You're probably familiar with the claw crane machine, a particularly frustrating arcade game that featured in the movie "Toy Story." You use a joystick to control a metal claw inside a see-through box. When you think it's in the right position, you drop the claw and hope it picks up some sweet prize, like a stuffed My Little Pony or an action figure.
The online Liberty Games claw game is just as challenging as its in-person counterparts. Which makes sense, because it's a real claw machine, one that's been rigged up to be controlled through a browser. You get four controls: right, left, up and grab. A live video feed of the machine shows it in action.
Liberty Games explains that it had a Sierra crane machine kicking around. The company attached a camera for the live stream and made it obey browser controls through the use of a Raspberry Pi micro computer and some custom coding.
The claw machine will run online through December 23. Its normal hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. GMT, which is 1 a.m. to 10 a.m. PT. Each of the stuffed prizes has a monetary value attached: A stuffed bear wearing a Santa hat is worth £5 (about $7, AU$10), for example. If you manage to successfully snag a toy, then Liberty Games will donate that amount to St. Mungo's Broadway, a homelessness charity.
Liberty Games has explored some entertaining maker projects in the past, including a Bitcoin arcade machine that eschews quarters and requires cryptocurrency before giving you access to classics like Donkey Kong and Pac-Man.
This latest gaming mashup is a beauty thanks to the mix of claw machine nostalgia and modern maker ethos with a charity twist.
I gave the claw machine a try. I failed. I tried again. I failed again. My childhood arcade futility came flooding back to me in waves of memory. At least Liberty Games set this particular machine to "maximum generosity," ratcheting up the claw strength to improve the odds. I just needed to work on my aim.
I tried again. Success! I captured a stuffed bear, simultaneously doing a good deed and triumphing over one of the trickiest games I've ever tried to play. Take that, claw machine.