I've been interested in pinball for almost two months now. It all started when I went to a bar with my girlfriend and a gathering of her friends, when a Star Wars pinball (Stern, 2017) caught my eye. I was no stranger to pinball: When I was a small boy, my parents brought us to an hotel that a whole floor packed with the machines. I can only remember a few, but my young easily-impressed mind would say there was probably forty pinball tables there. That happened once in my life. In my adult life, I played pinball when I get the chance at a movie theater. I would usually give it one or two coins and then go home.
For some reason, the Star Wars machine made me question the state of pinball. The machine was obviously recent, which meant pinball machines were still being designed, manufactured and sold. I wasn't really surprised. Of course they were still being made, arcade cabinets are still being made too, I just never really thought about it. Then I started to draw parallels with my own hobby, and questions started to get thrown in my head.
My hobby is board games. I play board games every week or so with friends and I've been doing this for almost 15 years. I have a collection of about a hundred board games and card games. I read rulebooks in my spare time for pleasure. I'm relatively active on board game forums. I even worked as a board game explainer in a gaming pub. I know it's a relatively niche hobby, but it's getting more and more traction. A lot of gamers feel we are in a golden age of board game. Board game cafés are opening left and right, Kickstarter campaigns for board games are successful every week, and there's just general awareness that the hobby is more than Monopoly. However, the vast majority probably still equates board games to the mass market they know and think it's been eclipsed by video games.
"What about pinball?" I asked myself. It's definitely an obscure pastime. Is it like board games? Is there a community I never thought of that's passionate about pinball in the same way I'm passionate about board games? Are there pinball forums? Are there online communities? Do people have those at home or do they only play on locations? Are there reviews? I felt I had found something similar to board games: A geeky and obscure hobby that's common knowledge, but with a depth and evolution unknown to the layman.
That's when I found those pinball sites online. It felt like falling in an alternate universe. Suddenly, I was the newbie in a niche hobby and I was the one having trouble to keep up. Everybody talked in lingo and spoke of machines that were well-known for the people there, but unknown to me. I also realised the hobby had multiple dimensions to it: Games skills, maintenance, game rules, maintenance, traditions and repairs. I had to dig quite a lot to get a hold of some king of understanding, and those instruction cards on the machines themselves did not help one bit.
Since then, I'm trying to visit my local pinball place to try and get better. I'm not very good, but I'm still having a blast every time. And there I though board games were an expensive hobby. Hah! I don't have a pinball collection yet, and I don't know if I ever will. It's a lot of money upfront, and I'm not handy as a person either, so I'll wait before trying to get a machine for myself. For now, I can at least share my current collection. I can only hope that this passing obsession with pinball will grow as much as my passion for board games.