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Conspiracy Of The Claw: Inside The Long Odds Of An Arcade Favorite

ARUN RATH, HOST:

They're everywhere - amusement parks, arcades, even grocery stores.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "TOY STORY")

DEBI DERRYBERRY: (As Aliens) The claw.

RATH: Tempting prizes from stuffed animals to MacBooks right in front of you. All you have to do is drop some coins and maneuver that claw to grab your prize. Of course, it's not that simple.

PHIL EDWARDS: I have been an addict on these things since I was a little kid. I think I was raised in a claw machine-friendly household, and I've been playing them since, and I've lost every time.

RATH: Phil Edwards is a writer at vox.com. He decided to investigate his losing streak and found the manufacturer's instructions for the machines. It was an end to his innocence. Turns out, claw machines are easily manipulated by their owners.

EDWARDS: It's kind of crazy. What they actually do is they adjust the voltage that is going to the claw, and they can say, OK, I want the claw to only be strong enough to grab a stuffed animal X out of 24 times, for example. And so as a result, only one out of 24 times is that claw actually going to be strong enough to get your animal, and the rest of the time, it'll just sort of limply hang around it, which is something that I think we're all familiar with.

RATH: Edwards' article on his findings went viral and triggered controversy in the claw community

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MATT3769: However, what they presented isn't the whole truth about the claw machine and I'm going to prove it to you.

RATH: This is a YouTube video from someone who calls himself Matt3769.

(SOUNDBITE OF YOUTUBE VIDEO)

MATT3769: The truth is, mostly older claw machines are the ones that are skill based.

EDWARDS: There's a vibrant YouTube community, and basically what they want to do is show that there can be a certain level of skill applied to the claw machine, and that's true.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: I got him.

RATH: Industry publications such as Vending Times also agree that skill is still an element, and some vendors don't even use the voltage feature on new machines. But Edwards says, usually, there's no way for a player to tell if the machine has been rigged. So next time you play...

EDWARDS: Don't feel bad about yourself when you waste a dollar or two on the claw machine. It's not your fault. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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