And in fact, it is thriving in Japan. Where the few machines that are still to be found in America have not really evolved past the Street Fighter era, the Japanese have been putting their very fertile imagination into developing systems that are very much 21st century.
The variety of games that could be played was mind-boggling. Some of them I was not even able to figure how they worked.
The general goal was to nudge or pick up something in order to make it fall inside a conduct. Still a common sight in America where in most cases cuddly toys can be won, the Japanese, true to themselves, have pushed the concept much further than we have. Most arcades had entire floors devoted to UFO games, where things ranging from food to anime characters could be won.
Worry not ladies, the Japanese arcades also has something for you too : photo booths big enough for you and all your friends that apply some digital imagery trick to make you look cuter. Bambi eyes (western looking eyes), skin defect correction, makeup or black and white, whatever fits your mood of the day. Once satisfied with the result, the machine lets you pick a background and a layout, sends the photos to an e-mail account and then prints stickers so you can show the world how kawaii (cute) you are.
While looking at people playing pachinko and not understanding the point, I figured there had to be more to this game. After reading the wikipedia article on it, I realized that no, it’s just a Japanese twist on the retarded zombie slot-machine. Basically, it is played with little metal balls that fall randomly on a vertical pinball machine like surface and if one enters a specific hole, points are won and … you get more balls. In Japan, gambling for money is illegal so when you poor brain can no longer take pachinko or you get an angry call from your wife, you take your balls to a different store where they can be used to redeem prizes or cash.
The peeing game
The one machine that struck me as being very original and weird was one that I found in a place where I least expected it: above a urinal. An infrared sensor starts a timer upon the first squirt of urine and the longer you relieve yourself, the more points you score and the more the sexy looking anime lady on the screen undresses herself. Brilliant.