Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Not Your Standard Arcade (Ethan)

 For this post, I was asked to write about becoming a “fan” of something.  There are quite a few things I thought of writing about but the one that stood out most, and that I visit most frequently, is the local arcade.  For an American, the word arcade probably brings to mind a place marketed more towards kids.  A place where you can win tickets and turn them in for prizes, where you can eat pizza, and where you can have a birthday party.  I quickly learned after my first visit to Sega World, the local arcade, that Japanese arcades are not like this at all.  I’ve been visiting Sega World about once or twice a week since I got to Japan and it still doesn’t fail to impress me in terms of how diverse the customers are and how different it is from American arcades.
The front of the Sega World arcade I go to
When you first walk in to the arcade, you are greeted by several rows of UFO catchers, which are very similar to American skill crane games.  These machines are filled with snacks, stuffed animals, anime merchandise, and much more.  What really stands out about these, though, is how easy they are.  In America, skill cranes are notorious for being near impossible to win.  Here, however, many are winnable in just a few tries and I’ve even managed to win a couple in just one try.  This depends on the machine and the popularity of the prize in it of course but it still impresses me.  Even stranger to me is that the employees will open the machine and move prizes around to make the one you want easier to win.  I’ve noticed people ask the employees to do this but I’ve even been approached by an employee (who I found out goes to my school as well) and asked which prize I wanted.  He even showed my friend the best way to drop the claw to win certain prizes.
One of the many rows of UFO catchers
Past these machines, the first floor is filled with rhythm games, children’s games, and gambling games.  Each of these types of games are contained in their own part of the arcade and I’ve noticed that all of them seem to be popular with different crowds.  The kids games are obviously popular mainly with younger kids (I’d guess around elementary school age), and are usually based on children’s cartoons.  I do see some older people play these games occasionally though.  The rhythm games seem to be more popular with middle school and high school students.  Many of them look like they have spent a lot of time practicing the games as well.  The gambling games, pachinko and slots, are mostly played by older people but I tend not to spend a lot of time in this area so I don’t know a lot about it.
Slots and Pachinko machines
The second floor of the arcade is filled with even more games but has a much different atmosphere.  The lights are dim, it smells of smoke (smoking is allowed in the arcade), and the games are almost all fighting games.  The people in this area look to be about 20-40 and are almost exclusively all male (I can’t recall any particular time I’ve seen a woman on this floor).  This part of the arcade feels a bit less inviting to me but I do spend some time playing games on the second floor as well.

While there is this large mixture of demographics at the arcade, they tend to stick to their areas and there isn’t much social exchange between the groups.  Even within the groups many people keep to themselves or their friend group.  Because of this, I tend to not interact with other customers (except my friends of course).  I don’t avoid people and I don’t think they avoid me (people will come play games next to me sometimes), but I think many people would rather keep to themselves here.  I do think it might also be a little strange to see a foreigner in a place like this and that might also affect my interactions as well.  I do hope to try to talk to some people at some point and hopefully learn more from the regulars at the arcade about Japanese arcade culture but for now I do my own thing and everyone does theirs.  I continue to go to Sega World every week and probably will for the whole semester.  It’s an interesting place and I feel like I’ve learned quite a bit about entertainment in Japan just by observing how different groups of people use the arcade.


Hannah said...

Was the KGU student employee's name Heiji? I have lunch with him every Thursday, he's super awesome; I know he works at SEGA World and I'm gonna take a group and head down there sometime soon.

Millie Fan said...

In Osaka, I spent thousands of yen in the arcade. T.T For me, it was really expensive to enjoy my time in the arcade. However, it was my first time to see that there were Ice-cream machines for crane games.

Emma said...

I've noticed that there are so many rhythm games in Japan! I'm always too embarrassed to play them because 99% of the people in the arcade are so good at them.