I have for the last year or so been casually attempting to force myself to look at the flipper more when I shoot rather than the shot I’m shooting, and to try and act based on the ball’s position on the flipper rather than from timing or instinct. I’ve definitely noticed improvement when I’m successful doing that, but it has also been more difficult than I expected.
Last night I was playing a ToM with one of those flippers where, from a trap, the flipper will stick a moment before dropping. I was surprised this affected me as much as it did, I could not hit anything and was consistently an entire shot early when shooting from a trap. The more I played I realized two things:
Even though I had played several games on this machine, and realized the problem that had to be worked around, I found it extremely hard to adjust. I would be looking at the flipper and waiting for the ball to arrive at the spot I wanted to, and my finger would just flip early before I got there. The instinct involved in taking shots based on timing vs actual physical location is, at least in me, apparently very very strong. I mean, I’ve been playing that way for 25 years so I guess its not really surprising. I think this is also related to players who hold up the flipper before taking a shot on the fly. Shoot a ramp, hold up your flipper, wait for the ball to drop back into the inlane, drop the flipper, shoot again. You’re timing the time from the moment the ball drops of the ball into the inlane (when you drop the flipper) to the shot you’re taking. The Inner Game Of Tennis talks about similar techniques.
Another thing is that my timing is apparently tied to when I let go of the flipper button rather than when the flipper itself drops. This was actually a little distressing to realize, but it also makes sense in retrospect thinking about my consistent issues with accuracy from machine to machine. A small tweak there (just like a small tweak to how long it takes between button press and actual flip) can have a lot of impact.
This all goes to say that changing how I aim is not going to take just learning a new skill or way of shooting but unlearning the old way as well, which is actually probably way way harder.