Pinball machines, with their moving parts, ringing bells and bright lights,
are the ancestors of modern day video games. But traditionalists prefer the
jerky movements and tricky scoring procedures of a classic pinball machine.
Pinball games can be found in arcades, but often they are overshadowed
by their video game competitors. Pinball games that find their way into diners,
truck stops, hotels or convenience stores often get more play than the ones
you find in an arcade.
Other popular units are the ones that are found in some family rooms across
North America. If you're lucky, you'll have a friend who has rigged the game
so quarters aren't required!
Pinball was invented in the 1930s in Chicago. The name pinball comes from
very early models of the game, which involved an upright box that had a ball
that dropped from the top. It would be released and then would bounce off
pins or pegs, finally landing in a well at the bottom.
Pinball machines were banned in various states over the years because some
models offered cash pay-outs, and were considered gambling machines. In New
York City, the games were illegal from 1941 up until 1976.
Some pinball enthusiasts of today have mixed feelings about where this
hobby is going. Russ Jensen, a pinball lover from California, agrees that
the demand may have gone down in recent years, but thinks that companies will
be able to revive the interest.
Joanna Blair thinks that interest remains high. "Sega is involved in the
pinball industry, so there must be money to be made there. They take current
events and tap into the media to get new players."
One survey says that pinball accounts for one-quarter of the money made
in the coin-operated industry. In 1995, 350 players from 23 countries competed
in the world championships.
Every year pinball shows and events are held around the world and draw
in hundreds of people. Fans and collectors of all things pinball get to check
out classic arcade games and any new games, meet fellow enthusiasts, compete
in tournaments, and enjoy a wide range of experiences.
If you're not already hooked, some coins will get you started on your way.
Your typical game costs several quarters. When your skill level gets high
enough, those free games will come rolling in and your coins could last for
a few hours.
If you just have to have your own machine, you can pay as little as $250
for an older, used model, or close to $4,000 for a new model.
There are Internet shopping sites for new or used games, for all price
ranges and interests. The Mr. Pinball Classifieds web site gets hundreds of
visits each day from people looking to buy and sell pinball games!
Having good hand-eye coordination will help save those pesky balls from
disappearing from your grasp. Patience and perseverance will come in handy,
too. Standing for long periods of time is a physical demand of this game,
and so is manual dexterity (being able to move your hands and fingers well).
One side-effect that may occur for people who play a lot is tendinitis in
Players agree that to be good at the game, a common equation is 50 percent
skill, 30 percent strategy and 20 percent luck. When it comes to skill, there's
a fine line between controlling the game and the dreaded tilt. Some really
good players are able to make the ball do tricks, like backspins and side
spins. In multi-ball games, some can keep two balls on one flipper while keeping
the third ball in action.
Two points from the experts:
Never use both flippers at one time. Trap the ball with a flipper
to control the play.
Steer clear of some pinball wizards during play! Body English is what some
players use in their playing technique, which may include jumping or hunching
over the game.
For those lone wolves who spend hours and hours practicing their trade,
tournaments are a chance to exhibit their skills and to challenge others.
Just so you know what the stakes are, the winner at the world tournament is
awarded a trip for two to Hawaii, plus a brand new WMS pinball machine, a
trophy, and the Best Pinball Player in the World title.
Turning a pinball hobby into a career is possible. Consider using your
artistic ability to design images for new games. Manage an arcade or a convenience
store and encourage others to choose your pinball games over Mortal Combat.
Become a trader or a collector of games and share your stories with others.
Places to play pinball can be found in almost every city in North America.
What you play on might not include the latest technology, but pinball is one
of those games that you only have to learn once. The rest is just picking
up new techniques and new tricks -- and, of course, seeking out new challenges!
Professional and Amateur Pinball Association