Jackie and I saw a film at the Metreon recently, and wandered around there afterward. In the space that was once the Microsoft Store (I know!), and has since been a bajillion different things, there is this:
If you haven't guessed, those are all claw games. And, spookily, just claw games. It's an entire store space in the Metreon occupied by nothing but claw games.
And nothing, and no one, else. Jackie and I were the only people in there. Occasionally a machine would kick into attract mode - make some blips and flash some lights, but otherwise, it was eerily quiet.
Just a bunch of lonely stuffed animal prisons and us. This claw machine room appears to be an annex of Tilt, next door. I remember Tilt from way back, as the arcade with virtual bowling and a bar. I don't remember anything about claw machines.
Claw machines have always struck me as a bit sad; never more so when dozens of them are packed into some otherwise empty space. Until I'd watched the video linked above, I never had proof that they're rigged, but I always instinctively knew that. Jackie and I, uh, admired all the toys, but felt no interest in trying to get any.
Even the prizes are a little off - these Disney characters are monochrome.
And yes, that is a VW Bus-shaped claw machine!
Tilt and the Claw Machine Annex are in the Metreon, San Francisco's premiere kiddie (and when I say kiddie, I mean late-teen) mall. It's right near downtown and a bunch of hotels, so it might be worth breezing through if you have a hankering for low-grade stuffed animals. Chronicle Books has a little store on the first floor, which is a good place to spend some time, but otherwise, there's not much of interest in the Metreon.
Well, since they closed the Warhammer store. Now that was a place for social anthropology.