Casual fun vs. Competitive drive

As I get more serious about wanting to play competitively, I’ve noticed any desire to practice/play with others casually is sort of starting to fade out. Tonight I was deep in practice at the arcade when a buddy of mine stepped up and asked if I wanted to play with her. I guess she could tell by the look on my face that I wanted to practice alone. It was bad pinball etiquette and bad friend etiquette. I felt rotten afterwards but I can’t seem to reconcile the urge to compete/be very serious vs. that old feeling of casually playing for funsies.

I still love my bar league and my teammates but even practicing with them sometimes feels like an obligation. I can’t help but think I’ve become a selfish snob. =(

Anyway, my question is, is this pretty common as one becomes more advanced? I obviously still love pinball and competing, otherwise I wouldn’t keep doing it. But I guess it’s a “different kind of fun” now?


Might as well practice at chumming out with people between balls and then getting your deal together when it’s time to play. In competition, I wear headphones to keep from changing gears too much (socializing is fun but takes a lot of energy for me), but people that you haven’t seen in a while are going to want to chat and you gotta act like a human being, ya know. Even though you’re a totally bad pinball killa.


You can get yourself away from the competitive drive in a game by selecting an alternate objective besides score, one that makes the game harder and end faster. How many times can you shoot (dangerous thing)? How well can you play without ever trapping? That sort of thing can take your mind away from score and more toward funsies.


You have to be down to play with other players, it isn’t going to take away from your competitive edge, it will advance it. You get better from watching others play and from developing strategies from word of mouth. It will also familiarize you with playing multi player games like you will in competition. Many of my personal best games were from funsies multi-player games. I’m still a snob tho.


I have a question here, Bowen. Do you ever find yourself getting bored playing with other people who are nowhere near your skill level? Or, to phrase the question differently, do you find it more enjoyable to play with people who can seriously challenge you, say Cayle or Keith?

Personally, I find it not that interesting when I’m playing with a newbie who, say, still double-flips. And I sort of feel bad when I end up playing each ball for five minutes when theirs is gone after 20 seconds. It makes me want to play with someone closer to my skill level simply because I don’t like to hog the game or make someone else feel inadequate. (When people who don’t normally play pinball come to my home, I usually play only a single game so they can see what sort of things can happen on the machine, but then bow out, so they don’t have to stand around endlessly watching me play, and I invite them to play on their own.)

On the other hand, if the person is interested in learning something, I find that I enjoy watching them play and then showing them one or two things that I believe would improve their game the most.

I suspect age plays a part. I’m in my 50’s now and there’s nothing I enjoy more than playing casually with friends. When you’re playing in a league or a tournament, you’re trying to beat all the other players. When you’re playing with friends for fun, you’re all trying to put a beating on the game, not each other. Not coincidently, this is how I started in the hobby decades ago. Playing for fun with friends.

It helps when you have friends that are as good or better players than you. I remember going to the Santa Cruz boardwallk years ago with Neil Shatz, Rick Stetta and Marc Conant. The newest game there was BDK and it had a loose tilt. We all took turns wiping the floor with the game. Game wasn’t suitable for competitive play due to the loose tilt, but damb did we have fun putting up epic score after epic score on it. Pinball was designed to be cheap fun and we got more than our money’s worth that day.


Honestly, this is how I view competitions too. Yeah my goal is to finish with more points than the other players, but at the end of the day, it’s everyone versus the machine. If I’m on the losing end of someone blowing a game up, that’s perfectly fine. Makes me want to do the same thing when I step up, and it’s great to watch great pinball play.

This makes for a less stressful/intimidating competitive atmosphere imo. Totally understand that competition is serious business for some, but at my tournaments my number one goal is people to have fun and socialize. Maybe talk a little smack too. Haha


It’s so weird cuz’ I had a blast being very social at Pinburgh, cheering on my buds, playing dollar games and meeting new people/asking how everyone was doing during the tournament. But when I got back to my local I was all “wall-up-let-me-alone”. Maybe it’s just a phase :flushed:

this is known as the “go away I’m trying to get better at this” phase :slight_smile:

I find this is happening a lot less often, as the skill level of the average player seems to increase. I met some people the other night at A4cade who had only been playing 1-2 months but already knew about and were executing many different skill moves.


Share what you know with people who know less than you! Watching them improve their skills right in front of your eyes is a much different kind of satisfaction than doing well for yourself. I get pumped when I show someone a flipper trick or a way to reach an objective and they start having success with it. As a side benefit, you’ll probably gain some personal skills refinement and strategic clarity in the process.


Oh man I did this the other night when I came in to help teach a pinball 101 class and it was so satisfying. It was a situation where I could be comfortable explaining skills and didn’t have to worry about constantly asking “wait do you know this already?”


Usually when I step up to a game with someone who’s looking to learn, I ask them what they know about that particular machine. That way I have a better idea of what I’m working with and not repeating basic info, or having to worry about assuming things about their skill set one way or the other. More often than not, that sets up an opportunity to “unteach” what they thought was the right thing to do (ie. AFM saucers all day!) and get them on the right path.


I always find it flattering when anyone wants me to participate in a game. It is a polite reminder that pinball, at it’s core, couples a real physical activity with social interaction. There is a balance in allowing yourself some solo time batting practice. When I am watching a friend play, that’s when I reflect and learn what to do and what not to do.


Oh yea, I get this as well. My one trip to Valinor was while playing 2P with a casual player. If I find myself doing well against a newer player, I’ll use the game to explain to them what I’m shooting for, why, and how I’m trying to make the shot. I’ll let them play alone once the 2P game is done. If the game is taking too long I’ll do what Bowen mentions and go for risky stuff to end it earlier.