I've visited plenty of arcades in Japan, and they were all horrible. Sure, the games were interesting, but they are sad and sometimes creepy places. Smoking is allowed in there, and with Japan's well known tobacco abuse problem, words fail to describe the stench in there. My Japanese girlfriend told me that "nobody normal would ever go in there" and was actually disappointed in me wanting to enter in that sort of place. Later I found out that like most of the entertainment sector, arcades are run by organised crime and the men who frequent them are seen as losers.
From my experience, there are two "types" of arcades in Japan: one called "game centers" (ゲーセン, pronounced gay-sen), and another "pachinko" or "slot", also called パチスロ(pachisuro).
The former is actually really nice. FYI, if the place you went to is a SEGA or a Taito Station, then it's very likely a game center. It does have some machines that use "medals", which I assume is some sort of gambling thing, but it's just a small subset. The main focus is on fighting games, arcade games (well duh), rhythm games(like Ongeki, maimai Deluxe which I love), Densha de Go! (a realistic train driving simulator with the inside looking like a cockpit of a commuter railway train), some robot games, Dance Dance Revolution, Kantai Collection, Fate/Grand Order, zombie shooters and many more. I will admit that atleast one Taito Station in the Tokyo suburbs has the smoking smell in it, but otherwise they are pretty nice places.
The other type is well, the pachinko and slot machines shops/arcades. They are the gambling machines, and almost everyone I know has a negative impression of them. If someone tells me they go to pachisuro for fun, I will just be polite on the surface, but internally I would avoid associating with them any further than required. The way to tell these apart is that they will very likely be in front of, or within 2 minutes walk of a station, will have smoking allowed in it, will have something like "new machines!" or "renewed machines!" in their advertisements, won't allow anyone below 18 or 20 to enter, and will have slot machines and many old people spending away their life savings inside. I avoid those like the plague.
All in all, I love the game centers though. If you get a chance, do try one of the games I mentioned above in the 2nd paragraph. Maybe you will find something you will like. :)
I couldn't believe how loud pachinko parlors were. I tried to set foot in a few and could feel my hearing being damaged by the second. The closest noise i've heard elsewhere is the ball mills used for grinding coal in power plants.
I was talking about "Gehmu Sentah", aka Game Centers being horrible.
Pachinko is Pachinko, not an arcade. I'd appreciate a less patronising tonality, especially because you are wrong in saying that in Japan, Pachinko and Arcades are seen as even closely related.
May I ask what is your alleged expertise on Japan based on? I lived in the country for several years.
What a poser! I bet he doesn't even have a Japanese girlfriend. Good on you, gotta keep these fauxtaku in line.
Aren’t the pachinko places almost completely run by North Koreans? I’ve heard this is one of Kim Jong Un’s biggest sources of income, but that could have been exaggerated or made up.
That's just one of many Japanese xenophobic myths. Like they're saying the Yakuza only recruits Korean-Japanese people. Or whenever you tell a Japanese person you saw someone behaving badly in Japan, their first reaction will be "he / she was Korean / Chinese". Not "probably", they pretend they know. The world knows too little how brainwashed the Japanese public is.
I doubt this one, it is really popular in Japan and might as well the go-to place for people who want to have fun while spending money or degens.
How could they export money to the regime from within Japan?
True. Most arcades are enough clean. Most pachinko shops are dirty. Don't confuse them.
I didn't, dude.
What arcades are you talking about, if you don't mind me asking? All the Sega ones were about as mainstream as you could get. I would walk out of Sunshine City in Ikebukuro and see it filled with normal-ish people. I even took my kids to play Taiko no Tatsujin in Nakano Broadway.
The tobacco issue was a lot better in Tokyo when I left; most indoor places are non-smoking now. IMO that is the only true benefit Tokyo reaped from the 2020 Olympic preparations.
The non-mainstream ones can indeed feel a bit dodgy - like, night and day difference.
That said I still went to them periodically since you could often find older games there that the bigger ones had moved on from.
