The danger of claw games in Japan

Story time!


On a bright afternoon in Osaka my two friends, Watanabe, Hikaro and I were strolling around Shinsekai, experiencing the explosion of color surrounding us. Needing a brake from the walking, we stopped over at a small arcade looking for something to pass the time before chowing down at diner.
DSC00091.JPG 5.16 MB
The great majority of the games were claw machines / crane games, along with other various prize winning style of cabinets like coin drops and pachinko. I personally didn't find it very fun to try and win a prize at any of the games, I would much rather keep the money for something else, but that's just me.

One particular game caught my friend Watanabe's eye, inside of it was a rare and expensive anime figure he was looking to add to his collection.
The goal was to cut a thin rope using a small pair of scissors rigged electronically to a button. You had to press the butter exactly at the right time while the scissors moved left to right / up and down and it would slice through the rope, making the attached prize fall into the winning bin.
 

The games are inconsistent

DSC00093.JPG 7.09 MB
The scissors were extremely dull and the rope was strong, even if you got the timming perfectly it would only cut a few strands of the rope. Watanabe got the hang of it pretty fast, but one of the arcade employees started talking to him, trying to help him out to and enticing him to keep playing.
Having invested enough time and cash, Watanabe felt that if he gave up now would all have been a waste, it's understandable that he didn't want to throw it all away with so much effort put into winning, he figured he might as well see it through the end. So he kept at it, inserting coin after coin into the machine. 

After killing half an hour, my other friend Hikaro and I got weary of the games and decided to wait outside,  Watanabe assured us he would follow soon. After minutes had gone by and Watanabe was still inside, we looked at each other, looking for validation that this was a little messed up, and after seeing the awkwardness and internal freaking in Hikaro's expression I went back inside.

The employees try to keep you playing

DSC00090.JPG 6.98 MB
My stomach twisted a little when I saw Watanabe still sitting there disposing of his coins, he was not much closer to winning his prize. I noticed that the employee from earlier had hung more prizes from the rope Watanabe was trying to cut, to make it almost irrefutable to keep playing in the hopes of getting two prizes. I was worried that Watanabe was blowing all of his food money. As the one in charge, I had already collected all the money for the lodging and was responsible for it, but everyone was responsible for their own food and activity budget, as we did not always want to eat the same thing or do the same stuff. 

Now, I am definitely not one to tell people how to life their lives or how to spend their hard earned cash, and Watanabe was someone who could take care of himself, but he passed the threshold and I needed to intervene. We talked about how the game was designed to keep you spending, the employee we're trained to lure you deeper into it, and how long he had been playing. He thought he could still make a profit if he won the prize now, but I pushed and told him that it was time for dinner. He agreed this had gone long enough, so he stepped out. As we walked away it seemed to finally hit him at all once, he expressed his regret and seemed a little shook if not ashamed as well.

It's essentially gambling, and it comes with it's dangers

DSC00089.JPG 7.19 MB
In the end he spent somewhere around ¥25,000 on one lame game and won nothing, which isn't a tremendous loss, but back in those days it was, when you're 20 years old that's a lot of money spend for zero reward. 
I was relived to learn he had brought a lot of spending money and this loss wouldn't affect the rest of the trip. It's a good thing he stopped when he did.

I don't consider him to have a gambling problem, he definitely learned his lesson, but if you or someone you know has an addiction or becomes obsessive while playing games, you might want to stay away from these types of establishments. I'm not trying to discourage anyone from having fun, it's just easy to get tunnel vision in these situations.

Until next time, keep stacking that Yen.

deleted-user