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Connie: Game center

November 5, 2010

Do you know about game centers? It’s just the Japanese word for arcades. But don’t mix the two up. Game centers are about a billion times better than their foreign counterparts. I’m not saying that as a Japanophile or anything. It’s true. Everything’s more well maintained, comes from a year after 1980 (the old-school Street Fighter games are remade yet left intact, don’t worry), the prizes in the claw machines are better and easier to win, and the staff will actually help you if their change machine eats your 1,000 yen bill. They’re also way more colorful.

I went yesterday… and today. And I’ll probably go again in the near future. I bought an ‘entertainment pass’ there, which is basically this card you can insert into the games and unlock features as a returning player. I might as well use it. My goal is to get good at one game there by the end of the year so that when I return home I can brag about it. I’m aiming for either Drum Mania v7 or jubeat, both music games. I need a lot of practice. You see guys there who are absolute experts and are somewhat awe-inspiring to watch. This is, of course, until you realize that they have probably spent a good $500 there. In the past week.

Let’s talk about these guys. Actually, the demographics are my favorite part of the game center. They fall into clean categories, like this:

おたく(otaku): The nerds. You should be proud of them for leaving their anime-filled room, but then you realize they just went to an arcade. They’re pale and wear glasses and are hilariously stereotypical and avoid you like the plague as you pass through them to whatever game you want. It’s okay though, because they kick ass at all the games and probably do well in school too. They don’t appear to have any real preference for the types of games they play.

Game Center イケメン(ikemen): Ikemen means something like handsome guy. Ridiculously handsome guy. They’re all over Japan, but the game center breed are slightly different. They will be scattered here and there in the game center, usually in the vicinity of the music or gambling games. They’re usually pretty good too, spending all their money on those things. These are the kinds of guys who could get a girlfriend… but would rather spend their time with video games. Most of the staff is made up of this demographic, so it’s pleasant when you have to pull out your awful Japanese and say, “The change machine isn’t working.”

Salarymen: Sometimes I see businessmen, or at least guys who look that way, in the game center. Their taste in games seems to be very random. I guess they’re trying to unwind after a long day, and they don’t want to go to bars like the stereotypical salaryman. But now that I think of it… Where would a salaryman in this part of Saijo even work?

Girls: Well, there aren’t any girls in the game center. This was confirmed by my female friend who went there around 10pm, went into the bathroom, and discovered that no toilet paper had been used all day. If there are girls, they’re following one of the ikemen. I honestly have not seen a girl play any of the games yet. There is one female staff member, though. She’s cool. I want to be like her.

外人(gaijin): Gaijin means foreigner. And… we’re pretty much the last group to go into the game center. If you’re a female gaijin, you’re also the only type of female who goes into that place. In comparison to the Japanese people, we’re awful at almost all the games except for maybe Dance Dance Revolution. And probably the Guitar Freaks game, because it’s just like Guitar Hero. The game center is probably a refuge for us though, because it’s the one place where strangers don’t stare at you. They’re too absorbed in their games.

That’s about it. On a final note, the taiko drumming game is the single cutest thing ever. Ever. If you play it, your day will instantly become better. Everything has a cute little smiley face!

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