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The Playful and Playable Japan


"Game Center" Arcades

I went through explaining pachinko and it’s system and was going to go further into it by introducing how to play, but because it’s sort of R-18, I think I’ll start with amusement facilities where younger generation can enjoy more easily.

Although they’re referred to as “amusement facilities” nowadays, they are more commonly called “geh-sen” in Japanese. “Geh-sen” is an abbreviation for “Game Centers” which are coin arcades, and the term is – or used to be – associated with negative images, for they used to be places where gangs and punkish teenagers hung out. The new name “amusement facilities” were given just recently by the amusement industry, in hope that the implemented image of the negative side of the society would improve, and to provide a healthy place to play where actually families can enjoy.

Just for your reference, in Japanese games that are played at homes like PlayStation and Nintendo games (what would be called video games in English) are generally called “games” or “TV-games”, and the games played on bigger machines at game centers are called “arcade games”.

The arcade games you can enjoy in game centers range from games also available on “TV-games” including fighting games like Virtua Fighter, shooting games like Gradius, to simulation game machines like car racing and combat planes in which you actually sit in a simulative cockpit, UFO Catchers – stuffed animal/etc. game machines – and the world-famous print club picture machines. As anyone can see when stepping inside a game center, the room usually with low ceiling and not-too-bright light and not to mention the constant crashing noise, is packed with rather large-sized game machines creating a maze on the floor.

Some other major games include laser-gun shooting games in which you hold a toy gun and shoot against the screen, dance/beat games in which you hit and step on panels (DDR, etc.) slot machines, medal games and many more.

This time I would like to explain about the arcade games excluding the big machines like fighting and shooting games.

Many of the arcade games in Japan are ones that have control panels set on top of the chassis with the game basis inside. This type of arcade game beginning with “PON” of Atari, enjoyed great popularity in Japan from the late 1970s with Taito’s release of “Space Invader” in 1978. There is even a rumor that even today, there are bags and bags full of coins gained with Space Invader in the warehouses of Taito, and whenever Taito becomes disadvantaged they use that money for supplement. It’s a rumor, though.

In two years from Taito’s success, Namco too brought a social phenomenon with Pacman. From games with characters moving on a fixed screen with very limited area, the mainstream shifted to games in which the background moved sideways, and on to 3-dimensional ones using polygon as technology evolved.

As the hardware spec showed dramatic improvement, the variety of games spread into hundreds of styles such as fighting games, shooting games and music/sound games. On the other hand, however, hard and softwares for TV-games and Keitai-games (games on mobile phones) have improved rapidly too, taking over the arcade population. This is probably the biggest issue the amusement (by this I mean arcade amusement) industry faces, and thus it’s biggest task.

The recently appeared type of arcade games are those that allow you to save your data on magnetic or IC cards (some keep the data on the game producer’s server), and some others enable you to play against players at a different game center through internet. They are in a way, online games you enjoy not in front of your computer but at game centers where you have the fervor of the audience.

Seemed to be in stupor, though the exit may be in the chassis itself.



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