A Day at the Arcade

I took my 8 year old daughter mini-golfing and to the arcade the other weekend.  Our mini-golfing was chock full of laughs, thrills, tears, nail-biting PGA-level putting birdies and aces all in the context of Africa-hot ‘Valley’ temperatures, but it was really the arcade that I thought was worthy of remark.

So I have an 8 year old and an 11 year old, and if you’re a parent that’s gone through raising children in their younger years, you’ve probably spent many a weekend at Chuck E. Cheese, bowling, or in this case- the mini-golf arcade.  The consistent racket that pervades these fine gaming institutions is the pay-by-token and reward-by-ticket methodology. 

To enjoy this entertainment, you don’t pay with traditional currency.  You have to go to a special currency exchange machine to convert your US dollars to arcade tokens, or in the futurist state we now live in- a special card loaded with tokens.  The fun began when I inserted my credit card to fund the token card transaction.  After waiting 5 minutes, the machine projected a message saying, “Kiosk is currently unable to dispense cards.  Please see attendant for assistance”.  I hunted down an arcade employee from the prize stand, who proceeded to crack open the token card vault only to find that the token cards were all mashed up together, preventing its ability for dispensement.  5-10 minutes later, she cleaned up the mess and hallelujah- gave us the token card, our gateway to good times.

In determining the amount to invest in the card, I typically run through some mathematical gymnastics to determine how much I should waste spend.  I usually look around the arcade, expecting to see some Pac Man and Space Invaders consoles valued at $.25 per round, circa 1984.  Then I’m always shocked when I look around only to find a 10-foot virtual reality Pac Man, machine gun-based Call of Duty and ‘claw for crap you’ll never win’ all valued at an average of $1.50 – $2 per round.  But this time was different.  To my dismay- there were several games valued at…  $5 a pop!!!  And what might you ask would warrant such a price tag?  Let’s just say, an upgrade ‘claw for crap you’ll never win’.  This time- the crap available to win is my daughter’s favorite..  LOL dolls.  Hook, line, sinker.

So low and behold, we wander around the arcade for what amounted to approximately 8-10 minutes, given 20 bucks only got my daughter 10 games at the historical price point, and 4 games at the newly obscenified prices.  She had some fun, won some ticket credits.  Badda bing badda boom.  Arcade time is done.

But once the arcade time is done, then comes the parents’ most dreaded part.  The picking of the prize.  I swear, it goes the same way every time.  No matter what kid, what venue, I’ve never seen even the slightest deviation.  Here it is..

  1. Parent shares total value of tickets won with child (“Johnny, you have 75 tickets”).
  2. Child enters meditative deep thought state about potential life-changing prize.
  3. Kid randomly asks about prize completely outside the universe of possibility (“Dad, how much is the X Box?”  “Johnny, that costs 17,530 tickets.”  Parent’s thought:  If we came here EVERY frickin’ day for the entire summer, we still wouldn’t get that damn X Box.).
  4. Kid asks about prize just a hair more than the tickets they have (“Dad, can I get the rocket shooter that’s.. 80 tickets?”)
  5. Parent plays bad guy denying child of the rocket shooter.
  6. At the 5-minute mark while still waiting for child to choose the prize, parent starts to lose sanity.
  7. Parent clarifies to child that they have 2 choices:  1) Spider Ring or 2) Pixie Stick.
  8. Child has deep contemplation about the pros and cons of Spider Ring -vs- Pixie Stick.
  9. Parent knows that the Pixie Stick is just about the un-healthiest, sugar infested candy available, but caves to win back 5 additional minutes of life and finally convinces Johnny to get the Pixie Stick.
  10. Parent and Child leave arcade with the mini golf score card, the little green pencil, $20 less dollars in wallet, sunburn, and a Pixie Stick.

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