31 Dec 2009

The Jackpot Question In Advance

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I know many of you simply assume that an internationally known Austrian economist (that’s me) would be ringing in the new year hanging with my boyz in da club, and then we’d take the show back to the hotel to party some mo. Alas, my wife is out of town so I am spending New Year’s Eve entertaining my 5-year-old.

We did the usual circuit: First we hit Barnes & Noble for some Thomas the Train action, followed by the joys of coin op Bob the Builder and the generic fire engine. But since today was special, I capitulated when my son headed into Dave & Buster’s. (I actually hadn’t heard of it until coming to Nashville, so maybe you haven’t either: It’s a restaurant/arcade combo and even has bowling alleys.)

Here are some random observations:

* My son is mercifully still at the age (and we let him play arcade games so rarely) that we spent a half hour in there with him just enjoying the demos of various games.

* Although I didn’t have my son’s patience with games that were waiting for quarters, I was perfectly content to watch a 15-year-old kill dozens, perhaps hundreds, of storm troopers and other miscreants in the employ of the Emperor. It would have been in the thousands, except the TIE fighters blew him up defending the original Death Star and he stopped pumping in more money. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone actually fight Vader, even though that scene is featured when no one’s playing the game.

* I didn’t conduct an extensive survey, but it seemed that the gap between the 1st and 2nd place high scores was much much bigger than the gaps between the other rankings. On one game that had cardinal scoring, the 1st place score was almost 5 times higher than the 2nd place score, whereas after that the scores would drop by 10% or so with each step. On the racing games, where the scores were in terms of lowest times, the “Course Record” was so low that I wasn’t sure I was reading the information correctly. The 3rd place would be, say, 3:02, the 2nd place 2:40, the 1st place would be 2:31, and then the “Course Record” would say 0:48 or something. So like I said, I’m not sure what that meant, but it could have been consistent with the cardinal top scores. The point being, there isn’t a bell curve when it comes to killing Aliens. The best guy is WAY the heck better than the others.

* There were security cameras distributed around the place, and there were also TV monitors that would cycle through the cameras. So the point was, they were letting you know they were watching. My son was on a motorcycle and for some reason reached out and put his hand over the lens of the camera and moved it so it pointed somewhere else. Atta boy. Fight the power, my son.

* Without any prodding from his pacifist father, my son grew quickly bored with the shoot-your-way-out-of-a-zombie-house game and spent most of his time racing. (Or more accurately, he spent most of his time watching commercials for racing games.)

* I think if someone from the 1950s–who had warned that Elvis’ devil music would corrupt America–were magically transported to a modern arcade, he would feel completely vindicated. There weren’t too many games that honed your hand-eye coordination by seeing how many kittens you could rescue from a towering inferno, or how many heart transplants you could perform in 60 seconds.

* I’m sure everyone thinks the games of his childhood were the best ever, but I still say nothing beats Super Mario Bros. on the original Nintendo.

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