I mean if that's normal to you I guess you're not aware of the reputation they have among normal Japanese people.
It greatly depends; the notorious slot machine (pachinko) industry is mostly run by organized crime  and pachinko lovers are not well received in general, but arcade game centers described in this article are not necessarily pachinko parlors. And if a single arcade does have both pachinkos and other ordinary games, they are typically sectioned so that if you only want to play ordinary games you don't ever need to cross the pachinko area (in the other words, pachinkos are pervasive but also well hidden from the public sight).
 Many of them are also run by Korean Japaneses and this is a consequence of the discrimination of Koreans in Japan.
Wrong. Game centers, aka arcades, are run by organised crime as well.
Only if you count Round One, Sega, Taito or Namco as organized crime (all of which run major nationwide arcade franchises). I don't claim every arcade is free of organized crime (quite contrary), the industry has moved on quite a bit.
I agree about the horribleness of Japanese game arcades, but that actually can be an attraction if you’re in the right (or wrong?) frame of mind. I’ve dropped into “game centers” quite a few times over the years—usually just to use the restroom, though occasionally to look around. While arcades in the suburbs can be just annoying with the noise and teenagers, those in the scuzzier areas of big cities—Shimbashi and Kabukicho in Tokyo, Isezakicho in Yokohama, Nishinari in Osaka—can have an atmosphere of life-on-the-skids ennui all their own. I remember, one weekday afternoon, watching several middle-aged guys silently sitting at a horse racing game—something like the ones in  and —in the dim basement of a run-down building in Shimbashi. It looked like they had been there all day. What a way to spend one’s life.
I haven’t been in any arcades for several years, but apparently they have been no-smoking since April 2020 [3, in Japanese].
In case anyone’s interested, below are some Google views of Japanese game centers that don’t look very enticing, at least to me. The first three are in Osaka; the fourth is in Shimbashi, Tokyo.
Here's one I frequented semi-regularly when I lived in Tokyo. It is also maybe one of the most iconic game centers, being in Akihabara right outside the metro station with a large "SEGA" sign. Super not sketchy, mostly normal and mostly young people, no smokers, several women, even people there as couples.
SEGA Akihabara Building 3 +81 3-5297-3601 https://maps.app.goo.gl/S9PTNg7Yn29Wfcee9
I really think the OP was actually describing what in English we would call casinos (pachinkos) rather than arcades (game centers).
The whole entertainment sector in Japan that caters to nerds aka otakus is very much not enticing to normal people. It's very seedy, and run by crime syndicates.
So the non-smoking laws in Japan are in effect now (I left Japan in 2019), but I wouldn't count on them being enforced.
Anyway that'd remove one barrier of stepping into an Arcade in Japan.
How does someone blow that wad of cash on a game and convince some editor to let them write an article about it only to not include a picture of the cabinet in the article? I guess it could be their desire to monopolize they mention, but they don't seem adverse to bragging about it.
Also I'm surprised there isn't a somewhat niche pachinko parlor market in the US already. My quick search shows one place in Virginia advertising itself as the only US parlor. Maybe the difficulty of translation and the "selling gambling to youths" aspect of the frequent anime links keeps it away.
Pachinko would be legally gambling in the United States and the loophole they use in Japan doesnt exist here.
There are elements of Pachinko that make it unattractive for casino's to mess with. All the machines would be licensed tech from Japan (cost), managing the balls (if you actually distribute them out) has costs associated that they dont get as many scaling advantages that Japan would get, the machines go through more wear and tear than slot machines do. Also its my understanding you redeem the balls to get your prizes (though some just print out tickets now?), so you would have to create some kind of redemption mechanism for the balls (and also create anti cheating measures agains this).
It's just a bunch of work for what doesnt appear to be much gain. The main appeal to the game is that it has more illusion of skill than slots do. And the gambling authorities would have to figure out what the acceptable win/loss rations are on the machines.
Wouldn't they technically be casinos and thus regulated?
