If previous instalments of this series have touched the edge of what counts as a videogame, then this has surely tumbled right over it. I feel drawn to these bad examples, though: once you’ve fallen over the edge, at least you’re very sure where it is. So what is this apparent non-videogame?
Insert ¥100 into Taco Harry, and Harry, the tako (octopus), raises his bulbous plastic head. He sits there, looking smug, and you have a heavy waxed canvas fan in your hand. Octopus, fan — I need hardly explain that this is a game about thrashing the former with the latter.
The outer shell — the octopus shape — of Harry’s mechanical head has been severely cracked by decades of beatings. I guess kids have played every year they’ve visited this hotel, and eventually got a bit too old for it, and that overenthusiastic dads, too, have most probably got carried away. Perhaps I’ve also played my part, but I do have the high score. If you wanna make an omelet…
The ferocity of your attack is read out to you on a vertical scale, ranging from “Come back tomorrow” to “Super bad”, all such comments being rendered in the accent of Osaka, famed for it’s takoyaki octopus batter balls.
So what is it that disqualifies this from being a videogame? Is it the lack of a TV-like display? I don’t think so: games like Papa Sangre surely qualify without any visual feedback at all. And Punch Mania’s mechanics could work just as well without a TV screen, while Speed Basketball’s could have been rendered with a screen, and so to exclude that game on that basis seems arbitrary. Is it the lack of an abstracted control scheme? Maybe a player must address a videogame from a degree of abstraction. I press a button; Mario jumps — my interactions are always indirect, through an interface. Speed Basketball passes this test, since I have a trackball and buttons. But what about games like maimai and Dance Dance Revolution? Where’s the abstraction there?
Maybe this is a videogame after all. I mean, here it is, in a room with Ridge Racer V, Rhythm Tengoku, Taiko no Tatsujin, and a row of Astro City cabinets. And some slot machines, a UFO catcher, and an air hockey table. They put Taco Harry right in the middle, so I assume they went through the same thought process as me.
Next week, I’m taking a brief departure from the game centre. Clue: it begins with S and it’s on a plane…
(See all postcards from the game centre here.)