The Allure of the Moneyspinners

Can Japan’s arcades ever escape their fate?

Game centres are doomed to be moody, adolescent places. All heads down in the dark, staring, shunning community.

Sega Worlds were different: out-of-town, family-fun playgrounds for 90s suburbanites. Colourful, cartoon-character institutions of good moral fibre.

But it looks like UFO catcher and karaoke money hasn’t paid the bills. Sega World Funabori’s six-foot-Sonic figurehead has been worn to a faded smile, unable to find its enthusiasm as the 10,000th preschooler crowd passes by.

Gradually, those teenage arcade urges started winning: a few Mah Jong domino simulators here and there, a medal machine, then some trading card games. Not as straightlaced as it was supposed to be – not in line with the kids’ games downstairs.

But no one’s watching anyway.

Today it’s really let itself go. The entire first floor is unsociable, life-wasting cabinets in tight rows. Ugly – but they collect the coins.

The allure of the moneyspinners found a way through, like cigarette smoke seeping under the kids’ room doors.

Photographer and writer covering Tokyo arcade life – the videogames, the metropolis and the people