Annals Of Miscellany

Coin pusher

That gold coin is about to fall off the ledge, we can feel it—and so can millions of other people, apparently

By John Teti • July 17, 2013

There is no more baffling piece of technology on the internet than the computer that runs the YouTube related-videos sidebar. And yes, I’m sure it is just a single computer—I think it’s an old Mac IIci. Its standards of relevance are unpredictable and obscure. I don’t remember what I was watching when I noticed the title “Coin Pusher: Going For Gold” in that sidebar. But I clicked on that link. The system works, I guess. All hail the IIci.

I clicked on it because I couldn’t imagine that the video was what I thought it was. it was exactly that. It was a seven-minute video of a guy playing the “coin pusher” arcade game where you drop a coin down the back of the machine and hope that, with the help of the moving platform, your coin will push some coins out the front side, because they’re perched right on the edge and oh boy you are going to be the one who beats the system and wins free money! And then not.

The video is seven minutes of that. Here’s a spoiler: He doesn’t even get the gold coin in the end. Here’s a spoiler in a more cosmic, “spoiling your faith in the human race” sense: That video has more than 661,000 views.

Here’s another coin-pusher video by the same guy, Matt Magnone a.k.a. Matt 3756, that topped more than 1,000,000 views. Again, nothing much happens. Go ahead and watch the whole video, like I did, like a rube. (Well, I stopped when the coin-pusher segment ended.) The twist here is that Magnone puts in multiple coins at once. THAT’S IT. Boom, a million views.

After clicking around for a while, I became fascinated by this guy. I wanted to know his secret. His channel has more than 110,000 subscribers, and almost all of his videos simply depict him playing arcade games with a reasonable level of skill. How is this a successful formula? Here are my best guesses.

The appeal of these dumb arcade games translates well to video. When there is a coin perched on the edge of a precipice, you want to see it fall. It’s human nature, just like you want to hear a line of music resolve from dissonance to consonance. The teetering coin is a dissonant note, as is the stuffed bear overhanging the edge of claw game’s prize pit. (Magnone has an extensive library of claw-game videos, too.) This is why I kept watching, after all. Because I am as dumb and susceptible to these games’ brain tricks as the next person. And since the tricks are visual, they work nearly as well on YouTube as they do in real life.

The guy is cute. It took me a little while to realize this, because at first he came off as a standard-issue “goober,” to use one of Magnone’s favorite terms. Then it dawned on me that this mop-haired, gray-eyed skater kid with the goofy Pennsylvania accent might as well be on the cover of Non-Threatening Boys Magazine. Indeed, the fans on his Facebook fan page appear to be mostly young women. That figures. He’s friendly, he’s laid back, and insights like “It just depends on how you get them coins in there” ensure that he doesn’t intimidate anyone with overbearing intelligence. Plus, he has a cat.

The experience is near-universal. Everybody has stood at one of these machines and fruitlessly debated the proper strategy. “Oh, you’ve got to put all your coins on the left side there.” It’s half the fun. Magnone engages in the same sort of patter that anybody would while burning off some spare change in one of these diabolical contraptions.

We’re drawn to the mystique of the arcade rat. There always seemed to be one person in the arcade who had access to rare knowledge gained through experience, rumor, and inside sources. You wanted to be close to this person, to borrow some of their wisdom. As you see in Magnone’s video above, in which he exposes the heartless cruelty of the Stacker machine, Magnone shares his accrued knowledge freely. His information may be patchy and occasionally dubious, but that only amplifies the seedy-underbelly mystique.

Mostly, though, the appeal is that I want to see some coins fall off a ledge. And so did you. I know because you clicked on the link to look at this page. We’re all doomed.

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43 Responses to “That gold coin is about to fall off the ledge, we can feel it—and so can millions of other people, apparently”

  1. Nick Gates says:

    Look up the UK game show Tipping Point, a quiz based around these machines. You’ll LOVE it.

  2. missmoxie says:

    Funspot here we come!!!

