Last month I went to the Amusement Operator’s Union (AOU) exhibition in Tokyo as a “photography assistant,” along with my friend Danny (who is legitimately press.) We got ourselves some shiny press passes, took pictures of everything, played loads of games, and even won some stuff! Some of the photos I took even ended up in Danny’s article on the webzine he writes for, Ready Up Games.
AOU is basically a big expo of modern arcade games, UFO catchers, and prize displays. It went for two days. The first day was for company people and press people only, and the second day was open to the public. We went crazy with photos of everything and games on the first day, and on the second day, which was way more packed, we just tried to win free stuff, and sat back to watch (and photo-document) the madness. In addition to being great fun, the event was also pseudo-training for my next big adventure as Danny’s press sidekick, if all goes well: Tokyo Game Show 2012!
I have literally hundreds of photos of the event, but I’ve pared them down to a selection of my favourites, and organized them into bite-sized layouts to make them more manageable. I hope this will give you a good taste of my AOU press adventure!
Dark Escape 3D (top left) is a realistic 3D zombie game. I myself, having an arguably irrational fear of zombies, found my time in that booth terrifying, although blowing their heads off was somewhat therapeutic. Also, wackamole, not nearly as awesome as the ones I remember in my youth – the moles are way smaller so wacking them is much less satisfying. Some random fighting game I got my butt kicked at, one of Sega’s featured games “Mai Mai” which was like Dance Dance Revolution for your hands, super fun, and air hockey on crack.
Dance Evolution. Not Revolution. It’s the same idea as DDR except instead of using only your feet, you use your whole body and somehow the game knows if you’re doing it right. The cute Konami girl that helped me demo the game knew what she was doing. I did not, as exemplified by my facepalm in the final frame. But I did attract quite a crowd and a giant video camera wielding guy, probably who all wanted to watch the foreign girl make a fool of herself. Good times were had by all.
Probably one of the weirdest games on display this year, the urinal game. You (if you have the right parts, that is) can aim at a target while relieving yourself, and watch the points rack up. They had a little peeing statue set up on the show floor, so I had my first ever urinal experience, which I was probably a little too happy about. They had the game set up for real in the men’s washroom, but I couldn’t try that one out, or take pictures, for obvious reasons.
Purikura: not really a game, but if you don’t know Japanese it’s almost as challenging as one. One of the dolled up purikura ladies helped us through the process, though, and we got little photos of ourselves all glitzed up and decorated. Also at the bottom is the quote from their sign. Now, I’m just throwing this out there but… I know a lot of people, men especially, might agree with the second sentence, but I don’t know if that makes the third sentence true, per say. Logical fallacy alert!
Prizes, prizes, prizes!
Just a few of the probably millions of prizes they had on display. Provided they get purchased by arcade operators, these will be showing up in UFO catchers around Japan in the next year or so. The ghost in the middle was one of my most wanted prizes, it’s a motion-sensor light!
More prizes! Top left is Carue, kind of an obscure character from the popular anime One Piece, but one of my favourites ever. He’s released in August so I will be scouring the arcades looking for a chance to win him! Also British My Melody (apparently not simply Hello Kitty dressed as a bunny, as I originally thought), a super cute flute-playing taiko critter, and “Chopper x Hello Kitty,” the inspiration for my 2012 Mie Jets Tshirt design (oops big spoiler for any Mie Jets reading this who haven’t seen the designs yet!)
Cats galore! If one type of creature dominated the prize fair, it was by far cats. There were fat cats, round cats, crying cats, cat towers, cats in boxes, cats in baskets, vampire cats (Nyanpire), the list goes on. This isn’t even including Hello Kitty and all of her variations.
Why hello, Yoda, fancy seeing you here! Some characters you might recognize even if you know nothing about the Japan character scene. Of course Pingu (centre) is Japanese, but that show was on TV when my little sister was little, and she watched it every day. Marvel, Batman, Sponge Bob, Moomin, and Sesame Street!
Free play: Let’s win stuff!
On the first day, there wasn’t much to win, but we managed to find a few machines that you could get free stuff out of. This variation on the UFO catcher was next to impossible, as you can see from Danny’s facial expression. But we had unlimited tries so we eventually managed to each walk away with a fat cat in a little hat!
We had quite the saga trying to win little Daruhiyos on the second day. The exhibitors had times posted when you could play to win. So we went for one of the morning times, and they told us, “sorry, the schedule’s been changed.” We came back later at the time they told us, and they said “oh, you don’t have one of these vouchers? Sorry, you can’t play.” They could have told us that earlier. The guy wasn’t even going to do anything for us, but when I used Japanese to tell him we had already been told to come at this time, he reluctantly gave us vouchers for the next time slot, and we finally got our chance! I tried to win as many daruhiyos as I could in one go, more out of spite to the exhibitors who gave us the runaround than to actually win. I think I managed to get 5!
The Free Play on the second day is a big highlight, and apparently loads of people go just to line up and win free stuff all day. I can’t really blame them, except that after two times through the line I was DONE. As press we made it through the doors a split second before the masses, so we got to the front of the line for the first round, but by the time we made it around to the back of the line again, most of them were almost at an hour wait already. Some of the lineups got up to two hours in the middle of the day. Crazy. But the staff are very nice and they clap for you even if you suck, and if you don’t manage to win your prize in two tries they give it to you anyways.
Taking care of business
Besides games and prizes, there were a lot of random business-related things going on. Live interviews are being conducted at the top; in the middle is the coolest ball cleaner ever, another cleaning machine, and UFO catchers for sale; at the bottom are a bunch of suits very interested in the inner workings of a new UFO catcher, and BUTTONS!!! We bought a heart-shaped arcade button at Danny’s editor’s request.
There were a lot of big exhibits where the big game makers, prize makes, and equipment makers displayed their latest stuff.
Random stuff, awesome stuff
There were a lot of mascots wandering around during the course of the event. Most of them probably couldn’t see at all, and were accompanied by one or more guardians at all times, it was pretty funny.
SEGA! Sega, Konami, and Bandai all had a strong presence at the exhibition, but Sega went all out. They had their own band performance, which included this crazy cat dance performance (top right), they had a guy making Sonic balloon animals, they were the most strict about what we were and were not allowed to take pictures of (some stuff was top secret! You’ll never know!) And of course, Sonic himself made an appearance. Also, I want that guy’s jacket (top left): “SEGA Official Master of Ceremonies.” Epic.
Some of my favourite moments: Discovering this poster (top left). What is going on here? Look closely. I have no idea, but it’s hilarious. This survey (top right) was a really good idea: everyone got to vote for the newly designed character they liked best, and the most popular ones would be developed as prizes. Also, free ice cream for everyone! This will be my campaign slogan if I ever run for office. And finally, Danny accidentally whacking his hero Sega Saturn in the head. Priceless.
I didn’t get paid for helping take pictures, and I didn’t expect to, but I did make all these friends! Pretty good haul if you ask me. AOU: So long, farewell, and thanks for all the free stuff!