Pinball Machines

"But aren't there some times when the ball just goes right down the middle, or down the side, and there's nothing you can do about it?"

"Yes; that's why you get at least 3 balls." --W. C. Davis; 1993

Early, during the first few years of my life, there were at least 3 trips to Gatlinburg, TN, where I got to spend hours playing easy pinball machines in that tourist-trap town. Pre-digital scoring pinball machines were rather similar; games were limited to set and drop targets, spinners, and roll-overs. A game of pinball in the early 70's was very dependent on the bounce, or "luck of the bounce" (a term for acknowledgement of how a heavy, round, spinning ball deflects at odd and unpredictable angles). I learned early flipper and nudging skills quickly; the spell was cast.

Some people don't understand that playing pinball is NOT a spectator sport. Even if by accident, players learn about the subtle nudging, leaning and pushing of the cabinet. And you cannot hit both flippers at the same time--at least not very often. Speaking of flippers; are they weak, strong, or even consistent? You will need to know these things.

Pinball and video games are frequently compared, and they should NOT be; they are completely seperate adventures--generally found in the same environment. I have only ONE thing to say about the difference between pinball and video, so cut and paste this:
When you put quarters in a pinball machine, your skill can win you any number of extra balls and/or extra games; you could be there all night, and you might even win enough games to sell some--thereby MAKING MONEY by playing pinball. When you put quarters in a video game, those quarters are gone forever. Other than (now) rolling the sunken ball of Golden Tee (I have a -24 game on my card.), and games of "Defender" back in the 80's, pinball is my reason to play games.

Side by side to the latest high-tech video games, a pinball machine is old-fashioned, simple, and has limited "everything". But in this simplicity is where the magic of pinball lies. It IS boring. It IS limited; but it is a complete world of boring and limited, and YOU can get LOST in it. You'll either learn flipper and nudging skills, or you won't get very far. But...

Please believe me; pinball is NOT for everybody. You must be easily amused, pay attention to detail, be very patient, and persistent. There are many good people who simply don't want to feel pinball's magic; respect that, and move on. I respect the folks who learn button sequences on joysticks and home controllers who can do role-play and war games for hours, and great for them.

But my true love is pinball. I'd love to run a retro arcade with quarter pinball machines, and no children. Today's children have neither the attention span nor the patience to appreciate pinball, and that's fine with me. I have no attention span or patience to deal with children.

The Overnight Guy's Favorite Pinball Machines

(This will be a very short list)

#1 Getaway (High Speed 2)
#2 Addam's Family
#3 Twilight Zone
#4 Dr. Dude
#5 Medieval Madness
#6 Jurassic Park Girlfriend
#6 is a fun link; check out the last 3 paragraphs

If you do not play pinball, then this paragraph won't make much sense: Addam's Family was the first game to have 12 "adventures" to get through, and then a bonus round ("tour the mansion"), and then you start the 12 adventures all over again--thereby creating a never-ending cycle of completing the 12 adventures over and over. Other machines followed this format of multiple repeatable adventures, like Jurassic Park and Twilight Zone. Pre-Addam's Family, Dr. Dude was the first game (I remember) to have multiple repeatable adventures (4 years before Addam's Family), so Dr. Dude does land in my top 5. Twilight Zone gets my #3 spot because of Rod Serling's voice, a wider and flatter playfield, more than 2 flippers, a random plastic "Powerball", plus the best music (Golden Earring's "Twilight Zone") AND best sound effects of all time. Getaway always tops my list of favorites because it has all the sound effects and lights of (the legendary) "High Speed", more than 2 flippers, and building the bonus runs through the 5 gears of a sportscar; there are Jackpots, Super Jackpots, and then Redline Mania (achieved when you top-out 5th gear, for a different version of 'tour the mansion'), and it's all repeatable. Medieval Madness, very late to the party, is a game designed for advanced pinball players. (The newest pinball created for advanced players is "Roller Coaster Tycoon", but I haven't even seen it yet.)

Some people have already left this page; if you are still here, then you may want to click on over to pinball news, and check out the Texas tournament that I missed; boy did they have some good games to play!

I was going to try and explain the growth of pinball from the mid-70's to the late 70's, early 80's to the mid-80's, but I'm sure that's been done by more qualified people. The only other thing I can do here is to list some of my best games.

These memories are not so important to me, but it has been suggested that I recall some of my best games of pinball ever, even from 20 years ago, that nourished my infatuation with the silver ball. Leading up to my first "turned over" game (achieving a score that is higher than the game can calculate, and thereby forces the machine to start over the scoring from zero) I had been honing my skills and consistently winning credits on a machine called
"Trident" at my local 7-11...

The first game I ever turned over the score on was the blue "Flash" game; around 1979, in Atlanta, at a little pizza place called Steverino's...

The first game I turned over twice, and the most impressive game of pinball I played (up to that time) was at the Time Out arcade in Atlanta (Lenox Square), 1987 (I thought it was during the Christmas '86 break, but maybe it was '87), on a machine called "Laser War" (Stern says the game did not exist until 1987, so there you go). I'd never seen the game before, but I played it for over 2 hours, won 30+ extra balls, and had a crowd of people around me (my best friend at the time, Stan, was there, and can confirm this)...

The longest game of pinball played, as of December, 2002, was a 4+ hour game of Addam's Family; 20+ billion points, in Athens, GA, 1998, at a little pizza place called Steverino's. (In 1995, at Steverino's in Athens, there were 4 [Dirty Harry, Addam's Family, Jurassic Park, and Eight Ball Deluxe] pinballs sitting side by side--the GOOD old days.)

(2009 update: In late 2005 I ran a 3-hour game of Nascar pinball, with no breaks, and scored 802 million. In 2008 I got the chance to BEG for Medieval Madness pinball to be at my favorite bar. They got it. A TRUE pinball player knows that you MUST score a billion on MM pinball at least once, or you're not really a pinball player. I played one game for 4 hours, with a few breaks, and scored 997 million. I was crushed. Less than a month later, I played for barely 3.5 hours, and finally scored my 1.089 billion--still on the game as the high score, as of 5-27-09. Yay me.)

Grace under pressure; when competetive players strike up a 4-player game of pinball, it can (obviously) take hours to complete. I remember back in the mid to late 80's, at a bar called the "Odyssey" in Athens, GA; Adam, Eli, tall Johnny, Johnny (the mad hatter) and I would play games of High Speed, Pinbot, F-14 Tomcat, Fire, and others; sometimes we would play only 1 or 2 games in a 5-hour trip to the bar. And competition is good, yes, but any real pinball freak knows that the supreme test of skill is how well a person can play a machine--alone; with no breaks and no major distractions. Although I regularly beat both Adam and Eli in competition, they earned higher scores when playing alone.

Okay, so what else do you want from me? Playing pinball has caused me to lose girlfriends, jobs, cars (long story), and lots of money. It is an addiction; like caffeine or nicotine, and I can control it for awhile, sure, but it's going to come back strong. Let me find one of these new Roller Coaster Tycoon machines, and SEE if I don't spend the next 6-10 hours in front of it--thereby risking my current girlfriend/job. Hey; girls and jobs can be replaced. Being a true lover of pinball is a serious fascination. Bite me.

In June of 2003, I completed a very interesting journey. Check out

6 Days in the Park

and see what you think of it.

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