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Pachinko: The Japanese Cousin of the Slot

Pachinko: The Japanese Cousin of the Slot image

Pachinko: The Japanese Cousin of the Slot

If you have ever been fortunate enough to watch Japanese television, you will know that the nation has a penchant for zany, unique and at time dangerous game shows. It has a culture that is set apart from others, which it also remains a hub for social, artistic and technological innovation.  Given this, it would be naïve to expect Japanese designers to simply adapt the European version of the slot machine, especially when they have the imagination and ability to create their own unique gaming experiences.

Here is where we introduce the Pachinko, which is a type of mechanical game that originates in the heartland of Japan. It is essentially a fusion of a recreational arcade game and a gambling device, where games place an emphasis on bright colours, immersive sound quality and intriguing characters. In pure design terms it resembles a vertical pinball machine, only one without flippers that utilises a large number of smaller balls. The player fires the balls into the machine, pausing for a moment before they begin to cascade down through a densely populated forest of pins.

This is where the gambling elements of the game come into play, as different consequences are triggered depending on where the balls land and in which combination. Ultimately, the object the game is to capture as many balls as possible, with the final amount being exchanged for prizes. The layout of the machine has evolved with the advent of technology and the development of online gaming resources, with modern machines incorporating extensive electronics and audio-visual accessories.

Gambling has been illegal in Japan for generations, with the result that staking bets in exchange for direct cash returns is prohibited. This explains the layout of the machine and its creative nature, which is focused in gameplay and entertainment while also offering alternative prizes for specific achievements in the game.

From a European perspective, getting to grips with a Pachinko machine is extremely challenging. Not only can gameplay be convoluted by an overload of colour and characters, but it is also extremely fast-paced and potentially problematic for serious gamblers. The lack of direct remuneration and wagering also provides an issue, as the prizes available may not repay the cost of gameplay. The Pachinko machine is an accurate reflection of Japanese gaming culture, however, and one that offers an insight into how citizens enjoy their leisure time.