For the opening of LA’s newest arcade/VR attraction Two Bit Circus, Craig had the great pleasure of interviewing the creators Brent Bushnell and Eric Gradman, where they discussed everything from creating a high tech circus to keeping bones in a pit out back. Read on to learn more:
Nightmarish Conjurings: What are some secrets that you’re holding close to the vest for people to discover?
Brent Bushnell: There’s a lot of fun stuff in here and we really wanted to reward the curious. You know, ask the front desk about the tent pole society some time and they might be able to point you in the right direction.
Nightmarish Conjurings: What went into writing the back story for the Two Bit Circus?
Eric Gradman: The back story wasn’t written so much as discovered. You know, when we first signed a lease on this place we discovered some really interesting things about the history of this building. Yeah, sure, it was an equipment manufacturer in the early 1980s but it turns out that this site in the early 1900s, we think around the 1920s, was briefly the site of a traveling circus. The circus rolled into town on a train just down the street, train cars opened up, performers piled out, and they set up their tents right here. Unfortunately, it only lasted for four days before a terrible accident basically forced them to leave town. That’s all we can find out from our hunting in the library, so we’re just drawing on the natural history of this place.
Nightmarish Conjurings: Since your research seems to end there, are you hoping for guests to discover more about the history?
EG: Well we have a big open pit in the back there and we just keep digging and we’re hoping to find the bones of the circus performers from almost one hundred years ago and we’ll let you know when we find something.
Nightmarish Conjurings: Did you purposely structure things so that people playing the games would to interact with other guests?
BB: Yeah, we’re always looking for stuff that’s at least two people, but maybe more. Some of our games require four, six, eight, or even up to one hundred. We really love getting people together; whether you’re making new memories with old friends or just making new friends.
EG: You know, making new memories with old friends, making new friends, or assembling new friends from the parts out back.
Nightmarish Conjurings: What do you hope for the casual guest to discover when they walk in?
BB: A great way to experience the park is to do one or two of the tent pole attractions like the story rooms, a Club01 show, or do a VR experience and then fill the rest of your time with the shorter experiences and discovering the park. We put in a lot of stuff to be discovered and so you can spend half your time on the bigger attractions with the other half left to sort of take it all in.
Nightmarish Conjurings: What went into planning the design and layout of the place?
BB: Eric, you take that one.
EG: Oh, really!? We are truly inspired by the history of circus and by modern entertainment and we tried to blend those two as best we can. We have a great team; we have people who kind of share our design aesthetic. Everything here is very intentional; it’s either drawn from the deep history of carnivals and the way that people entertain themselves or it’s like a spaceship just landed in the middle of this place and disgorged all this futuristic technology. It’s one of those two things.
BB: We asked ourselves, will it blend?
Nightmarish Conjurings: How did you assemble your team for this project?
BB: You know, as a company we’ve been around for almost a decade and we started early prototyping things for fun. First we were just making art for parties and so we just collected more nerds who were also making art for parties. It was a very organic process. Then we started to get clients and projects got bigger and we just sort of discovered more interesting folks. Then people started reaching out to us as we started getting media coverage and people are like, “I did my Masters in circus and my background is in electrical engineering.”
EG: So true. You know when you tell people you’re a high-tech company, but you’re also a bunch of clowns building a high-tech circus; that scares away like 99.5% of people. That remaining .5% of people desperately wants to work here. They know they’re good, we know they’re good, and we hire them. That’s how we built our awesome team.
Nightmarish Conjurings: After nearly ten years of doing different things does the opening of this permanent location feel like a culmination to you?
BB: An evolution. You know, it’s definitely a combination of a lot of stuff that we’ve been doing. I mean, Eric and I made our first button wall in 2008, so to see this thing now, in version 75, is amazing. There’s really been a lot of iterations and we tried a lot of different stuff. You know, we’ve done one hundred parties all over the world from Davos to the Super Bowl and so really getting it now in one permanent place is really exciting.
TWO BIT CIRCUS is now open for business. For more information visit www.twobitcircus.com.