Why do you want pinball to be more popular?


As I said in my previous post, this has fortunately not been my experience Down Under. But I take your point. And I do believe that people who follow the “pure and sacred” philosophy are misguided. Try and freeze something in some imaginary state of perfection, and it will die.

And, let’s be honest here: pinball’s roots aren’t exactly pure. It was a way to make a quick buck with cheap entertainment in the depression era, and then there was a long phase where pinball was closely associated with the mob, gambling, and other nefarious enterprises. (When I grew up in Germany in the sixties and seventies, persons under 18 years of age were not allowed to enter arcades with pinball machines, video games, etc. because they were considered dens of corruption.)

The “purity” of pinball is completely arbitrary. There are people who started playing in the sixties and, to them, the way it was back then is the only “pure” version of pinball. The same is true for people who started playing in the seventies, eighties, and so on.

None of these groups is right. And if any one of these groups gets to have it their way, pinball will die and become a footnote in gaming history.

As far as I am concerned, I take pride and joy in teaching some 19-year old who’s never played before how to play pinball. And encouraging him to join our league. And then, seven or eight months later, getting beaten by him in a finals game. Best reward there can possibly be for a teacher is to have a student surpass him/her.


Because if pinball becomes more popular it will live rather than die.


It’s interesting to me that most of the core fans would not want pinball to become a footnote, considering the typical core fan I encounter has nothing but disdain for the general public, some of whom would rather their fandom remain a footnote so their hobby can remain a secret to the world.

I’ve definitely seen my share of disagreements, also, about what the true way is in other fandoms. Sometimes, they turn into flame wars. Sometimes, the groups stay completely isolated from each other. Western animation has some of both, with 2-D hand drawn animation vs. 3-D CGI getting quite intense at times, with some fans withdrawing their lives completely from the other side, and then you have the decade fans, who seem to enjoy their favorite shows in secret (except for fans of whatever is the current decade of the time) while quietly resenting the other decades’ fans, though you have the occasional provocateur or someone who’s so bitterly nostalgic that they throw rage at other groups they stumble across.

And really, if your hobby has commercial origins, it was never pure to begin with. Don’t tell that to them though. Some core fans have become mad at me for not being as into it as they are too (most commonly anime fans who learn I’m also into western animation).

I also love your last paragraph there, where you want to bring in newcomers, help them, and make them feel welcome. I see the opposite attitude often (commonly known as the “git gud” approach, the mindset that if a person is not that skilled at the game yet, either they should dedicate the practice to become better or move to something else–you have this occuring for Team Fortress 2, which got an Eternal September of their own, and there is that contingent with sour attitudes because the noobs had taken over their game), and it just frustrates me because it kills the game’s sustainability. Here is a string of comments from an Extra Credits video analyzing the Blue Shell in the Mario Kart games, for instance:

Except for one person, this entire discussion is made up of people who are not too concerned with sustainability or making other people feel welcome, only that they get to crush opponents. To them, making beginners feel welcome is not their problem, and that if they can’t adapt to the tough environments, then they shouldn’t be playing to begin with. (I picked this discussion because they are actually pretty honest about how they feel.)

I think this mindset stems from pride, bordering on arrogance. They are proud of their skill, and they feel great joy in making sure other people acknowledge their skill. They are proud of being able to do well in something that’s hard to get into, and they feel superior to those who aren’t into it. And they’re the last people to teach newcomers because they are proud of whatever hardships they endured to become a fan of it, and these hardships are everyone else who wants to be a fan must also endure.

I have pried into these people before and brought up the fact that if newcomers keep getting scared off, then there won’t be any growth and the fanbase will slowly die. For most of them, they really don’t care. I do honestly wonder what these people would think if they ever saw those instances of mentoring beginners though. (My hunch says they’ve driven out mentors from their social circles. Certainly, I’ve been driven out of some for teaching people and answering questions about various games.)


I do wonder whether there is a fundamental difference between the video gaming crowd and the pinball crowd. Becoming an expert in a video game is largely a solitary activity. It takes a certain kind of person to be able to spend many, many hours of practice alone. (I don’t count things like live chat as real interactions, much the same way as posting here isn’t the same as interacting face to face.)

People in the video gaming crowd, on average, are probably more likely to be on the spectrum than people in the pinball crowd. (I used to play video games intensively in the late seventies, and got extremely good at some of them. I do have an obsessive streak, which is definitely an advantage there.) Given that, it’s not surprising that there is less interest in fostering new talent or teaching newbies. I mean, how can they, if people are by themselves most of the time?

With pinball, if I want to compete, I have to do it in person and rub shoulders with other people. So, in a quite fundamental way, that’s a different setting. My experience has been that, by and large, the pinball crowd here is a friendly bunch. Yes, there are a few elitists around, but most people are helpful and inviting.

