As an outsider, I appreciate how helpful folks here with my first questions. Here's another one.
Based on reading some of the conversations here and my own limited experience, I get the feeling that there are highly skilled players who, if they have been able play on the same machine many times, can get very good at making certain desirable shots by controlling the plunger, flippers, and whatever other control possibilities a game allows. At the same time, my gut feeling is that given how complex some of the playing fields are, there is always going to be some element of chance, even for the best players. Maybe sometimes it matters whether a ball hits a bumper a half a millimeter to the left or right, for example, ends up, after a couple of other bounces, making the difference between the ball ending up on one side or the other side of the playfield. Or maybe very slight differences in flipper timing--differences too small for anyone to control, can have this effect. (This sort of phenomenon is what's known as sensitive dependence in chaos theory--when very small early differences can cause very large later differences.) Or maybe variation in ball densities or smoothness could even make a difference. Even for the most skilled players on a machine they know well--even one the player owns.
That's my suspicion, but I don't know.
(This is another one of those things that might make a difference about exactly what I say when I use a pinball machine as an analogy in the philosophy of science book I'm writing.)
Thanks! I'm really curious to see what people say.