Perfect Game: 900
August 20, 2007 8:07 AM   Subscribe

Skee-Ball! (warning: music) Perhaps the longest-running branded arcade game ever invented was created in 1909, originally with a rotator-cuff-injury-inducing 36-foot long alley. Once shortened to a more manageable 14' (10' for the Chuck E. Cheese kiddie model), the game's popularity took off, remaining largely unchanged except for the 1970s electrification of the scoreboard. It's both a nostalgic pastime and a present-day boardwalk staple, even enjoying some hipster revivalism in the form of BrewSkee-Ball. You can even try building your own game.
posted by Miko (30 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Best. Game. Ever.
posted by tadellin at 8:19 AM on August 20, 2007

I always enjoyed taking a break from the video games to get some tactile, real world physics action with Skee-Ball. Then of course right back to Zaxxon.

Also: Skeezy Ballz.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:20 AM on August 20, 2007

I like Skee-Ball because it provides a clear-cut example of a discrete probability distribution that you can easily imagine varying (by adding more rings) until it approaches a continuous distribution.
posted by Wolfdog at 8:22 AM on August 20, 2007

One of its better-known incarnations: Superball!
posted by evilcolonel at 8:25 AM on August 20, 2007

Invented in Lansdale, PA- my home town.
posted by The White Hat at 8:27 AM on August 20, 2007

There are hipsters south of the Mason-Dixon line?! This is slightly more jarring than when a Duke law student spent 15 drunk minutes trying to convince me that the South was more preppy than the North.
posted by geoff. at 8:37 AM on August 20, 2007

Thank you so much for this post, Miko. My husband and I were dreaming about making our own skee-ball game after playing at the boardwalk in Rehoboth, DE this summer. It's great to see others have already thought it out.
posted by lagreen at 8:44 AM on August 20, 2007

Preferred delivery: Ricochet in off the sides
posted by poppo at 8:50 AM on August 20, 2007 [1 favorite]

Time for me to brag: As of two weeks ago, I have an authentic Skee-Ball game in my basement. It was purchased from the local arcade that I frequented during my youth, so there's no telling how many quarters I pumped into this very machine over the years.

This week my son and I are going to mod it so the "no quarter" button is built into the machine instead of hanging out the side like it does now. I've thought about doing some other work on it (painting, mainly), but for now I'm just going to leave it in its slightly used condition. According to the counter on the quarter system, it's been played over 140,000 times, and dispensed over 700,000 tickets.
posted by shinynewnick at 9:02 AM on August 20, 2007 [1 favorite]

shinynewnick: That's sweet. Any pictures? Also, does yours still dispense tickets?

I wonder if they'll ever come out with Skee-ball for the Wii.
posted by fallenposters at 9:24 AM on August 20, 2007

I'll toss up some pictures later today. The gentleman we purchased it from said it wouldn't dispense tickets, but I have yet to pop open that side and see what parts are missing. Unfortunately, there were no keys for the locked compartments, so I've had to disassemble it underneath to get access.

The other mod we'll do this week is to put a switch in for the speaker. The sound is great, but we'd like the option to go without at times.

Also, poppo is entirely correct. Bank off the wall, about 2/3rds of the way up the ramp. One of our "favorite" Skee Ball games had a homemade mark on the rail to approximate the sweet spot.
posted by shinynewnick at 9:32 AM on August 20, 2007

I like Skee-Ball because it provides a clear-cut example of a discrete probability distribution that you can easily imagine varying (by adding more rings) until it approaches a continuous distribution.

I like it because it's fun to roll the balls up the ramp into the holes.
posted by jefbla at 9:44 AM on August 20, 2007 [6 favorites]

I like the idea of building my own Skee-ball game, it'd go great next to my MAME cabinet, but it just wouldn't be the same without winning tickets to trade in for cheap imported prizes.
posted by bondcliff at 10:16 AM on August 20, 2007

Hey, that Flash game is a striking simulation of the real thing in that IT'S FUCKING RIGGED I HATE IT I HATE IT I HATE IT.
posted by bokane at 10:23 AM on August 20, 2007

I wonder if they'll ever come out with Skee-ball for the Wii.

You're in luck, fallenposters! Carnival Games is scheduled to be available August 27, 2007.
posted by christopherious at 10:26 AM on August 20, 2007

Needless to say, Carnival Games will include "Skeeball".
posted by christopherious at 10:38 AM on August 20, 2007

I built a Meatwad Skee-ball game when I worked for some Adult Swim marketing corporation. It wasn't too fancy though, and it was a major pain to construct.

There are hipsters south of the Mason-Dixon line?!

