I have a new addiction, and it is UFO catching.
I don’t think that they really go by the same name overseas, but you will certainly know the machines when you see them. They are large boxes filled with gleaming goodies, whichYOU MUST HAVE as soon as you glance at them. But to get them, you must insert coin after coin and direct a mechanical arm so it can reach down and pluck the treasure out. It looks so simple and logical! It’s just a matter of aim! But soon you realise that the arms are too weak to hold something like a three pound plushie and you storm off in a huff at how game arcade operators are just trying to rip you off.
Not in Japan. These machines are everywhere – most commonly in gaming arcades but even in department stores, next to the capsule machines. And there is a real technique to winning the toys.
It’s called: Staff.
The staff around the UFO catchers all have a big set of keys so they can open any machine at random and position the thing you’re trying to win at a better angle.
Now, to me, that’s CHEATING! That defeats the purpose! It’s supposed to be a game of skill, where the reward is worth all that much more for the battle you had to fight! If the staff open the case to move it into a better position, they may as well just hand you the damn toy!
But then again, if it weren’t for the staff, I probably would’ve pumped in 2000 yen for this rather than 800.
Still, I prefer the UFO catchers where the idea is to pull a small keyring or similar down into the catching box using pincers. It’s more about skill and the staff can’t help you much, if at all. I’m getting quite good at them too *preens*.
The best part about UFO catchers is that their prizes are often exclusive. This makes them a target for anime and manga otaku who can’t find anything interesting in Akihabara (well, it could happen!). And while you probably end up pumping in more than the toy is worth, the feeling of success is sweeter than Ramune Candy!