pure chaos.


Another thing I’ve done, is just gone to Chuck E Cheese myself, and see how many tickets I can get in an hour. I’ve found the fastest game to play where you can earn tickets at a good clip is Skee-Ball. There are better games to play for more tickets per point, but when you are paying by time, you just want to go fast. It’s quite easy to throw 9 balls very quickly and accurately to make 20-30 tickets. The easiest target to hit reliably, is the 4000 point circle, or maybe the 5000 if you’re good. There are many strategies to get consistent at Skee-Ball. I generally find it more consistent to find a spot on the ramp to ricochet the ball off of, instead of trying to roll the ball down center, however whatever method is most consistent for you will be the best. Using this method, I can easily hit my goal. I have also found that playing an hour of Skee-ball non-stop, is an incredible workout, and can cause an incredible amount of pain. I guesstimate that if I had two adults playing Skee-ball I could earn 2,500+ tickets in an hour.


I will leave you with an image of my greatest accomplishment: (and also a picture of a gigantic rocking horse we found at a Chuck E Cheese)