I’ve seen some wacky arcade cabinets in Japan, but this one takes the piss.
There aren’t too many artsy games in Tokyo’s arcades – in fact most are fairly brainless – but in 2011, Sega released the challenging and provocative Toylets series.
In a fascinating critical investigation of the imagery and connotations of the joystick, these two subtle and insightful games – Milk from the Nose and Piss Kid – are controlled by the player’s urinating penis.
The cabinet is the most elaborate I have ever seen, and arcade operators wishing to install it will need to spend more than just a penny. The control panel is fitted with two full-size urinals that are physically plumbed in so that they flush realistic water and wash away the previous player’s high score.
The cabinet pictured is designed for two players but, as with popular lightgun games, I imagine expert players will be able to dual-wield to surprise and excite their friends.
All arcade cabinets in Sega arcades are cleaned regularly and a notice shows the time and date they were last serviced. In many ways that practice is particularly appropriate to Piss Kid and Milk from the Nose because of the urine.
The striking design of the arcade machine cabinet is actually modelled after a Japanese toilet. Toilets in Japan typically consist of a room, usually tiled in white, containing lavatories, wash basins and a hand dryer. For total authenticity – and presumably for sheer practicality – the cabinet “room” is actually situated just outside the main arcade hall, and signposted “O Te Arai”, which means “Toilet”.
By physically embodying the assumption that the player will have male genitalia, Milk from the Nose provides an insightful commentary on the narrowly imagined gender identities of Japanese arcade gaming’s target audiences.
Piss Kid’s dominant motif, meanwhile, emerges in its satirical vision of the business model of modern arcade games, which encourage players to piss away their money, with live streaming and a small chance of going viral.
Fascinatingly, Sega has also produced a women’s version of the game, the door to which I could see opposite the men’s. I don’t know how well these themes translate to that version because it is expected that men and women be divided in much the same way as at a real toilet. This is frustrating because judging by the size of the queue, the women’s version was much more popular.
So, as a game, is it engaging? Personally, I found the controller too small to aim properly, but the jet was surprisingly powerful and by the time I had finished urinating I was thoroughly immersed.
In summary, the Toylets system is fairly rare so it hasn’t exactly made a splash. It’s not going to be number one on your list, but if you see it then it’s worth a shake.
Photographer and writer covering Tokyo arcade life – the videogames, the metropolis and the people