Down Under, for many, pinball is as much about the socializing and having a drink as it is about competition. In fact, quite a lot of people don’t take the competing too seriously but keep coming because of the social aspect. (Getting a good score in a tournament is bonus instead of a goal for them.)

Another aspect that might play into this is that there is not that much of a “preservation culture” in video gaming. Even very old video games can still be played today, thanks to emulators. And video games don’t wear out and break down. With pinball machines, it’s much more like being interested in vintage cars. Without other people to exchange tips and ideas (and spare parts) with, things get really difficult quite quickly. The fact that the bloody things break all the time and need fixing in itself fosters more social contact (and, hence, a more caring attitude).

In the end, it really is up to each individual person. If I am the kind of guy who carefully hoards knowledge and tries to discourage others from mentoring, I’m entitled to that. But I’ll also pay the social price that’s associated with not sharing.

Personally, in the past, I’ve always been drawn to hobbies where people interact lots and help each other. And, the older I get, the less important winning becomes, and the more important it is for me to put something back into the community. I’m rapidly running out of lifespan. If my life has to have some meaning, I had better pass on some of the things I know because, if I don’t, they will be lost.

If you’ve been driven out of some crowds for trying to share, I’d recommend to simply look for a different crowd, rather than trying to convince the original crowd of the error of their ways. You probably wouldn’t succeed anyway, and life is too short to waste on people you don’t resonate with.


Maybe if pinball were as big as video games we’d see more ugliness, but video game culture is also almost entirely online or in isolation, and it’s a lot easier to be more hostile and confrontational online. We’ve definitely had some crappy things happen in the pinball community, and though we don’t have a “gamergate” (thank god) we do have things like Stern mocking people over Woah Nellie and the general xenophobia that comes with a community that’s predominantly older, white, and male. So that’s another reason I’d like pinball to become more popular, because not only will the torch be carried into a new generation of machines, but hopefully the new generation of players will bring a sense of diversity and open-mindedness.


And I’m incredibly glad that pinball has a greater degree of social interaction. I used to play a lot of RTS games online or on my own (original Warcraft series, Starcraft, Age of Empires, etc), and my favorite part of it was interacting with others during or after the game — analyzing outstanding play or huge blunders. Unfortunately, after college, it wasn’t nearly as easy to get together in the same location to cheer, shout, and yell at each other with my friends as we played or watched each other play. Sitting in front of my computer screen – by myself, after having just spend most of my working day in front of a computer screen – grew very stale.


I’d definitely like to know about those stories too–I actually am quite interested in learning about fandoms in general, how they differ from each other, and why they behave the way they do. To that end, I’ve been part of some, well, rather infamous groups, most notably the Sonic the Hedgehog fandom–a lot of people in that group can be VERY defensive and hostile demonstrating a level of defensiveness rarely seen outside of sports and politics. (Regarding how the Sonic fans and the Bronies don’t get along, I’ve done my own analysis on that, and the Sonic fans shot first.)

I think that elevation is what some fans strive for though. They want to feel like they’re part of something as great as possible, and in some cases as exclusive as possible. They want to be able to screen out whom they deem as unworthy, and in some cases, pretty much everyone is unworthy if they didn’t join the group itself before a specific time.

Though it’s an occupation moreso than a hobby, there is a contingent of women who dive for pearls off a coast of Japan who rely on tourism to earn enough money to sustain a living. There are VERY few new women joining the trade, and most of them are quite old, in their 70’s or 80’s. While there isn’t much interest anymore in this tradition, it is odd, but at the same time interesting to me, to see the old guard rejecting some newcomers, and in one case, a marketing campaign to increase tourism using a young woman as a spokesperson for their billboards and TV commercials. (Said marketing campaign was not exactly the most well thought-out, as said spokeswoman wore a form-fitting scuba getup that the pearl divers don’t actually use, clearly for sex appeal, but the complaints from the pearl divers was not to change the approach to something closer to them, but that the marketing should be canceled, which they did.) This is an occupation, tradition, and hobby rolled into one that’s on the verge of extinction because its practitioners are aging out of existence and aren’t teaching a new generation their ways. They’ve become too tight-knit.

I think we’re getting into something else here now: Introversion vs. extroversion. You’re right, in that due to the environments where they’re commonly played, pinball would appeal to extroverts while video games would appeal to introverts, and the former would be more likely to care about the feelings of the people around them, even if they disagree with them. I would not consider introversion as any kind of spectrum issue though, just different ways of how people feel comfortable around other people. The key difference is energy levels: An extrovert gains energy being around other people and feels drained when alone, whereas an introvert becomes drained of energy around other people and requires alone-time to unwind. All but the most extreme introverts DO desire human contact, but an introvert prefers small groups whom they bond very tightly with and become less comfortable once the group grows beyond a certain size.

