Two Bit Circus: Mad Carnies Have Taken Over The Art’s District
You’ve never seen anything quite like Two Bit Circus. Not quite an arcade, not quite an amusement park, Two Bit Circus may truly be one of those only-in-LA kinds of places.
Two Bit Circus is the brainchild of Eric Gradman and Brent Bushnell, two mad scientists who combine new technologies with classic gameplay, human interaction, and the wide-eyed wonderment of going to the circus.
There’s a lot that sets Two Bit Circus apart from a standard arcade, but most notably is that many of the games and experiences that they have were crafted by Gradman, Bushnell, and their team.
“We take inspiration for our games from what you’ll find on your mobile phones,” says Gradman. “Those games are so engaging, but what happens when you explode them and make them gigantic? It’s the same thing with our carnival and midway games. They’re classic games, but done with high tech sensors and projection mapping. By making them big and making them flashy it’s both something familiar and something unexpected.”
Upon walking in it’s easy to become overwhelmed with the insane variety of things to do and experiences they have packed into the 37,000 square foot warehouse they lovingly call “the Big Top”.
Perhaps you wish to wander over to the story rooms (“We were building escape rooms years before they were called ‘escape rooms’,” says Bushnell). Perhaps you want to hang out in their theater, Club01, for an interactive game show. Maybe head over to their VR stations, or to their midway or arcade. Whatever you do, they’ve kept interaction front and center, wanting their guests to meet, play, and hopefully walk away with new friends.
“We know we’re succeeding when I see people who don’t know one another high-fiving across the aisle,” says Gradman. “That’s the tiny micro friendship that you can create when you come here.”
The two co-founders met in 2008 at what Bushnell describes as a “rave for nerds”.
“Eric and I were both invited, and we became fast friends,” explains Bushnell. “We built something together that night, and challenged ourselves to keep building new things that we could demo every month at the event. Some of the prototypes that we build there are on our floor today.”
Two Bit Circus is located in the Art’s District, not far from where the two started tinkering with machines. “I’ve eaten at every restaurant down here,” Bushnell proudly claims.
It’s clear to see that Bushnell took his love of dining downtown to heart, as they’ve got an incredible selection of food and drink for you to enjoy.
“We jokingly say we’re farm-to-circus,” says Bushnell. “We’re in DTLA. Our foods are organic and locally sourced, but we’re inspired by carnival food. You can get hot dogs and corn dogs, but we have the option of gluten-free buns or meat alternatives.”
“The same approach goes into our drink menu,” Bushnell continues. “The cocktail scene in DTLA is incredible, and we wanted a nice set of drinks to complement our experience.”
Two Bit Circus brings an incredible, playful experience to downtown Los Angeles. Combining cutting edge technology with the familiar and fun experience of going to an arcade or an amusement park, Bushnell, Gradman and their team have brought something distinctive to Los Angeles. Grab your friends, or look forward to the new ones you’ll make, and head over. You’re in for a treat.
Written by Abel Horwitz | Photography by Rebekah Lemire