My experience with pachinko in Japan felt very much like the old strip in Las Vegas emotion and vibe wise.
Yeah, I was picturing them as openly being casinos. You'd think at least Las Vegas would have some, a sort of international slots section. Hijacking culture is already their specialty after all.
There are some posters on here who work in gaming, maybe one of them will illuminate us, but I wonder if the odds are too hard to strictly control (which is needed to satisfy both regulators and casino owners).
The time is ripe for an anime/Japanese-focused casino in Vegas.
Pachinko is a slot machine and is gambling, but they use a loophole to not be considered such - it pays out tickets that you can use to get toys and stuff like an arcade, but they will buy the toys back from you for money.
Last time I was over there in 2019, one of the friends who came with me wanted to actually try Pachinko; I had never sat down at a machine in my aggregate ~1.5 years of living/visiting Japan, though I had walked through Pachinko places a few times. The one we sat down in was in Osaka I think. When you're done the machine you're at prints a ticket, the exchange desk in the same room (or building) gave us actually a small piece of gold- had the weight embossed on it- and there was an exchange business in the shop/building next door. We opted to keep the gold slivers because it was an interesting souvenir. Usually the prize desks in the pachinko area will have other small items you can exchange for as well. The external buyback business is suppossed to be independent to get around the gambling law of course.
In Japan. That japanese law has a loophole doesn't really matter for places in the US, where it doesn't exist.
Reverse engineering of Japanese music video games has been a huge issue. I was grown up from the environment where the only way to enjoy those games was an illegal means for a long time, and even at that time the contention was evident. In fact the article missed important details like that Konami moved to online authentication as a direct response to a massive content leak in 2012 among others, and that Programmed World (or later, Programmed Sun) was commonly used by gamers from Japan and other Asian countries where those games are legally available---even after the invitation-only policy and geofencing to prevent them. Made essential due to the COVID-19, the end game for those arcade game publishers seems to be the de-arcade-ization; Konami has been particularly active at mobile and PC ports of their arcade games and that greatly reduced the needs for legally questionable practices.
The terrifying video the introduction describes: https://twitter.com/ffoqboss/status/1444746707925827584
Oh I never thought this topic would go on HN. Playing music arcade games is my guilty pleasure. These arcade games always have creatively designed input devices that blows PC and smartphone games out of the water. Check Dancerush (DDR but you step on a touch screen), Wacca (With a round display area and round input panels) and Ongeki (Gacha and some light bullet hell mixed in) out.
Apart from Museca mentioned in the article, there is also Beatstream from Konami that got shelved after only one update. That game's form factor is ideal for touch screens but it's a shame it never gets released on smartphones. Maybe the cost of making custom background videos is too high to bo justified.
And kudos for Sega for at least exporting Chunithm and Maimai DX even though the former is a old version and both got a lot of pop songs removed due to licensing. I'm lucky to live in one of the countries these are exported officially. Otherwise I will need to go to Japan every fow months to get my fix.
There is a community that managed to make those Sega music games run on a Windows PC and they have built those custom input devices out of acrylic or MDF, complete with custom PCBA, firmware and reverse engineered drivers.
It's pretty ironic that the best players of DDR include Americans and Koreans that presumably started their career on those smuggled machines.
Like the author, I missed my favorite game enough to buy an arcade rhythm game a few months into the pandemic. It's a shame Konami/Sega/Taito are so picky about who they sell to and therefore who gets to be on their network. I would love to pay Konami and put my Pop'n Music cab on the official eAmusement network but they will not take my money.
Game Saru is wonderful and I can't recommend them highly enough. They have a youtube channel here: https://youtube.com/c/GameSaru
> It's a shame Konami/Sega/Taito are so picky about who they sell to and therefore who gets to be on their network.
The thing is that, at least Konami isn't! It mostly depends on the domestic publisher to decide which customer to sell cabinets and network accesses. I'm particularly aware of a handful of people who own an arcade machine that is connected to the network in South Korea.
