Pinball Wizard

People need some distraction in their lives, simple games have been discovered throughout time. Adults often complain that children sit and play video games too much and this seems to be true is some cases, however there have always been games. In the 1970’s and 80’s, the game was pinball.

I was growing up in the the period of 1970-1984. Our parents would take us to dinner most Sundays which was very nice. I enjoyed the food but most time ate quickly so I could go play some pinball. One of my favorite haunts was the Hi-by restaurant which was located in the building that now houses the Wired Bean and several other office suites. The Hi-by had a nice arcade that included some video games, a helicopter game under a dome and the king of arcade games, the pinball machine.

I did some exhaustive research (one laborious internet search actually) about the origins of pinball and its story began as I assumed-bowling or bocce ball. Humans have a need to bring outdoor activities inside and that seems to be the path taken from outdoor bowling to indoor pinball machines. Along the way, little changes were made until the 1930’s when the game became recognizable to what I know as a pinball machine. Oddly enough, flippers didn’t come along until 1947 which makes the difference between pinball as a game of chance and pinball as a game of skill.

My most consistent source of pinball would have been the Viking Community Center. In its heyday, the community center had three machines. I cannot remember which machines were there but I played a “KISS” machine somewhere during this time. Pinball machines used to have themes that reflected popular events, musical groups or movie characters of the time. They were all relatively similar although there were always rumors that one machine was easier or harder to play or that certain moves could garner a higher score. I guess my favorite machines either had a second set of paddles mounted further up the playing board or those recessed holes that would pop the ball out with greater speed and violence.

A quarter was a fair amount of money at the time and I think you got two or even three plays for a 25 cent investment. I was usually good for about a dollar and change so I played sparingly. Some spectators would hang right on the machine but I found that habit fairly obnoxious so I would observe from a distance. I didn’t watch for a players success as much as observe each machine and its theme. I liked the underplayed machine as I could have a little solitude while I enjoyed some time away from home.

There are still pinball arcades out there, although they have a little different feel to their operation. I saw one in Fargo that even has a yearly membership. This area has excellent employment opportunities but still keep hearing that it needs a little more recreation, maybe an adult pinball arcade would fill a tiny bit of that need- to do something with your week-end besides sitting on the couch and waiting for Monday.

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