Blowing out candles

Students share their thoughts on businesses catering to birthday parties


Graphic | Sonia Verma

Nameek Chowdhury

Fluorescent lights, pizza and play structures encapsulate the tenets of family entertainment centers that host the birthdays of many who grew up through the late 2000s and 2010s. Looking for employment, junior Rishi Manoj encountered an opening at Safari Run, a place that provides animal-themed birthday parties. His role there is to distribute food and drinks to each group of partygoers, supervise children on the play structures and facilitate games such as basketball. Manoj notices inherent value in places like Safari Run as he sees them as a staple of the modern birthday.   

“Kids, in general, want to have birthday parties and they want to have fun,” Manoj said. “These places help provide that for them. They are not super widespread. You can find one Chuck E. Cheese in Cupertino. Otherwise, it’s pretty hard to find a similar place that isn’t 10 to 15 miles away. There aren’t a ton of [these places] and then they’re also in high demand.”

From running up the slides to getting upset over stolen juice, birthday parties have been a way for senior Avani Durve to keep up with the people she knows. She associates family entertainment centers with the idea of a classic birthday as they cater to nostalgia. Attending a birthday at Pump It Up, an institution that provides inflatables for entertainment, was the most memorable birthday party Durve has experienced. She sees those places as serving a purpose of helping to make memories. 

“I don’t think [associating birthdays with corporations] is necessarily bad or good,” Durve said. “Having my birthday associated with a corporation is not great, but [the focus is] more on the memories I made [and] what I was doing at a birthday rather than the corporation being a corporation.”

However, senior Sai Rohan Jayaprakash is more critical of similar businesses. Although he has fond memories of the inflatable boxing gloves at Pump It Up, he notes the downsides of businesses capitalizing off of birthday parties — mainly the need for visiting a place to make memories as the average cost of throwing celebratory events has increased over the last few years due to societal pressures, mainly in young adults

“[These businesses] manipulate the mind to think that you actually need a birthday party at an establishment,” Jayaprakash said. “When you’re a kid, you’re satisfied with being with your friends, you don’t have to go to Pump It Up. But as you grow older, you feel forced to have to go to an establishment. The only difference is that now, instead of Pump It Up, it’s like bowling. Another thing is that these establishments control your mood on your birthday. If you go to the establishment, you feel happy. It’s a money making scheme.”

Like Jayaprakash, Durve sees herself not frequenting family entertainment centers as often as she has grown older. As a result, she tends to celebrate each year in a more personal manner. 

“I don’t really have birthday parties [anymore],” Durve said. “I’ll go get dinner with my friends or we’ll do something like a picnic. It’s not really having that classic birthday party feel anymore.”