I would argue, however, that a preservation culture does not necessarily lead itself to a larger amount of extroversion. I can think of fans of non-traditional home computer setups as an example: There is a major repair and maintenance factor involved in this group, since they cannot be easily fixed by a normal electronics repair person, so most people in this fandom learn how to fix problems themselves. But this fandom has a lot of introverts anyway, because repair and maintenance advice and directions are available online, and fans are expected to learn these on their own. It crosses over with some sectors of D.I.Y. culture–after all, it stands for “do it yourself,” and that suggests a level of pride in isolation. My father was a proponent of this: He was the type to prefer learning anything he needed to do from reading about it rather than receive any help or support, and any offers to help he took as an insult to himself. A result was an astonishing level of knowledge on maintaining things (we had one of the longest-lasting VCRs, for instance), as well as a lot of equipment so he could do two- or three-person tasks on his own without knowing anyone else in any D.I.Y. community.

I am definitely quite aware that I cannot convince the people who prefer their status quo over sustainability, and to that end, in particular things, what I do instead is offer advice, tips, and other such information to newbies by myself. There is only so much I can do as one person, but one is better than none.

I never really thought about it though, but now that I have, there is definitely a line between extroversion and introversion in terms of a desire to make something more popular vs. keeping small, exclusionary groups. I think this is the answer to my question right here: Pinball, by nature of how they’re found in arcades, bars, restaurants, and other public social gathering locations, will attract extroverts, and extroverts, who desire relatively larger amounts of social interaction, would want what they like to be more popular because that means more people to interact with. (Well, you have the people who have home collections and only play their own collection, which I suppose would fit the introvert profile. I don’t know how many of them there are, however, since, of course, they won’t interact much with other pinball players.)

I guess that makes me the weird one–I am highly introverted, but I am interested in making more popular anything that I’m a fan of, because it means it’ll last longer.


I like that you pointed out these two seperate approaches. For me, too, it’s all about pinball culture and less about competition. But if competitive pinball helps bringing pinball forward as a whole and if we are also seeing more skill levels recognized within leagues and tournaments, it would help a lot.


It’s pretty straightforward for me. I want pinball to be more popular so that location pinball can make sense and more locations will have at least one pin. Similar to how I wanted great craft beer to grow in popularity so that more places would have a decent selection. Craft beer exploded and now most places have more choices than just Bud LIte, Bud Heavy and Michelob Ultra. I’d love for pinball to get closer (it’ll never be as big as craft beer, I’m not delusional) to that point where every sports bar has a functional pin or two.

As it stands now, most location pinball I see are at dedicated arcade bars. There are some places here that have some great pins, but the restaurant locations are making a commitment to putting pinball where a $$ making table for 4 can go. More people playing means that those pins can stay, and I get to go and play them.


I know quite a lot about what locations are adding machines these days, and if it’s any consolation, the vast majority of locations with pinball have 1-2 machines. And they are predominantly pizza parlors and bars/breweries. Arcade/bars get more attention, but (big guess) I’d say 1 in 50 new locations is one of those. And I’m probably overestimating - maybe 1 in 100. I can pull up real statistics if you’d like (though I do need to improve my sql query skills).


I’d LOVE some real stats on this. Heck, I’ll even write the SQL if you can give me access to the data! PM me if needed.

I was speaking specifically about my knowledge of my local market, KC where the majority of games are in barcade concepts. The 403 Club, Draftcade, Tapcade NKC, Up/Down KC, Crown Point and T3 have most of the games in the metro (403 Club owner would punch me for calling it a barcade, but it’s 1/2 bar and 1/2 pinball. It’s freaking paradise). Two others are pizza places (11 games total) and a bar (7 games). Sadly, many of the other locations (including one of the aforementioned pizza places have poorly maintained games and in some cases a bank of 90% inoperable games.

If pinball was more popular, it would put more pressure on the locations to have functioning games. A bar wouldn’t stand to have a bad tv signal with fuzzy audio because customers would complain. More pinball love would yield similar results.


Here’s a start. In KC, we’re listing 23 of 35 locations having 3 or fewer machines (65.7%). So that’s actually a decent ratio of spots with 4 or more!

En toto, of 4,468 total locations:

474 have greater than 4 machines (10.6%)
167 have 4 machines (3.7%)
296 have 3 machines (6.6%)
809 have 2 machines (18.1%)
2,722 have 1 machine (60.9%)

3,827 have 3 or fewer machines (85.7%).
3,531 have 2 or fewer (79%).

Location “type” is an inconsistently-populated field in the data, so it’s not valuable to pull that up to see how many bars we have, etc. And it’s a little difficult (or not possible) to pull up newly-created locations and how many machines they have. I think our location timestamp is just “last updated,” but I can check with Scott.


thanks we dont have enough of these in small towns, arcades have dissapeared.