It’s unusual for RePlay to get subscriber calls or emails praising or complaining about something they saw in the magazine. Other than the note from the guy who likes the way his interview comes out, or the blunt critique from another who disagrees with something he reads, this is not an industry that talks back to its media. That’s why I want (once again) to talk about the skill vs. chance issue. As you can guess, we got more than one complaint about a feature in last month’s issue written by Bob Cooney saying that some redemption games make for the ingredients of a “kiddie casino.”
First of all, the nation’s law enforcement agencies don’t get RePlay. Yes, back in the video heydays, some did, but those days are gone. Maybe it would be better if they did see what’s going on inside the trade. After all, the American Amusement Machine Association has the skill issue squarely on its table with its Fair Play Pledge, an idea that was reignited following a “crane rigging” piece that ran on NBC’s Today Show back in the summer of 2016. The pledge is a solid step forward.
Look, I didn’t fall off the turnip truck. After over 50 years in this business, I have an idea what’s inside game cabinets. I know every game isn’t a dart board, an air hockey or a Skee-Ball where the skill factor isn’t even debatable, although there’s still a bit of luck going on even in those games. So is there in every sport. And so is there is life itself! But it’s the possible dominance of luck over skill that’s the issue, and that’s a moral as well as a business one.
Secondly, it’s not the grownups of concern. Adults have a pretty good idea what a game’s all about if they play it a few times. It’s the kids. Don’t ever forget that the business of running a game arcade is the business of putting smiles on little faces. As the poet might put it, that’s the “pit in the middle of the coin-op avocado.” The axiom “winners make players” is true, especially if you’re in this thing for the long game.
At the recent F2FEC conference of fun center operators, one of the nation’s smartest chain owners, George Smith, told the crowd that he has purged his business of anything in his opinion that’s not skill-based. Further, he has advice for any operator who might wonder how to respond to a “Today Show-type” reporter pointing a camera at him and asking if his games are ripoffs. “I can tell him we run skill-based games because we want him to win. We make more money if he wins.” Nice!