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Save pinball!
August 3, 2002 3:56 PM   Subscribe

Save pinball! "It's an American icon," said Stern, ever the salesman. "Pinball is cool because it is retro. It's a Volkswagen bug, a PT Cruiser, khaki pants."
posted by justgary (23 comments total)

 
Well yeah, when they make pinball 50 cents, it is no wonder no one plays it anymore. I don't go to any arcades anymore cause I lose 10 bucks within 10 minutes... That's no fun.
posted by banished at 4:11 PM on August 3, 2002


If you're in the bay area, there's the annual Cal Extreme Arcade/Pinball thing. It's a show/sale/demo of hundreds of old standup arcade games and hundreds of pinball machines. You pay $25 and get to play unlimited all weekend in a convention center.

It's coming up next month, and I was planning on being there until they kick me out (hmm, maybe a good place for a MetaFilter gathering?).
posted by mathowie at 4:18 PM on August 3, 2002


I still love pinball. I have fond memories of playing round after round of pinball with a buddy of mine at a strip club after getting off of work.

You can pound the crap out of the flipper buttons and spill beer all over the glass and it would still play perfectly.

That, and there really is nothing like having a beer buzz while trying to keep three balls in play while being distracted by strippers. :)
posted by lasthrsman at 4:38 PM on August 3, 2002


It's a show/sale/demo of hundreds of old standup arcade games and hundreds of pinball machines. You pay $25 and get to play unlimited all weekend in a convention center.

I really need to move. If I was within 300 miles, I'd be there.

Well yeah, when they make pinball 50 cents, it is no wonder no one plays it anymore. I don't go to any arcades anymore cause I lose 10 bucks within 10 minutes... That's no fun.

I don't think, however, price has anything to do with the decline in pinball popularity. People don't ignore the pinball machines because they're 50 cents, they bypass them for the 'doom' style games all along the wall.

And losing 10 bucks in 10 minutes playing pinball goes back to not understanding how pinball is played.
posted by justgary at 4:38 PM on August 3, 2002


When I was a kid (early 70s), I really loved playing pinball. My parents were concerned about my safety, since the pinball arcades were full of unsavory characters (as mentioned in the article). Their solution was to buy one for me.

The machine was 8 ball and it was a great game. There was a little window on the backglass that showed the number of games left. We used to open the back, spin it up to 99 and go to town.

It took some searching, but I found it at al's gameroom - (al has one popup).

Thanks for posting the story, brought back some good memories.
posted by sciatica at 5:22 PM on August 3, 2002


I'm still kicking myself for not buying a couple of pinballs back when I managed a video arcade in the early '80s.
posted by MrBaliHai at 5:25 PM on August 3, 2002


GameWorks wants 3 credits for a game of pinball, which comes out to over $0.50 per game. Too much for a game of pinball.
posted by benjh at 5:53 PM on August 3, 2002


$0.50 for 15-20 minutes worth of fun??? That's a bargain.
posted by sciatica at 5:56 PM on August 3, 2002


There are a lot of events like the Cal Extreme pinball show. Coming in October, there's one in south central Pennsylvania called the White Rose Gameroom Show, and I went to the Allentown Pinball Wizard's Convention about two months ago.
posted by MegoSteve at 6:04 PM on August 3, 2002


Pinball machines (or tables, if you're from the Old Country) rose in price not because of greed or competition, but because of their design and upkeep (1, 2). All the extra frills - audio speakers, flashing lights, LED screens, etc. along with flippers and bumpers, can misalign and wear out very rapidly, depending on gameplay and the overall quality of the manufacturer's work.

The MagnaBall series of games from Williams are an example of how frustrating it can be to properly align certain releases, particularly when the companies have changed course or gone out of business over the past couple decades.
posted by Smart Dalek at 6:06 PM on August 3, 2002


I am a Pinball Maniac. I just wanted to share that.

And I blame Pinball Inflation for the demise of my beloved Pinball. In the old days, you couldn't get a million points if you played for 6 hours. Now, you get a million for the SkillShot.

*weeps*
posted by Kafkaesque at 6:17 PM on August 3, 2002


My machine rolled over at 9999!
posted by sciatica at 8:44 PM on August 3, 2002


Man, this brings back memories of college. I used to play games like Terminator 2, Attack From Mars, and Theatre of Magic all the time. There's nothing quite like the sound when the solenoid lets you know you've gotten a free game. I remember one year, I lived in an apartment with an indoor atrium containing the pinball game Demolition Man, and my roommates and I would play that game until dawn, often using quarters that should've gone towards laundry.