  3. Aurora Boreanaz says:

    AHA, and that’s where you’re wrong!  I didn’t come here to actually watch the coins fall off a ledge, I simply came to see what you wrote about it.  So there!

    If I want to see coins fall off a ledge, I go to Dave and Buster’s on double-token Wednesday, stock up on tokens, and play their coin drop machines for tickets.  Between that and the (now fixed) dinosaur ball catapult machine, my wife and I have bought about five kitchen appliances with tickets.

  4. Andy Cliver says:

    I take my little brother to the local arcade about once a month, and have been known to yell “this is f-ing cheap” in front of a group of 12 year olds. I for one welcome this guy’s incredible insight into horrible money-wasters.

  5. Spacemonkey Mafia says:

       I once tried to win a Pink Floyd pin from a similar machine for my brother at the county fair once.
       Was that the year my dad got his finger bitten by a sheep?  Or the year the evangelical church table in the vendor’s barn was selling Moses action figures?
       I don’t know, it’s all such a blur.

  6. DrFlimFlam says:

    There is definitely something to the idea that we are drawn to people (or the skills of said people) who are exceptional at carnival and arcade games. We want to be good at them, maybe we find out how to beat one or two games, but the people who are really dedicated are demi-gods. They are beating all of the games that are rigged to defeat players.

    I can handle the bowling ball ramp game okay. I won a claw machine exactly once. It was a pink polka dot Garfield and my wife was duly impressed. Now she’s the claw machine jockey.

    I hate that coin game. It’s all heart-palpitating anticipation and no payoff. It’s like the strip club of carnival games.

    • NakedSnake says:

      It’s rigged and evil, and yet I am convinced that if I just had 2 dollars in coins, I could make that gold coin drop.

      • mizerock says:

        I just want to have it confirmed that the gold coin isn’t glued down. SOMEONE is going to get it, someday, right? You can see it move, at some point, I hope [I cannot watch this video and confirm this myself, not from work]? Maybe only a small amount, but movement for sure? Because getting quarters to move is harder than it seems, but it’s at least “fair”. Watch enough other people play for long enough and you can confirm that. But a real gold coin? Isn’t that worth thousands of dollars?

        Oh, or is it just a gold-colored token that gives you, like, a few extra worthless tickets? Or a golden dollar, perhaps?

        • DrFlimFlam says:

          I imagine the increased weight makes it more likely for the regular coins to just go around it.

        • NakedSnake says:

          It’s actually just a dollar. Who knows whether it is glued down or not, but from a quick look, going into the game with any goals is misguided. It’s like using an eyedropper to fill a cup so you can collect the spillover.

    • Xtracurlyfries says:

      Well, now if that analogy held you’d be able to go around the back of the machine and pay a bunch of money to have some coins “released.”

      • Aurora Boreanaz says:

        Or the machine notices you’re drunk and diverts all of your coins for the next two hours down a ramp that goes directly into the coin catch with no rewards.

  7. stakkalee says:

    What’s more exciting that watching rigged carnival games?  Playing a virtual version online.  The really sad part is they list it under “Skill Games”.

    • NakedSnake says:

      I got 300 tickets! Good enough for a teddy bear and a ducky.

    • mizerock says:

      Yeah, that version isn’t rigged at all, it doesn’t properly prepare you for the real world. 850 tickets = a purple plasma globe for me.

  8. ItsTheShadsy says:

    Coin Pusher is the new Yule log.

  9. George_Liquor says:

    My local used video game peddler’s got one of these things in their store. I’ve seen only one guy play it in the past several years, but he’s always there! Head down, he silently pumps a steady stream of quarters into it like he’s in some sort of fugue state. 

