Dirty and poor condition games

When I got into the competitive pinball scene last fall, one of the things I realized I needed to do more of was practice. At the time, that was difficult for me to achieve. I was working the hours most places that had pins were open, and I was free when they were closed. Eventually I caught wind of a 24-hour coffee shop close by that had a few pins, including the Addams Family.

This was the first Addams Family I had seen in real life. I had played the heck out of it on pinball arcade but there’s not even a comparison between the two. They’re different games as far as I’m concerned.

It was loud, (LOOK EVERYONE WE HAVE GUESTS! in a quiet coffee shop) the playfield wasn’t super clean, the scoops weren’t consistent, and the game was 3 plays for a dollar. Junkyard and No Fear were fun, but I ended up giving 80% of my quarters to the Addams Family every time.

Now, I hear time and again in the pinball community how much some folk dislike dirty or games that are in less than fair or great conditions. Personally, I enjoy playing games in various stages of functioning. Each pin is already different from each other… things like a sticky flipper or a drop target bank that stays down don’t make the game unplayable. It does make it more difficult, sure, but it also forces you to think and play differently than normal. Are there two lights out of a bank of 3 rollovers? Gotta remember which one is lit then! Is a scoop too powerful returning the ball? Time to practice drop catching!

I appreciate that loud, dirty, unreliable Addams Family. I learned some skills that would have taken much longer for me to develop if I had played on a game where everything went perfectly. If I had to say which skill I’m best at these days, it would be saving the ball. I have a dirty ol game to thank for that. :kissing:

How do you feel about these types of pins?

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A thousand times this.


As an almost exclusively location player, I totally agree with this. Playing machines where something is noticeably wrong or different forces me to figure out how to adjust my playstyle, just as playing a new-to-me well-functioning machine will force me to at a tournament. Figuring out how to hit a ramp when your usual shot timing causes you to brick every time is crucial to being able to adjust to games you don’t get to play a thousand times before a high pressure situation.


One of the things I do before every Pinburgh is go out and play games at random locations I never play at. It is an attempt for me to get back in the groove of walking up to a machine and trying to figure it out very quickly despite whatever faults or oddities they might have.


I prefer machines to be close to perfect as possible. If anything a brand new oily little stern is much more challenging than playing on a rugged old playfield. I also don’t want to put in a bunch of work on playing something where I can’t make a crucial shot because something won’t register or the flipper isn’t strong enough.


There’s no better practice for competitive play than playing on location regularly. Period.

And occasionally, the major malfunction will be in your favor. I’ll never forget the day that I found an AFM with the saucer drop target stuck down. I don’t recall the score, but the game lasted about an hour and I ruled the universe twice. If you wade through all the broken switches and burnt out bulbs long enough, sometimes you get a bone thrown your way.

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Really depends. I’ve seen the full gamut, and while I will put up with a lot, there are a fewplaces whose machines are so busted up that they are almost unplayable. There was a Family Guy with a hole punched through the wood big enough for the ball to fall through, for instance. I don’t know what kind of abuse the machine took to incur that kind of damage, but it is definitely no fun otherwise.

Weighted training only works if you know what it’s like without the weights and if the disadvantages are consistent. It’s one thing, for instance, if I’m playing on one of the many Simpsons Pinball Parties without functioning upper flippers. It’s another thing if I’m playing one of those Simpsons Pinball Parties and the ball often (but not always) gets caught in the partially-open garage door, or the Itchy & Scratchy scoop’s solenoid no longer works and the ball just gets stuck in there.

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I also like crippled and broken things. I was in Atlantic City working a trade show and I discovered a long ignored Transformers at a kiddy casino on the boardwalk. Like a sailor fresh back from six months at sea, my standards were low at the moment. A buck is expensive for pinball to me, but I was desperate. It was in terrible shape. Half the lights out on the table and the shots were in roughly the same degree of disrepair. And it was utterly filthy. Not just playfield dirt, but like pollen and fuzzy shit caked into the dirt. It looked like roofing tar sprinkled with dandelion fuzz. Literally the worst case of neglect I had ever seen. It came to a head when I executed a perfect post pass and the ball hit the filth in center between the flippers, slowly came to a dead stop, and drained SDTFM. It was like in a Roadrunner cartoon, when the coyote skids a few feet off a cliff, breaks the fourth wall, and waves goodbye.

I thought about stealing that game. The dirt on the playfield was so thick it probably prevented any real damage to the surface. I should have rescued it like one might an abused animal. Alas, it wouldn’t fit in my carry on.

There is also a South Park at GameWorks in Seattle that has Bondo repairing an inexplicably deep inlane gouge, but no one really plays there anyway.


