The following is a just the geeking out of someone relatively new to pinball as a competitive sport and a hobby. It may be obvious stuff to some… but this feels like the right place to geek out about this.
So I’ve had the amazing luck of discovering competitive pinball and also a local pinball place that was just starting out. I went to their soft opening tournament and loved everything I saw. After the tournament, I went home and wrote them an email about how I wanted to work for them and make the place a success. (I didn’t hear anything back on that.) Fast forward a few months- I was a regular there, since it was so easy to get to from where I lived. After getting to know the very awesome trio behind Superelectric, there was eventually talk of me helping them out with the games. They were acquiring more and more and the backlog of ones to restore and repair was piling up. Eventually, I started helping them with restoring machines.
It’s been a real learning experience, going headfirst into this with basically a blank mind for everything involved in the process. Taking apart playfields, cleaning and replacing mechanisms… I’ve learned a lot about what makes games work, what manufacturers concluded would help with longevity of the game… I’ve seen bad and needless wiring, innovative ways to implement features, and so. Much. Dirt. I’m not sure where people keep games that they become filmed in a fine layer of dirt, but almost all of the ones I’ve worked with have been filthy. (Thank you all operators that clean regularly.)
Eventually, I’d like to take all this knowledge I’m absorbing and put it to use. I’ve still got much to learn, skills to obtain and so on, but one day I hope I can be a designer. This brings me to the main source of my geeking out- Pat Lawlor and his game design. I admire him and his games, there’s something that makes me want to play them over and over. He develops this whole world for the games, makes a matching ruleset, and adds signature elements here and there. Most of all, though- every single part of the playfield has a purpose. Rubber placement that maximizes air time, pop bumpers in areas that maximize the time it can spend in there (and often pairing it with an orbit shot that was difficult to hit as a result but always rewarding when successful), great use of plastics to cover up wiring, and his fantastic toys.
This week, I cleaned up a Twilight Zone and was constantly impressed. Everything has a home and a purpose, and all possible space was used to create fun shots. The dead end/hitchiker shot surprised me when I found out how large it was! It feels like so much longer for the ball to get to the pops than the length the ball travels. The gumball was always a mystery to me, and for good reason, it was designed that way! A clever diverter that opens up after it passes the right spiral opto and guides it into a scoop. Even the wire rails were made to use the least amount of material and support!
I’m grateful for Pat Lawlor, Python Anghelo, Steve Ritchie and so many more talented people that have worked in this industry. I’m grateful that Cleveland is blessed with a budding pinball scene and a wide array of strong competitors in the area. It’s been my mission lately to observe every technique, every use of objects, every satisfying shot. I want to steal them all and make them my own.
Are there any games that blew you away when you first played them? It happens pretty much constantly to me- there’s so many games I haven’t played and I’m excited to try them all!