By Whitney Froelich
Our industry is currently facing a conundrum—with technology advancing every day and the green movement maintaining momentum, the future of the paper ticket is in question.
While the ticket was once a driving force in game rooms everywhere paired with the all-powerful token, more and more fun centers are switching over to tokenless or ticketless–sometimes both with the implementation of a card swipe system. Our Prize Hub and Evolve system promise to play a big part in this movement.
How does this impact the most important factor of all—the kids that play the games? Does the joy they experience in a family fun center stem from just playing the games and getting prizes? Or is the allure of a gameroom more deeply rooted in the details, such as the ability to show gaming skill and status through the heaps of tickets in tow?
There’s only one way to find out for sure—ask and observe! I began my own investigation of the debate while on a service call…
Neil and I headed to Happy Joe’s in Green Bay after work to fix a broken handle on their Big Bass Pro (which was very impressive, by the way—the whole lower end of the first linkage was twisted and sheared off).
Shortly after we arrived and began taking the game apart, two young boys started frantically searching in all of the coin return doors and under games for tokens and stray tickets. Their parents must have only given them a couple dollars each, because they were desperate.
When they found a token or two, they would collaborate and discuss which game they should play to get the most tickets. They decided on Fireball because there was a chance to win 1000 tickets—and they figured 900 was an easy score to get. They ended up with seven, I think, and went on to scrounge some more.
One of the boys came across three stray tickets in a crevice somewhere, and he was overjoyed. To us it seems ridiculous; what on earth could you ever get with THREE tickets? But he went on to celebrate discoveries of one or two half-penny tickets dangling from dispensers or wedged under games. Apparently, we were wrong– the tickets aren’t made of paper! They’re pure gold!
While Neil and I were up to our arms inside the front end of a Big Bass Wheel, we realized it would have to come completely apart to replace the busted linkage. Neil pulled out the right side ticket tray. Being a klutz, he dumped half a brick of tickets all over himself, causing the two boys to stop in their tracks (and possibly drool).
“Whoa! Look at all those tickets” one of them muttered.
I was tasked with reorganizing and guarding the tickets while Neil did his thing, after explaining to the boys that no, they couldn’t have the tickets that fell out.
After about 45 minutes of being swarmed and shuffled around by kids wanting to play Lil’ Hoops (we had originally used it as a coat rack and tool bench), the project was complete. Neil tested his handiwork by playing the game a few times. Thirty-four tickets spilled out of the game, which naturally resulted in a swarm of kids begging for them. Neil handed them to the boy who had said “please”, who then proceeded to smugly wave his golden tickets in all the other kids’ faces.
The second the game was back in position and ready to go, a line immediately formed to play it, despite the fact that it takes four times the amount of tokens to play as the rest of the games in the room. As a side note, this is a HUGE testament to the popularity and allure of the Big Bass series- it’s absolutely incredible to watch.
After we devoured some much-anticipated pizza, Frank, the owner of the Happy Joe’s, called and asked Neil to look at a couple other games while he was there. As he investigated the issues, I observed the growing population of the gameroom.
It was interesting to see that not only kids, but adults too, upon winning a large amount of tickets would gloat and drag them across the room or pile them up in their arms and walk around showing off. On more than one occasion a parent or big kid hit the bonus on Wonder Wheel and stood there holding them for all to see.
At one point, the Wonder Wheel randomly stopped dispensing tickets. The young girl playing (who had won 75 tickets) asked Neil to fix it since he was digging around inside the Speed Demon next to it. He opened the game, found nothing wrong and closed it, which somehow made the dispenser start working again. The tickets dumped onto floor accompanied by the shrill cha-ching we all know so well. The other kids crowded around as the girl put out her arms and shouted “they’re all MINE!”
It’s amazing how defensive kids can get about tiny slips of paper redeemable for dollar store junk—but they don’t see it that way. In their minds, their golden tickets are worth awesome magical prizes! I remember… it wasn’t that long ago that I too thought that way.
One little girl’s drama queen came out at the Ticket Eater. She started screaming, whining and crying when her mom placed her little brother’s tickets in her pile.
“MOM-UH! Why’d you put them together? These were ALL MINE-UH!”
Needless to say, if one measly ticket were to appear on the floor, no child would hesitate to dive in and take it.
Who knows if any of this would happen in a ticketless location—is removing tickets from a gameroom resolving issues and conflict between kids? Or is it more like taking the magic out of Christmas?