  10. The_Misanthrope says:

    I fucking hate these machines and their ilk, all those gaudy, lit-up Skinner boxes where the only skill necessary is mindless coin insertion.  They tempt and taunt with the possibility of some grand prize, but if you win anything, it’s more likely you’ll get one of the subpar prizes like a plushie from last year’s big movie franchise or some cheap toy made in a country that you never heard of that breaks after a few uses.  Or, even worse, you will get tickets, which I believe were conceived to teach children the soul-crushing lessons of adult economics (if only there was someone who offered high-interest loans of tickets, the lesson would be complete).

    Even as a kid, I saw these things as the scam they are.  It was easy to tolerate them in the heyday of arcades because the arcades were expansive, so there was still plenty of room for games that delivered the pure thrill of a skill-based challenge, no extrinsic reward needed.  Nowadays, the small little arcade spaces tucked away in movie theaters or malls must ration their space carefully.  What’s the best investment for that space:  an arcade game with niche appeal or a skill-less quarter-eater that anyone can play?  You probably don’t need to spend much money on maintenance for the latter, either.  After all, it’s already conceptually broken, so it might be days or weeks before someone notices that it’s functionally broken.

    • DrFlimFlam says:

      When we go to Charles Cheese, we hit the GAMES, not the Gambletron 5000 machines.

    • Effigy_Power says:

       Jesus, I couldn’t agree with @The_Misanthrope:disqus more.
      (That’s, on the face of it, a depressing sentence.)
      The people playing these so-called “skill games” very quickly get the same dead-eyed look on their face one can observe on the pensioners in Las Vegas throwing away a comfortable life for a potentially luxurious one on the Slot machines, who after all are called “One-Armed Bandits” for a reason.
      Feeding a machine with money for a payout of money seems like something that would land you in a psychiatric ward after a while, especially since there is no way to know whether the game is actually winnable. The only ways to test the payout-chances are to tilt the machine, which I am sure is frowned upon, or keep feeding it with money.
      There are countless ways to make the machine almost impossible to beat. A roughed up steel surface would prevent the bottom coins from sliding much, a slightly magnetized base would do the same depending on what country you’re in and what the coins are made of. An almost imperceptible angle to the base would also work. Put all those together and you can pretty much guarantee that a lot less coins fall out than go in.
      Law Enforcement has the nerve to call the shell-games behind laundromats a scam, but these machines are almost worse, because you can’t even catch them cheating you.
      I’d go so far as to not call these games at all, because there is no actual aspect of game involved. They are gambling, and even that only to a minute degree.

      • Touchdown_Spenser says:

        Everything you said is true, yes. My lizard-brain rebuts: IT LOOKS LIKE A BUNCH OF COINS ARE ABOUT TO FALL!

        It’s diabolical.

        • NakedSnake says:

          Yo, is your avatar Jason Fly from XIII? That game/bande dessinee is awesome.

        • Touchdown_Spenser says:

           Yeah! I’ve only played the game, but that was worth it for the voice acting alone. The whole thing is so wonderfully stylish.

  11. snazzlenuts says:

    I would’ve wasted those 16 minutes looking at something else less exciting. “What would that be?” you ask. I don’t know. That’s the best I could come up with after watching 16 minutes of someone playing the coin-pusher game.

    • The_Misanthrope says:

       Considering there are also videos of specific songs looping over and over again on Youtube, I’m sure you’re right.

      • Cornell_University says:

        or just parts of songs!  “Popped a molly I’m sweating for six minutes” was in pretty heavy rotation in my household for a while there.

  12. TheMostPopularCommenter says:

    When I was 15 I got a massive windfall on one of these things (like more than £2) and then I blew all of it. I haven’t so much as bought a lottery ticket since.

  13. Cornell_University says:

    Back before my girlfriend and I had a washer/dryer, the nearby laundromat had one of these things (I assume as a reason to waste your spare quarters at the end of your wash and dry).  I always broke even.  I only played it a handful of times, but I always won exactly one quarter.  Every time.  I wear it as a foolish point of pride, knowing from my youth in the Just Funs and Cyberstations of the world that those things are usually a huge bust.

