Claw Machine Game

In elementary in Illinois, the desks would open so you can store stuff inside. A kid would clear half their desk, or the corner of it, and put erasers and pencil toppers and similar things of theirs in that space. The owner would then pretend their hand was the hand of a claw machine and other people would take turns “playing the claw machine”. You got to keep what the owner took out for your turn.

The informant kept commenting that this was a very stupid and pointless thing to do. Different people would do it different ways as well, sometimes the person whose turn it was would pretend that they are controlling the claw hand, and other times the owner would just pretend to be the hand on its own and pick things up on people’s turn when they felt like it. The informant remembered that usually only items that the owner didn’t care much for would be given away or “won,” as they were the one picking the items up and could, obviously, just not pick up anything they liked. The informant did recall one time that they accidentally picked up an item they liked and felt really dumb after doing so and having to give the item away to the “winner.”

This game is yet another example of children playing a game that mimics something they are normally not allowed to use or do, this time being claw machines, which many times they aren’t allowed to play with because of the cost and small chance they will win a toy from one. Claw machines are intriguing to children, and really most people, because of the thrill of maybe getting a good deal on an item, the feeling of earning/winning something, and the mystery of whether one will receive an item and, if so, what. The game also reinforces, in a way, the value of giving, as the children are voluntarily giving each other gifts, though through the format or ritual of this game. A final aspect that could be likable to the children playing this game, specifically those “operating” the claw machine and giving out their possessions to other children, is that they feel in full control of the situation, which is not something children usually are.