I’ve had pinball on my list of potential play activities for 100 Days of Play for almost as long as I’ve been doing it. But I hadn’t managed to find myself somewhere with a machine until now. The reason I’ve been seeking it out: I simply love pinball. I finally locate some machines in a seedy gambling room in Soho. We get told off for taking photos.
I think the thing I find different about pinball to computer arcade machines (which, sure, are great) is the physicality of it. Stuart Brown talks about the kinaesthetic play personality – someone who plays with movement – and I reckon this is connected to that. You aren’t just making pixels go here and there virtually – a physical ball is bouncing around in real space and shooting up ramps and knocking down flags.
There’s a moment of real exuberance where an unintended trick shot sees the ball jump off a ramp and land on top of another section of the playing zone. They’ve anticipated this, with a perspex plate sloping gently to drop the ball back into play. But it has a transgressive quality, as if I’ve gone somewhere I’m not supposed to. A computer game bug is never so delightful.
And then there’s the multi-ball, or, in the case of this Spider-man machine, a ‘fusion malfunction’ which results in an endless stream of balls being shot out, returning each time they drop down the bottom. Frenetic, madcap, fast-paced, it has me wildly rapping at the flippers and hoping to save at least some.
One day, I’ll own a pinball machine. My dream!
The world changed from having the determinism of a clock to having the contingency of a pinball machine – Heinz R. Pagels
Ease of play: 5/10
Resemblance to play: 9/10
Potential frequency of play: Medium