June 1, 2004 pt2 – I don’t understand medal games

After dinner, we all went to Kawasaki. I needed to get some shift swap paperwork signed, so I left Code Red, Hippie, Flounder and Green at a nearby game center. Since I was in casual clothes, I couldn’t go into the building to meet the other teachers, so I hung around in front of the building waiting for them to come out. Japan is a very safe country, but there are always a bunch of homeless people hanging around in the trees near the entrance to NOVA, so it’s not the most comfortable place to hang around.

Eventually the teachers came out and I got my paperwork signed. I walked to the game center to find everyone watching Flounder playing a large medal game. The game had bouncing balls, flashing lights, video screens, and a coin pusher, basically total sensory overload. Flounder was trying to manipulate the coins in order to push more tokens towards his collector. There were a number of other medal games in the area – horse racing simulators, slot machines, card battle games, and others.

Using gambling machines to win money is illegal in Japan, but you can win prizes. One popular example is pachinko, which is kind of like a high tech vertical pinball game. To play, you buy a bunch of little metal balls and feed them into the pachinko machine. Using a knob, you attempt to fire the balls through the game board into a small hole. Doing this wins you more little metal balls. When you are done playing, you can exchange any balls you have left for a prize. The loophole is that every pachinko parlour in Japan has a nearby prize exchange shop, where you can sell your prize for cash.

I was not familiar with medal games, but I assumed that they would operate on the same principle as pachinko. Flounder won a huge number of tokens playing the game. He took them to the service counter, where the tokens were counted and Flounder received a card that kept track of how many tokens he owned. The next time he returned, he could use his tokens again to play the games and attempt to win more tokens. I tried to ask the employee where the prize exchange was. The employee tried to tell me that there was no such thing for medal games. At the time I wasn’t sure if he was telling the truth, or just not allowed to explain about exchanging prizes for cash. I promised Flounder that I would look into it.

Medal games can be a fun way to spend some time, but there is no way to win money. If you want to try to gamble for cash, play pachinko instead.

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  1. July 3, 2014 pt3 – Kaiten zushi | Drinking in Japan
  2. June 26, 2017 – My kid is addicted to medal games | Drinking in Japan

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