Yeah, it turns out that some Southerners can even read! Who would've guessed?
posted by solipsophistocracy at 10:42 AM on August 20, 2007

Last time I played was at South of the Border (where Pedro has sometheeng for every Juan- the machines are right by the Golf of Mexico).
eBay has a couple (for pickup only- go figure).
posted by MtDewd at 10:46 AM on August 20, 2007

the machines are right by the Golf of Mexico

God, I have to go back there.
posted by Miko at 10:49 AM on August 20, 2007

I don't think I've played Skee-ball, since being a kid and going to Rockaway Playland, as a kid. It was a lot of fun.
posted by stifford at 10:54 AM on August 20, 2007

Damn...South of the Border. Good times.
posted by davebush at 11:09 AM on August 20, 2007

Pedro's Weather Forecast: Chili today, hot tamale.
posted by ND¢ at 11:43 AM on August 20, 2007

I've always disliked the shorter 10 foot ones, but I never knew there was a 36 foot monster at some point.

God's a Skee-Ball fanatic
posted by inthe80s at 12:10 PM on August 20, 2007

On the above note:

I partly attribute my rocking Lazer Tag at the Massachusetts meetup to my donation of all the tickets I won playing Skee-ball while waiting for the local slackers to show up, to two random children.
posted by cobaltnine at 1:40 PM on August 20, 2007

the game is good, but too unforgiving. There are no off-the-net or otherwise "lucky" bounce-ins. The only way to get the ball in a hole is with a sweet, fluid roll off the ramp. Everything else klunks into the 10-pt rim.
posted by jeremy b at 2:18 PM on August 20, 2007

The only way to get the ball in a hole is with a sweet, fluid roll off the ramp.

Or by crawling up the ramp and simply dumping the balls in the inner circle, as seemingly every kid but me would do at Tunnels of Fun. They'd be the ones carrying away the BB guns at the prize counter, while I had to make do with two thumbtacks and a moustache comb.
posted by Iridic at 3:15 PM on August 20, 2007 [1 favorite]

I think it's wonderfully challenging. I just blew $10 on Skee Ball as part of my birthday celebration. As a result of some expert coaching, I was able to land four 100s - the first of my life, and I grew up playing the game. I'm generally good for 30s-50s, but 100s were incredibly exciting. A perfect 900 game is now a lifetime goal, giving me something to look forward to for the next fortysome summers.
posted by Miko at 5:04 PM on August 20, 2007 [1 favorite]

I too have a skee-ball machine in my basement. It works wonderfully, with full sound, ticket dispensing, the works. For a solid 6 months to a year I watched ebay to find one come up for auction in a reasonably close location and for a reasonable price. There were near misses over those months - good units that just went for too much money - but then my day came. I won at a really good price and I didn't have to drive too far to pick it up.

Rather than building one, I'd recommend trying the ebay route. You can often pick up machines for around $500. In my case all I had to do was rewire the flashing light at the top as a connector came loose. From there on in, it was pure bliss.

The coolest thing? It was an anniversary present to my wife, who was ga-ga over it. My present that year? A vintage Space Invaders upright game in near perfect condition. Ahh, geeks in love.
posted by Muddler at 5:05 PM on August 20, 2007

@lagreen: Rehoboth has been the boardwalk of my youth. I went to Funland for the first time when i was 2, and was there this summer (I'm now 18).
posted by silby at 8:01 PM on August 20, 2007

I spent the summers of my youth hustling skeeball on the Boardwalks of Atlantic City and Wildwood. From the ripe age of seven on to about thirteen I was a force to be reckoned with. Mom was never pleased when I would return with my pants pockets loaded down with quarters won, instead of earned. Dad saw it a bit differently and thought that it was pretty harmless. Fast forward 39 yrs and I find myself confronted with the task of not only entertaining but hopefully winning over the young son of the apple of my eye. The plan seemed simple enough, an afternoon at Chuck E. Cheese. How tough could that be?
Oh my god! Not five minutes into my first watch, Marshall, the cute red headed 6 year old, practically knocks himself out in that crazy assed tunnel thing! I can still hear the thud of his little head smacking square into that wretched tube like it was yesterday. It only took about twenty minutes to talk him down, he's way up inside the thing, injured and all kinds of dazed and confused. As for me I'm panic stricken, imagining his face a crimson mask, or maimed for life and WAY WAY out of my element. It's while applying an ice pack to the golf ball sized and thankfully bloodless bump on his forehead that I notice the machines against the far wall. SKEEBALL!!! Ah sweet salvation I remember that!
And not just any Skeeball, but "high score progressive jackpot Skeeball" Holy cow! That's innovation! On my forth token I was back in fine form and out streamed 300 or so coupons. I'd never seen a kids eyes or smile get so big! We spent that afternoon having a blast playing all sorts of games, with Marshall keeping a close eye on the progressive Jackpot. Every time it reached 150 we would run over and take it down! Final Score: One big lump on the forehead, a giant bag of cheap toys, and a father/son bond that grows stronger everyday.
posted by HappyHippo at 1:07 AM on August 21, 2007 [2 favorites]

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