Throughout time and arcade history, a mainstay on the floor has been the “claw game” or “crane game” or “claw crane” … take your pick. The gist of the game is that you control your claw from the outside of a glass box over a desired object, such as extra tickets or stuffed animals. The control mechanics are simple: you have a joystick and a button. Once your claw is in your chosen position, you press the button and release the claw to (hopefully) grasp whatever item is below it. Therein lies the beauty: will you or won’t you win the prize?

Claw machines have been around fun houses, arcades, drugstores, and tourist areas since the 1890s. Patterned after the cranes that were building the Panama Canal, these early machines contained candy and various small toys as prizes. Instead of a joystick, there was a handle, and instead of a button, there was a hand crank. The first patented model was invented in 1926. It was called the Erie Digger, named after the construction of the Erie Canal. Six years later, an American carnival operator named William Bartlett patented a design for an electric motor that allowed the crane to move around the entire box. His game, the Miami Digger, contained nickels and silver dollars, while the upscaled version had watches and cigarette lighters (we’re assuming those machines were for adults only, but it was a different time).

The claw machine craze really took an upward turn in the Asian markets. The Japanese gaming company, Sega, released their version called the UFO Catcher in 1985 and sold more than 10,000 units over the next 5 years. The claw machine trend continues today throughout Asia and there are apps that you can download over your phone that allow you to control a claw machine in another company. If you win the prize, it is shipped to your home. Yuka Nakajima of Japan is the current claw machine champion and has won over 3,500 teddy bears from claw machines, earning him a place in the Guinness Book of World Records.

At Boondocks, we have numerous claw machines and other fun chance games to perk up that winning spirit. Who knows? You may be the next claw machine champion.