Archive for March 28, 2007

Meet Me at the Game Center!

On one of those unexpected rainy Sunday afternoons, you could catch any fun-loving Japanese person taking refuge at the local video game arcade.

Affectionately nicknamed gei-sen (short for “game center”), it carries an arsenal of digital goodies ranging from first-person shooters—gunning down an army of evil zombies and such—to purikura “print club” booths where at the touch of a stylus pen you can decorate glossy self-portraits with flowers and graffiti.

“UFO Catchers” take up a good portion of the arcade. At the cost of 200 yen (~$1.70), you use a joystick to maneuver a foot-long crane over a mound of stuffed toys. When the jaws-of-life selects its target it lowers itself for the kill then drops the prize into the release shoot. But don’t think it’s that simple. The crane has a loose grip so just when you think that Doraemon plushie is yours you’ll be gawking in disbelief and then fishing in your wallet for more loose change. I’ve spent up to 5,000 yen on a single machine only to realize I could’ve bought the same toy somewhere else for half the price. Go figure.


Historically, arcade games have provided a good hand workout, but thanks to the innovators at Namco Ltd., gamers can also build abs of steel with the aid of Taiko no Tasujin (Taiko Drum Master). Following the rhythm of a self-selected song, you whack a pair of sticks on a large set of faux-percussions. The harder you hit the better, so before you know it you’re jumping from side to side brutally pounding out “Baby One More Time.” Other games follow a similar interactive format, one where you’re a club DJ and another where you earn points by shaking a pair of maracas.

In recent years, young boys have been rushing to the nearest gei-sen to play “Mushi King,” battling against omnipotent bugs to win colorful trading cards. On any given evening you’ll also find adults at the game center, shuffling their feet on a Dance Dance Revolution machine or posing coyly for a purikura. And of course you’ll also find the ubiquitous pair standing over the UFO catcher— a girl in heels clenching her Prada purse as she cheers on her sweat-drenched boyfriend before they lose yet another Souseki (the Japanese equivalent of the “Hamilton”) to the machine.

Is that plushie really worth it? You bet it is.


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March 28, 2007 at 4:13 pm Leave a comment

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March 2007


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