Japanese Arcade Game Categories

Let’s climb up these labels for game centre gubbins.

Bottom left: Medal Games. Gamble with metal tokens in place of coins. Two kinds: videogame versions of horse racing, poker, etc., staking and winning medals, and coin pushers beyond your imagination, where medals fly mental loop-the-loops and trigger brain-shattering avalanches of glinting metal.

Bottom right: UFO Catchers. Pronounced yoo-fo catchers. UFO Catcher is a Sega-trademarked series of crane games but the name stuck generically. You joystick-and-button a big claw to grab the cuddly toy – or grab lurid the figurine of a topologically startling anime heroine, or grab the rucksack that looks like a raw steak, or grab the ultra-realistic plastic spoonful of food.

Middle left: Videogames. These are all the videogames that aren’t included in the two top-step categories. We’re talking sit-down generic cabs with joysticks and buttons.

Middle right: Pachinko and Pachislo. Pachinko is pachinko. Right? Bagatelle meets Las Vegas. You exchange cash for balls, you play weird pinball, you win more balls until you lose. Balls can be exchanged for prizes. Prizes cannot be exchanged for cash on the premises, can be exchanged nearby in a notionally separate operation. See! It’s not gambling! (Pachislo is just a balls-based one-armed bandit.)

Top left: Taikan games. “Bodily sensation” games. These are videogames that require some sort of physical motion or produce force feedback – but moving your hands on a joystick doesn’t count. Except maybe if it’s Dekarisu / Tetris Giant. Doesn’t seem a like a robust category, ontologically speaking. But hey, it’s racing games, lightgun games, any kind of sit-in or ride-on, etc.

Top right: Card games. Games that interact with and output smart trading cards. E.g. build an army deck of warrior cards in Sangokushi Taisen, then move them around on a table top to do battle. Another card pack is vomited upon victory. Loads of these. Super cool. Hard to get into.

So now you know.

P.S. The big arrow says Hi-Tech Land Sega Ikegami, where this peeling old staircase was photographed in 2017.

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