“I have the greatest idea ever: StarHorse – but with boats.”


“OK, mine’s the *second* greatest idea ever.”

In collaboration with the Japan Powerboat Racing Association, Starboat Progress lets players gamble on virtual boat races. That’s right: the huge sit-in contraption doesn’t let you *drive* a boat. There are no peddles or wheel or anything. You’re just expected to spend so long gambling that you’ll need lumbar support.

That may seem sort of sinister – luring victims with cushions – but a comfortable seat is a rare and gracious courtesy in the applied-psychology age of free-to-play money syphons. Match-threes are designed to rob you dry before you’ve even reached the top of the escalator *on the way* to the seat. Now that’s a business model of pure evil. Medal game evil is a comparatively weak mix.

And this is, after all, just a medal game. Japan permits gambling on four things: horses, cycling, motorcycling and powerboats. But you can’t gamble on a videogame even if it’s about one of those things, so you’re just betting with medal tokens. That being the case, why are they so hot for authentic JPRA licensing? Get crazy and let us bet on cat racing or unicorn racing – or horse powerboat racing!

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