The Story of the Stairs

Game centres all have stories to tell.

If you walk in and out of a lot of arcades – sometimes lots in one day, and sometimes just to look around and take pictures – you start to notice the buildings themselves, not just the games that are in them.

Club Sega Nishishinjuku, for instance, seems like they got separate units of an office complex that aren’t quite joined together, and the office complex looks like a 1980s apartment block anyway.

Sega Kawaguchi, meanwhile, has wood-effect laminate chipped chipboard panelling in turd brown which, in combination with a wiped-clean wipe-clean lino floor, makes for a 1970s Scout hut vibe.

But now we’re in a true arcade! Where are we? This is none other than Taito Station Shinjuku Minamiguchi Game World. Every dazzling floor is an interstellar gamezone and the elevators are futuristic vertical transport capsules shimmering in giant promotional imagery of super-hairdoed heroes. But the stairs give the game away. The red and beige paint can’t hide the fact that this is the draughty concrete stairwell of a multistorey carpark. Cold cigarette smoke brings us back down to Earth.

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