Sunday, April 27, 2008

Pinball Wizard And Body Table King

Mr. Gary Stern, the last pinball machine magnate, is a wise-cracking, fast-talking 62-year-old with a shock of white hair, matching white frame glasses and a deep tan who eats jelly beans at his desk and recently hurt a rib snowboarding in Colorado. Gary says half of his company’s machines now go into homes and not a corner arcade. Image Credit: Sally Ryan - NYT

Pinball Wizard And Body Table King

There was a time in America where pinball could be played almost anywhere … corner shops, markets, bars, arcades and bowling alleys to mention a few. The game was so popular that dozens of companies popped to produce the machines and fill the demand.

Today, however, demand for new machines is down and instead of dozens of manufacturers, there is only one on this Oblate Spheroid that remains true to the goal of providing the stand-up flipper and ball game machine.

Many assume the luster is off of the rose of mechanical gaming devices like pinball machines but the problem may be more than competition from electronic alternatives provided by home computers, dedicated hand held touch-screen PDA’s, and cellphones. The problem with the demand being down might be more in having to do with footprint and the availability of spaces that were once pinball friendly.

There are pachinko machines at the museum, which the curator of the museum keeps working on, so he has always has some spare parts he doesn’t need. So: when you visit the museum, don’t forget to take home your complimentary piece of pachinko history! Or better yet, indulge your burgeoning gambling addiction with a personal pachinko machine at home. Caption and Image Credit:

Pinball enthusiasts believe that the pendulum will swing back and space available will come back for these grand body table amusement devices (not to be confused with the Asian game, Pachinko) … the pinball machine.

GameSetWatch has a wonderful gallery up showing off some of the amazing pinball machines that can be found at the Pinball Hall of Fame in Las Vegas. In their second set of pictures, the site concentrates on some of the "classic" pinball machines found in the collection. The grooviest by far has got to be Bally's Tommy-themed pinballer Capt. Fantastic, though there are plenty more to see on the site. Caption and Image Credit: Brian Crecente

This excerpted from the New York Times -

For a Pinball Survivor, the Game Isn’t Over
By MONICA DAVEY - New York Times - Published: April 25, 2008

Being inside a pinball machine factory sounds exactly as you think it would. Across a 40,000-square-foot warehouse here, a cheery cacophony of flippers flip, bells ding, bumpers bump and balls click in an endless, echoing loop. The quarter never runs out.

But this place, Stern Pinball Inc., is the last of its kind in the world. A range of companies once mass produced pinball machines, especially in the Chicago area, the one-time capital of the business. Now there is only Stern. And even the dinging and flipping here has slowed: Stern, which used to crank out 27,000 pinball machines each year, is down to around 10,000.
“There are a lot of things I look at and scratch my head,” said Tim Arnold, who ran an arcade during a heyday of pinball in the 1970s and recently opened The Pinball Hall of Fame, a nonprofit museum in a Las Vegas strip mall. “Why are people playing games on their cellphones while they write e-mail? I don’t get it.”

“The thing that’s killing pinball,” Mr. Arnold added, “is not that people don’t like it. It’s that there’s nowhere to play it.”
Though pinball has roots in the 1800s game of bagatelle, these are by no means simple machines. Each one contains a half-mile of wire and 3,500 tiny components, and takes 32 hours to build — as the company’s president, Gary Stern, likes to say, longer than a Ford Taurus.
The manufacturing plant is a game geek’s fantasy job, a Willy Wonka factory of pinball.

Some designers sit in private glass offices seated across from their pinball machines.

Some workers are required to spend 15 minutes a day in the “game room” playing the latest models or risk the wrath of Mr. Stern. “You work at a pinball company,” he explained, grumpily, “you’re going to play a lot of pinball.” (On a clipboard here, the professionals must jot their critiques, which, on a recent day, included “flipper feels soft” and “stupid display.”)

Pachinko Balls - Pachinko is a game where the player floods a verticle board with hundreds of balls that bounce off of pins. Some balls find there way to accrue poins or money. Image Credit:

A Box Of Pinballs - The typical machine has only six balls where the player keeps one ball in play as long as possible to accrue points for extra game plays. Image Credit: Sally Ryan - NYT

And in a testing laboratory devoted to the physics of all of this, silver balls bounce around alone in cases for hours to record how well certain kickers and flippers and bumpers hold up.
The creation of the flipper — popularized by the Humpty Dumpty game in 1947 — transformed the activity, which went on to surges in the 1950s, ’70s and early ’90s.

“Everybody thinks of it as retro, as nostalgia,” Mr. Sharpe said. “But it’s not. These are sophisticated games. Pinball is timeless.”
Jovita Maravilla uses a soldering iron to attach wires to the game board of a pinball machine. Each one contains a half-mile of wire and 3,500 tiny components, and takes 32 hours to build. Image Credit: Sally Ryan - NYT

“The whole coin-op industry is not what it once was,” Mr. Stern said.

Corner shops, pubs, arcades and bowling alleys stopped stocking pinball machines. A younger audience turned to video games. Men of a certain age, said Mr. Arnold, who is 52, became the reliable audience. (“Chicks,” he announced, “don’t get it.”)
In the United States, Mr. Stern said, half of his new machines, which cost about $5,000 and are bought through distributors, now go directly into people’s homes and not a corner arcade. He said nearly 40 percent of the machines — some designed to appeal to French, German, Italian and Spanish players — were exported, and he added that he had been working to make inroads in China, India, the Middle East and Russia.
“Look, pinball is like tennis,” said Mr. Stern, noting that a tennis court could never, for instance, be made round and that certain elements of a pinball play field are equally unchangeable and lasting. “This is a ball game. It’s a bat and ball game, O.K.?”

Reference Here>>

1 comment:

Chataholic said...

About 1,000 pinball games have been made into virtual computer simulators. Search google for pinmame vplauncher "future pinball" and "visual pinball" to learn about roms, tables and running the emulated machin codes.