And justgary, I agree with you and think that pinball machines would be immensely popular if people just knew how to properly play them. Especially considering, banished, that most of the popular video games often cost $1-2 dollars to play, making pinball machines much cheaper.
posted by EatenByAGrue at 10:01 PM on August 3, 2002


I agree with you and think that pinball machines would be immensely popular if people just knew how to properly play them.

Well, it depends on how you define "properly play." There are people who have never played pinball before, go up to a machine, put in their quarters, and then can't even figure out how to start the game (despite the blinking start button). They walk away, mad at pinball for stealing their money. (The original software in Cirqus Voltaire actually automatically started the game after receiving the second quarter.) Many newbies are just confused by pinball. if pinball is to succeed, the machines have to be simple enough to make them return again and again.

But if people learn to play them too well, then that's a bad thing. The operators aren't going to profit if you constantly have half-hour games on Medieval Madness and are surfing on your replays. Most machines are designed so that the average game is around three minutes. For pinball to succeed, more average people need to play, not more pinball wizards.

Here's another recent pinball news article. It partially focuses on a recent Pittsburgh tournament, but also analyzes pinball's popularity in general.

Internet Pinball Database - to get the info on your favorite machine
rec.games.pinball - if you want to argue how to save pinball

keep flipping,
posted by gluechunk at 10:39 PM on August 3, 2002


This plus this times these are almost enough to make me want to go Windows. Has anyone here had the opportunity to try them?

In the meantime, anytime I see a Stern table I sink at least a buck or two into it. While I miss the original themes and graphics on many of the Williams and Bally tables (I know Stern makes original-themed tables too, but I rarely run across them the way I find the licensed ones), I'm glad to be able to play any shiny new pin, even if it's an Austin Powers or Monopoly table.

Of course, Williams got out of the pin business to concentrate on slots - one of their biggest hit series are the Monopoly slot machines. Is this true irony, or only in the Alanis sense?
posted by britain at 11:20 PM on August 3, 2002


Bah, here is a much better link for the Austin Powers table.
They've got a feature on the next Stern table too!
posted by britain at 11:25 PM on August 3, 2002


Of course, Williams got out of the pin business to concentrate on slots

Although Stern is the one who manufactures Monopoly and Roller Coaster Tycoon, they were both designed by Pat Lawlor Design. Lawlor (and some others working at PDL) used to work at Williams before getting laid off. So you'll find elements in those games that may remind you of other Lawlor games (like Funhouse, Addams Family, Twilight Zone, etc.).

(btw, RCT is currently on test in Chicago so check it out if you can.)
posted by gluechunk at 1:09 AM on August 4, 2002


gluechunk, I agree with you. The way I see it, pinball has a lot more depth to the gameplay than an average video game, as you can choose what you want to do at almost any time, unlike video games, where the goals are generally sequential. But that's also a problem to the uninitiated, since a lot of times, what to go for isn't readily apparent to someone who hasn't played pinball much before.
posted by EatenByAGrue at 11:36 AM on August 4, 2002


I never understood the appeal of pinball. You put your 10p in, fire the ball off, and the ball comes down straight between the flippers where you can't reach it. Oh yes, that's fun, all right.
posted by salmacis at 3:50 PM on August 4, 2002


I never understood the appeal of pinball. You put your 10p in, fire the ball off, and the ball comes down straight between the flippers where you can't reach it.

If this is constantly happening, then maybe the machine needs to be properly leveled. Point this out to the operator so that they can correct it.

Or it could be that you just don't know how to play. Here are some pinball skills you may want to learn so that your games last longer.

Some games are very appealing simply because they have a deep ruleset, something that may not be obvious to the casual observer. For example, read through the Medieval Madness rulesheet if you have a few spare minutes.
posted by gluechunk at 4:00 PM on August 4, 2002


Thanks for the links gluechuck. Internet Pinball Database has helped to surface great memories of playing the Twilight Zone and a handful of others from my early days of college.
posted by bucko at 8:42 PM on August 4, 2002


What was the point of that article? To say pinball is dead? Oh darn!
posted by juicyraoul at 4:57 AM on August 5, 2002


I knew it was true love when my fiance sold his four pinball machines to buy my engagement ring.

I'll have to surprise him with a new pinball machine, one of these days!
posted by ericableu at 6:27 AM on August 5, 2002


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