    Kinda sorta related if you squint: I was on a family vacation to Utah once (my family is stupid) and whoever packed the claw game didn’t do it right, as in the span of ten minutes I won like 15 stuffed toys.  it made the plane ride home a laff a minute comedy rollercoaster for everyone involved.

    If your thirst for pointless anecdotes has not yet be sated, you can find me at the Barcade in Chicago this weekend, losing embarrassingly at Xmen Pinball.

  14. Cornell_University says:

    Also, this is a fascinating sub genre to the already mostly pointless “let’s play ____” genre.  Beyond watching people way better than you performing speedruns, no deaths, etc. I don’t entirely understand how these videos are popular… with me.  Oh it starts innocently enough “hey, I know I have to work tomorrow but I never played all the way through Sonic Adventure before I sold it, better check that out”.  Fast forward several hours and I’m intently listening to some Danish guy describe the combat mechanics of some Xbox game I’ll never play.  That the idea of watching people I don’t know play video games would end up being more distracting than the video games themselves never occurred to me, or even my parents when they were deadset against my brother and I getting an NES as children I’d wager.

    I’m not alone either.  Those people get MILLIONS of views.

    • DrFlimFlam says:

      I can see the draw in a person who is good at a game play it. Like I should watch a good player take on Gunvalkyrie, a game made for obsessive players of skill, not me.

  15. lokimotive says:

    I have to wholeheartedly agree with Teti that this guy is cute. He seems like the type of guy that I would want to occasionally hang out with in High School, but who would rather quickly lose his appeal because he would just want to go to the mall all the time and putz around with the arcade machines. At the same time, he just seems too lackadaisical to be the type of guy who constantly talks about arcade machines: if you told him to shut up about it he’d just be like, yeah, that’s cool man.

    Basically, he’s the Platonic ideal of a low key suburban high schooler. It’s slightly sad that, according to his facebook page, he’s actually 26, but that’s okay.

  16. JokersNuts says:

    I was at Dave and Busters a month ago and knocked a number of coins off the ledge and won a huge Green Lantern prize from the Claw Game. First time and it was awesome.

  17. Blatherly says:

    Don’t really use these machines much, but once spent an entire day with some friends going around playing those machines. I started with a five pound note, converted that into 250 2p coins in a cup and off I went. I kept mental tract of every 20 coins I put in and by lunch time I was up by about a pound. By the end of the day I had nothing. It occurs to me that the very process of getting change for those damn things was me instantly resigning that money as lost- I was unlikely to convert it back.

    Ultimately a fiver for a day’s entertainment probably isn’t too bad, but the dreariness of that entertainement wasn’t exactly fulfilling in any way.

  18. Phillip Marshall says:

    I wish I could be this articulate about my youtube browsing habits.

  19. waxlion says:

    I only watched long enough to affirm whether the guy was cute, I couldn’t find the actual coin dropping so I lost interest.

    I wasn’t really clear from the origami $5 in the machine, so are there states where these things actually return money and not tickets? (Or wait, I think as a kid they used tokens in these things in my area?)

  20. Asinus says:

    I would have watched the coin pusher video because: 
    1) Like him, I see the coins there and wonder, “How can they not fall?” 
    2) The rational side of my brain knows there’s a kicker at the end of that platform, and the whole point is to appear as though they’re going to get you to feed your money to the machine.
    3) This all has built up a considerable amount of curiosity about how many coins it takes to get anything at all back, and this video assuages that curiosity.

    If his other videos are like this, essentially playing the sort of games that i know are (especially) a waste of money, I might be inclined to watch some more of them. There’s no allure of his personality (though his willingness to talk to his camera as though there is someone there with him makes it more pleasant to watch) or any big mystery to it– he’s just throwing his money away so we don’t have to. I salute you for that, sir. 

  21. Ed Smith says:

     Someone has to be super lucky to win these games.

  22. Rubicon Development says:

    Hey, it gets better (or worse)

  23. NickRepublic says:

    I had tears of laughter in my eyes the entire time I was reading this. Great article!