To Megan: A recap of the DougDoug claw machine plushie crusade

Hello, Megan. Thank you for your contribution to this year’s Monterey Bay Aquarium charity event, and congratulations on being a raffle winner. Your prize, as you probably already heard from Doug’s administrative assistant, is the spoils from Doug spending US$100.00 on arcade claw machines. They are now in the mail and should be arriving on your doorstep in a few days.

I guess the plushies are great if you really like plushies, but I wanted to try and make this a bit more special for you than just receiving a bunch of generic arcade machine plushies that you could’ve easily bought yourself online from a wholesaler for less than $5 each. So, fighting through my ha­tred of claw machines, I joined Doug anyway at Round1 Bowling & Amusement so I can tell you a story in photos.

Doug went into this with great confidence. He said that, with a hundred dollars, he can usually win anywhere from six to eight plushies in an average run.

Although arcade games are overwhelmingly games of chance, there is still technically a skill element to claw machines as well—any amount of good luck on the strength roll of the claw isn’t going to help you if you plop it down on the wrong spot. Doug has built up some solid competency in consistently drop­ping the claw in an optimal position.

Unfortunately, the first few machines didn’t go too well. He started out with some traditional tri-prong machines, but he just wasn’t getting lucky—the claw would be too weak to pick up the plushie at all, or it would be strong enough to lift it but not quite strong enough to retain the plushie while it moved to the reward chute.

Eventually, he went over to a bi-prong machine where he had to pick up and drop a box into the chute to win the prize. Unfortunately, the box was seated squarely in the center of metal bars and the spacing between the bars was wide enough that it would mitigate any amount of vertical motion, i.e., when the box was picked up, it would tilt and the edge would get caught in one of the gaps, then fall right back down atop the bars.

Doug spent a lot of time trying to win this particular machine, and after looking back at the photos, I’m guessing it’s because the prize was an otter plushie. Unfortunately, he did not succeed and he moved onto another machine.

The next attempt was on a machine where a dinosaur plushie was tied with string to the control arm and you had to swing it around to knock over all six boxes to win a prize. On Doug’s first attempt, he managed to hit one of the boxes at such a perfect angle that it rotated 90°, remained upright, lodged in between two other boxes, and created an unmovable pillar that functionally made the entire game unwinnable.

If Doug was hired as a municipal architect, the city of Los Angeles would become immune to earthquakes and we would never see a collapsed building ever again.

We were still at a grand total of zero prizes at this point, so Doug took a different approach—he picked out a game where, eventually, you have to win at some point. This was a game of scooping ping pong balls into cups, and with enough card swipes and enough tries, you would ultimately get a prize.

After an unsettling number of ping pong balls falling out prematurely from the claw or missing the plastic cups entirely, Doug finally accrued the re­quired six points and earned his first plushie.

Next up was another “you will eventually win” kind of machine—this was a single-prong claw that you use to push the prize off the platform, and as long as you land your drops properly, you are guaranteed a little bit of motion on the plushie every time. After three swipes of his arcade card, Doug emerged victorious with plushie number two.

“Parkzer, stop deflowering Megan’s plushie.” —Doug

With the final remaining play credits on his arcade card, Doug tried to win a panda, and even though his claw drops were on point, luck wasn’t with him and he could not secure any more prizes.

Doug felt so badly about his insufferable performance that he went to the prize redemption area and cashed in some of his reward tickets from prior Round1 visits to purchase a Pikachu plushie. In addition, our friend Dani, who also joined us at the arcade, donated the two plushies that she won as well—a penguin in a carrot costume and a penguin in a shrimp tempura costume.

Five plushies were still less than Doug was hoping for, but definitely better than just two. He signed them, packaged them all in a cardboard box, and shipped them to Azerbaijan.

Just kidding, we didn’t ship them to Azerbaijan; they were sent to your actual address. But I’m guessing you would not be particularly fond of me pub­lishing your location on my (very public) website.

And thus concludes our odyssey of war and plunder.