One of the coolest ‘broken’ games I ever played was a Sopranos where the thin plastic between the shooter lane and right outlane was broken. It was broken right at the top of the outlane and the bulb under the plastic was mashed (by balls rolling over it) almost to the base. There was just enough room for a ball to go through. This allowed balls headed to the right outlane to instead end up in the shooter lane.

Major malfunction or awesome mod? You make the call.

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Speaking of which, does anyone come across a lot of vandalized machines?

The Simpsons Pinball Party at Ball Park Pizza in Laguna Niguel, CA, last time I looked at it, was beaten up, quite literally. There was graffiti etching all over the glass, and the front legs looked like they have been hit repeatedly with a stick. Didn’t really get to see much else of it, though the artwork was quite faded and work down. The machine was not on, however (couldn’t tell if the operator turned it off or if it’s too broken to turn on), so I didn’t get to play it to see how bad it really got.

Machines at Pinz Bowling Center near North Hollywood also tend to get graffiti etching on the playfield glass. It’s a pretty minor case and can be ignored though, as much of it is near the bottom corners.

That Simpsons Pinball Party is the only machine I’ve seen where it seems someone deliberately damaged a pinball machine for their own amusement though.

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I guess it depends on your perspective. I for one strangely enjoy the horribly broken, caked in dirt half functioning and squeaky addams family at my local. When I play it, it ‘feels’ every bit its age - and it’s not really about its age, more than it isn’t looked after. But it is a unique experience for sure that is totally unpredictable.

But I feel bad for the casual player who walks up and plays it for the first time. A ball getting stuck somewhere on a dirty ramp or dodgy gate, or a floppy flipper letting the ball drain. That’s not the optimal pinball experience, and isn’t going to convince anyone to put another dollar in the slot.

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Don’t recall the title or location, but someone posted pics online a few years ago of a pin that was in a bar where the patrons were encouraged to write on the walls. Naturally, they scribbled all over the newer Stern pin too. The operator had to know going in that the game was going to get tagged. Want to say the bar was in the pacific northwest.

The measuring stick is simple for me. No matter how much dirt or how many issues the game has, if I feel I can get a high score, I’ll play it. If it’s too badly wounded to get a high score, I’ll walk away in the middle of a ball 1.

[quote=“phishrace, post:12, topic:1938, full:true”]The measuring stick is simple for me. No matter how much dirt or how many issues the game has, if I feel I can get a high score, I’ll play it. If it’s too badly wounded to get a high score, I’ll walk away in the middle of a ball 1.

What about machines that have high scores that clearly were done when the machine was in better condition? For instance, I played a Lethal Weapon 3 where the right flipper wasn’t working at all and saw scores of 200 million or more on there.

There’s a guy around here who is notorious for kicking/bending legs. I think he does pretty rough deathsaves too. He’s not really part of the tournament scene though, hard to make pinball friends when you trash machines I guess. It’s sad because I think he might actually be pretty good.

I’ll do deathsaves if the machine allows it as well as bigger slide saves, but I think a lot of that is kind of intended use and could be easily prevented by tighter tilts on the operators part. I’ve definitely never done any damage from that. Some players slam the lockdown bar when they drain but again that’s seems to be generally looked down upon and I haven’t seen damage from that. Though I imagine you could break the glass if you do it too hard or directly on the glass.

Other than the leg kicker guy only thing I’ve really seen is maybe a sticker stuck on the lockdown bar. I’m sure that other people who have been playing longer have seen stuff, but for the most part people seem pretty respectful of pins in Portland. At least the locations I go to. I’m sure there’s a beat to shit Sopranos somewhere.

Gameworks in Newport, KY. It is accompanied by a family guy, nascar, and Austin powers in the same condition.


That gameworks was depressing

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Dirty games usually play slower which I don’t think is a horrible thing but, when slings don’t work, flippers don’t work or don’t have enough strength to make certain shots, that just plain sucks. Dirty games equal dirty parts. Dirty parts equal just plain sucks :frowning:


A lower flipper not working would be a deal breaker on any game. If the high scores are really high, I’d probably consider whether I can at least get a replay. Achieving the replay score has to be doable. I don’t have to get one necessarily, but I have to believe I can get one. (play better!)


An upper flipper not working is a deal breaker. I can’t bring myself to play at 100% knowing that the game can’t give me its 100%. I’m no snob tho, I like a nice broken in machine, but not a broken one.


I’d still play a Black Knight 2000 if the left flipper wasn’t working, as long as the right two work pretty much good to go. :smiling_imp: