In our day to day it is easy to get desensitized by the same things that you see constantly – over and over, you start to lose track of creativity because nothing seems creative anymore. Sometimes you just need to step out of the box, and look at something different to get inspired. That something, is Pinball. Pinball, is a not so long lost art form. Today, it’s all about Pinball. Pinballlll. Nothing else matters.
I remember playing sonic spinball on sega genesis as a kid, it all began for me there. From there I would play the “pinball games” that showed up early on the PC as “shareware” man did those suck. Then I ventured over to the pinball section of the local arcade and tried the real thing – I was hooked. Pinball is this sacred mix of Technology with Art, Craftsmanship and programming – it is a beautiful thing when it is done correctly. There are so many things that go into it! The craftsmanship of the actual cabinet, the illustration work put into all the crazy scenes on all the pieces of the machine, putting it all together, programming all the crazy do-dads in the cabinet to react when they get hit by the ball – the software, scoring system, oh and creating the do-dads! LOTS OF WORK! The pinball machines we talk about today though are doing it correctly. The moment you pull back the ball shooter and let that shiny metallic ball fly through the course – it is pure enjoyment and excitement until it falls through your fingers. How could you not be inspired by that type of retro gaming experience? These days we have angry birds and tons of other crazy games in our living rooms and on our phones via mobile apps, but you still can’t replace the feeling you get when you are at a pinball machine cabinet slapping that little ball around. How bout we take a step back and look at how far Pinball came, just to fall to home consoles and other forms of modern entertainment.
History of Pinball
A lot of people do not know this, but did you know that the early days of pinball lead to it being banned by many states in America? That is right. It was once illegal to play pinball from the early 1940s until 1976 in New York City (they actually went so far as to have machines destroyed! The horror!). Why, you ask? It was considered a form of “Gambling” – it was viewed as a coin-operated game of “chance” where free games could be won. Although it was nothing like actual traditional gambling games that you could find in modern forms literally anywhere these days, even in mobile gaming apps.
If you want a super awesome look at the history of modern pinball then you need to check out the documentary “Special When Lit” (it is on Netflix) it covers all sorts of crazy facts about pinball and the machines, interviews with game designers and plenty to geek out on, I would recommend it if you love pinball machines like I do. Let us dig a little bit into wikipedia for now though.
Pinball is a type of arcade game, usually coin-operated, in which points are scored by a player manipulating one or more steel balls on a play field inside a glass-covered cabinet called a pinball machine. The primary objective of the game is to score as many points as possible. Points are earned when the ball strikes different targets on the play field. A drain is situated at the bottom of the play field, protected by player-controlled plastic bats called flippers. A game ends after all the balls fall into the drain. Secondary objectives are to maximize the time spent playing (by earning “extra balls” and keeping the ball in play as long as possible) and to earn bonus games (known as “replays”).
The origins of pinball are intertwined with the history of many other games. Games played outdoors by rolling balls or stones on a grass course, such as bocce or bowls, eventually evolved into various local ground billiards games played by hitting the balls with sticks and propelling them at targets, often around obstacles. Croquet, golf and paille-maille eventually derived from ground billiards variants.
The evolving and specializing outdoor games finally led to indoor versions that could be played on a table, such as billiards, or on the floor of a pub, like bowling and shuffleboard. The tabletop versions of these games became the ancestors of modern pinball.
In France, during the long 1643–1715 reign of Louis XIV, billiard tables were narrowed, with wooden pins or skittles at one end of the table, and players would shoot balls with a stick or cue from the other end, in a game inspired as much by bowling as billiards. Pins took too long to reset when knocked down, so they were eventually fixed to the table, and holes in the bed of the table became the targets. Players could ricochet balls off the pins to achieve the harder scorable holes. A standardized version of the game eventually became known as bagatelle.
SO MUCH HISTORY! Man, you never knew there was so much to a game where you flip a ball through some loops did ya? Well now you know… and knowing is half the battle. GIJOE. I hope these machines inspire you to create something beautiful and intricate that meld technology with art (and fun!) so that someone can physically hold something you made, and enjoy it. I think we can all get inspired by stuff like that in the days of digital over saturation. So get inspired, and go do awesome stuff! Oh, and play some pinball, because life is short. Enjoy!
Star Trek: The Next Generation
It is interesting to see how they put something as futuristic as star trek into a comparably ancient technology that has been around for decades! So much win!
I remember playing this one at the local arcade around the time when fighting games were just starting to get less popular – LOVED IT. Miss those days.
This particular one is for sale – sure would like to have a basement full of these bad boys!
Easily my favorite pinball machine EVERRRR!!! It was SO FUN. I used to play this in the local dollar theatre with my dad. I was big into Medieval times, and this one was so well done – the mini games were a blast. MEMORIES!!
I remember having to hit the castle enough to make the draw bridge come down – oh my god it was so hard, and SO SATISFYING WHEN YOU WON! Now THAT is how you design a pinball machine!
Theatre of Magic
The Addams Family Pinball
There is actually one of these in town right now – the sound was stuck on SUPER LOUD haha
Indiana Jones: The Pinball Adventure
Tales of the Arabian Nights
Look at that retro flyer design from 1993! So awesome!
Wow, check out this ridiculously nostalgic pure 90’s promo video I dug up for the White Water pinball machine, going over the design and everything – SO COOL. All the feels! I love watching almost anything from the 90’s on youtube haha.
Totally remember playing this one in the arcade as well – the game designer had massive attention to detail, created beautiful artwork, AND made it super fun! Darn that ringmaster!
The Lord of the Rings
This one is a lot newer than the others (2003) but still Epic! The flyer even says so!
I LOVE THIS!! German version of the pinball machine poster! So awesome. DER HERR DER RING. I imagine Til from Rammstein singing it lol.
Attack from Mars
I remember this one too, sudden realization – I have played a lot of pinball.
It was fun shooting the shaking green aliens! I totally conquered those Martian bastards! *success kid fist pump*
This was one of the more “interesting” pinball machines I ever played as a kid haha – I remember this being out way back in 1996!
There were a lot of crazy little design details on this one (most of them have awesome little designs, but this one in particular has some great “Halloween” themed ideas and scary typography
Stuff like the spinning spider in the headboard of the cabinet MAKE pinball designs! Just because you can use technology to render a spider, doesn’t mean you can’t make a real spinning one, cuz FUN.
Awesome design, check out that timeless logo typography! This almost forgotten pinball machine from 1990 has a better logo and branding than most businesses out there!
Creature from the Black Lagoon
No Good Gofers
I was never a golf fan but I remember liking this one simply because I thought gophers were adorable. Which, they are. You are correct former younger version of myself. Good call. Oh and while I have you, invest in Apple stock.
The Simpsons Pinball Party
Anything Simpsons was a win. This one actually came out in 2003. The 90’s Arcade game was so fun also.
The Getaway: High Speed II
This one had that cool engine in it that would shake :D. Getaways are always so exciting!!
One of the newest machines on the list – from 2007!
What was your favorite Pinball Machine from your arcade days?? Have you ever designed a pinball machine arcade game (or any arcade game) or themed mobile app that you think looks awesome? Share with the class and let us know in the comments! Thanks for reading!
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