I'd like to build a raspberry pi based MAME machine for my college, but to get a box to actually put the machine in, its either a lot of time and effort to build one (I do not have woodworking skills, nor the desire to learn) or a lot of money to buy a shell, which I don't have. So it will likely stay a daydream.
It would be nice to see people playing together in the lounge, though.
I happen to be a woodworker when I'm not a software developer and FWIW, and building an traditional-style 90's plywood cab (with some affordances; how you mount the panel is an Open Question) is pretty trivial stuff with a drill, a jigsaw (if you want rounded corners), a few pieces of sandpaper, and a circ saw (you'd need a router for traditional T edge banding but you can get flat edge banding right on Amazon). You can get the tools on Craigslist for $40 to $60 if you look hard enough. The consumables (hole saw, drill bit, screws, dowel, glue) are maybe another $20 to $25), and a couple of sheets of plywood are the most expensive at about $60 per. Not the cheapest thing in the world, but firmly in beer-money territory if you've got interested friends.
(And then you've got folks like me who drop a thousand dollars on a gizmo to not have to think about the construction process nearly as hard, but shhh, we're cautionary tales.)
I can't help you with the not wanting to learn part, but, having never built one, I'm pretty confident I could do it in a day. Pretty confident that it's a weekend project for a couple of college kids. And learning how to use your hands is a pretty rewarding experience, I find.
As an armchair woodworker with a tool buying/daydreaming complex, please share what gizmo(s) you refer to. Thanks. :)
At a guess, it’s probably something like a Festool Domino. You dry-fit the pieces and draw a line across the joint surface wherever you want a tenon. From there, the whole process is pretty automatic.
As another responded, building a cabinet is a pretty good first woodworking project, not really that hard.
A cabinet can be as simple or complex as you want.
Extreme example: a large cardboard box in fact is how I have often begun many of my past MAME cab builds. I make the cardboard prototype to test ergonomics, fit of the various components — surprisingly you can play on them if you go all the way to install and wire the buttons.
Sheets of plywood or MDF (hate that stuff as a woodworker though) can be purchased at a big box store — maybe they can cut them down to size a bit for you to transport?
A long ruler and an inexpensive circular saw will allow you to cut the sheets of plywood down to the right size. An inexpensive jigsaw as mentioned if you wanted your cabinet to have a few curves (seen plenty of functional if boxy cabs though that are just as fun to play).
A drill to make holes to install the buttons, glue, drywall screws... It can be done with few tools.
Honestly such a project can turn into a gateway drug to more woodworking and tools. As mentioned, you may want to build a 2nd one and add T-molding around the edges to dress it up and look for legit. So a router and slot-cutting bit are added to your growing collection of tools in the garage. Purchase a $400 track saw and after the beautiful and precise cuts you will never touch your circular saw again....
Funny that you mention a track saw. Because my TSO rail square just showed up...
Also, I don't even think MDF is a necessity for this, is it? The cabinets I babysat at the arcade in college were all three-layer or graded-density particle board.
I'm assuming you want to build a full-size machine that mostly looks like it could have really been in an arcade...
And you're right. The wood alone for such a project is very expensive right now. I know because I started it a while ago with scrap wood, and I'm rethinking how I'm going to do it with cabinet-grade plywood.
Add in all the knowledge and effort to design and build the cabinet, and it becomes quite a task if you aren't already a woodworker with those tools.
If someone is really into it, I think it's a great project and they should absolutely do it. But I don't recommend it for people who merely want the end product.
Arcade cabinets are made of low grade sheet goods, including just particleboard (not even MDF).
I'm thinking about making a furniture grade arcade cabinet personally (and mounting a CRT into it), but I'm a cautionary tale, you need not make my mistakes.
> I'd like to build a raspberry pi based MAME machine for my college
Has anyone ever come up with an entertainment project using a small computer that isn’t turning it into an emulation box? It seems like it’s the default dad project too.
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