Is there a way to prevent people from mashing the start button at free play events?

I was just at the 80’s Game Night Party at Neon Retro Arcade, and when everyone was at one of the pinball machines, I observed from afar. By far the most common thing I was seeing was that people were playing 2-, 3-, or 4-player games by themselves, as all of the machines are on free play (except the Ghostbusters at the front, but that’s different). While most of this was caused by people mashing the start button to begin a game, there were a few cases of people pushing the start button after each drain, thinking the start button is necessary to load the next ball. For some reason, I saw many cases where each of the four “players” drained the first ball, and the person at the machine reached over and continued to mashed the start button. This sometimes caused the game to reset.

The mashing is done in the exact same way I see people mash the walk signal button at a pedestrian crossing: They seem to do so out of routine and figuring that at least one of the button presses will work. And I can understand why they do so: Most are completely unaware that multiplayer pinball exists, or if they do know, don’t realize you activate it by pushing start multiple times. Some of them look like they think having four scores on the display is a normal thing though.

Sometimes, they’ll play all the way to the end. Sometimes, they’ll play 3 balls and leave. Sometimes, they play just 1 ball and leave. It was pretty cringeworthy, and I often just finished up some of these abandoned games so I could play a normal 1-player game. There was one instance where someone mashed the start button to make a 4-player game of Creature from the Black Lagoon, mashed the flippers, stared for a bit, and just walked away.

Is there any way to prevent players from doing this? It took up a lot of my time when I wanted to play a game and there were still 9 balls left to go. Maybe putting up a big banner telling people to just push the start button once? There was the reset I mentioned above though. Is there a way to change the settings to disable the start button once a game is underway? None of them had any plans for actual multiplayer, even when they had accompaniment (they’d just go to another machine or watch and wait for them to finish).

That’s annoying for sure. On top of helping them understand how the games worked, I would just get the games to ball two and then hold the start button in to reset the game. No need to plunge every ball.

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A suggestion would be to set the games to a quarter if they have coin mechs in them.

Another suggestion is to set the games to 1 ball play.

Another is this option in CFTBL:

This only impacts mid-game restarts, and not the inadvertent starting of multiplayer games.

EDIT: And now I see that that was at least part of the problem. :expressionless:

We see this all the time at POP with kids during free play. For us it’s a one on one conversation about starting single games and teaching about playing together.


If only adults were as easy to talk to. Entitlement is a real problem. :frowning:


You have no idea :pensive:


Someone please correct me if I’m wrong, but AFAIK, it’s perfectly fine to power cycle a pinball machine, which would get it to a fresh state quickly.


Have you tried turning it off and on again?
-The IT Department


On most machines yes. On a JJP, make sure to wait 10 seconds or so because fast on off can cause damage. On a proc don’t touch it.

What happens if you turn the game power off on a proc?

Maybe if there was such thing as a seperate “multi-player” setting you could start by holding down the button, similar to that “advanced” mode i’ve seen on some GoTs. Otherwise educating people is the only realistic way of solving that issue. Or also taping thumbtacks to the start button.


Unfortunately, then you’re inconveniencing or confusing players who actually know how to start multi-player games, because suddenly they have to do something weird to start a legit multi-player game.

In practice, the problem described is really only an issue at shows, since in most other location settings you have to pay per credit, and at home players presumably know what they’re doing, or learn quickly. Hopefully most games at shows are set up on Restart = Slow. Pre-DMD games will usually restart entirely if you press Start on ball 2 or later. And yeah, in a pinch, just power-cycle the thing.

(BTW, I hadn’t heard before that JJP pins can be damaged if you power-cycle them too quickly. That’s kinda scary: I’d hate to think that the game is at risk if there’s a brown-out in the local power utility, which can be fairly common for some locations and seasons.)

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This is actually a potential hazard for any other (CPU controlled) pinball machine too. I always scares me to see that snap on/off reset performed (and I always wait for some off time myself). For a tournament I recently held, I put a note on the game asking people to have it off for 5 sec. when rebooting. It was games where a warm-up was allowed.

Another thing at bothers me is when people feel the right to punch themselves in without asking first when you have started a practice game in an event with free play on the games.


To be honest don’t know. Probably implementation dependent. All I know is we have a CCC at one host in our league and he says don’t turn it off because there is work to get it started up an running again.

I have a Lord of the Rings with a ColorDMD, and the ColorDMD doesn’t turn on unless I power-cycle the machine quickly, so I always turn the game on by flicking the switch “on-off-on” over 1 or 2 seconds. Am I putting my machine at risk?

Just me, but I would never do that to my LOTR.

Wow, what a lot of replies! I didn’t think there’d be this many.

Hmm, I see. That’s how it works? I was not aware of that. I do explain, and I noticed a roughly 50-50 chance that they’ll take it in and just push once or that it goes in one ear and out the other. But if they intend to play every ball, I won’t stop them. It’s their fun.

I see kids and adults do it alike, but I’m guessing POP mostly gets adults familiar enough with pinball, or confident enough with electronics, to only want to push the button once. Neon Retro Arcade mostly seems to get people not at all familiar with pinball, which is why I see it so much there.

Tell me about it…I frequently visit Not Always Right because I keep seeing horror stories as described there everywhere I go.

That’s kind of a conundrum there, isn’t it? The solutions are mutually exclusive.

I personally think that if such an in-game menu existed (like at the beginning, always asking the player to press the left flipper button for 1-player and the right flipper button for 2-player while loading a ball onto the plunger, and defaulting to 1-player if the player plunges and trips the plunger lane switch before making a decision), it can be easily understood even for veterans. The only real issue it would cause is muscle memory.

I actually see this crop up where machines are paid per credit too. Some people overestimate the amount needed to pay for a game, most commonly putting in a dollar when games are 50 cents, but I’ve seen people put in eight quarters before.

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I think there are games that this trick will not work on, or the settings are changed to not allow this trick, but I haven’t come across a game that doesn’t reset this way.

I honestly come across more people that think you can only play single player games, than one person starting multiplayer games without knowing.


[quote=“chuckwurt, post:20, topic:1719, full:true”]I honestly come across more people that think you can only play single player games, than one person starting multiplayer games without knowing.

Isn’t that the same thing? That is, the people who inadvertently start multiplayer games are the people who don’t know multiplayer pinball exists. That’s why they mash the start button: They expect it to start up a 1-player game because that’s the extent of what they know.