From one niche hobby to another

From one niche hobby to another

By Maximnicov

January 19, 2019

28 days ago

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.

Story photos

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17 days ago
Welcome to the hobby. Enjoy the ride!
17 days ago
Thank you for sharing. Some of my favorite pinball memories involve playing Lord of the Rings in a movie theater lobby.
16 days ago
Excellent post! What's the pinside equivalent for board games? Is it
16 days ago
NovaPin: I would say it is. BoardGameGeek is a user-generated website much like Pinside. There's the Top 100, articles and stories, a martketplace, images, files and forums. Each board game has its own page with ratings, comments, details and dedicated forums. The two sites are pretty similar in fact.
16 days ago
Nice story, thank you for having shared it with us. Welcome on Pinside and generaly in your new hobby :-) I’m sure you will find your first pin soon, there are plenty of great pinballs to own as a first pin, and they aren’t the most expansive. Good luck and have fun with the silver ball :-)
16 days ago
Welcome, fellow geek!

Pinball is just as addictive as board games. Once you decide on your first pin, you’ll find yourself trying to decide where to put your tenth pin.

I suggest installing farsighted pinball arcade on your phone and play through a few tables. Zen pinball 3 has the license to all of the Bally/ Williams tables now so that‘s where you can start playing them.

I would also suggest booking a room and flight to Wisconsin for the Midwest Gaming Classic. Board Games, Pinball and video games galore. It will blow your mind!
15 days ago
I have similar experiences and interests. Instead of board games it was modeling. Cars, boats, sci-fi, tanks, figures, etc. Winter months I used to devote my time with doing large model dioramas that I would take to contests. Now I spend that same time and talent into playing and restoring pinball machines.
15 days ago
cletus14: Thanks for the tips. When I started, I installed Pinball Arcade on my phone and on the Wii U. Turns out the later still has the Bally and Williams machines in it, so I managed to buy them even though they are unobtainable on the other platforms. I really lucked out!
15 days ago
Cool Beans! I hope you enjoy the new hobby which definitely has parallels to table top gaming. I got into both hobbies independently around the same time about five years ago. They are both in a sort of golden age right now. Pinball can be like board gaming in that it's fun to get out and be physically around other people and not just playing video games online away from direct social interaction. I will also read pinball game rules like I do board game rules while I'm chillin on the couch. There are a handful of sites that give decent rules for games like Also YouTube for both hobbies have been fun and instructional.
It is funny about the cost. I'll groan when I see a table top game that I really want that costs $100+ even though we now own 30+ pinball machines a few of which you could buy 100 $50 board games for. Kinda puts things into perspective. But if you get a decent pinball machine the resale or trade value is holding right now. If you get a game and keep it in good shape many people will trade to try something new. That way you only need to throw down one or two initial investments and can make that last for a long time by reselling or trading. I'd also like to second cletus14's recommendation for the Midwest Gaming Classic (MGC). Lot's of fun. The only problem I had was not wanting to sleep and just keep gaming. Got to play some great pinball last year and my table top buddies and I got introduced to Shadows Over Camelot amongst a few other games!
Anyways have fun and good luck!!
11 days ago
Pretty soon you will be debating which board games should be made into a pin (in addition to Monopoly) - Settlers of Catan?
10 days ago
Great story ! I'm also new in the hobby, in november 2017 I decided I would buy a Star Wars Premium to install in the middle of my company's office so my employees could play when we have free time, and so we got our first pin ! When we opened it, we were all amazed about how it's built, we checked videos and I started to learn about the differences in the games and understand about the rulesets, codes, etc.

We play everyday, sometimes we stay hours after work at the office to play with the game! Our customer or visitors allways want to give it a try and find it's awesome to have this in the office. I am considering now to get another one, maybe it will be Monster Bash Remake or a JPP like Dialed In because I would like to see how different it is compared to a Stern, and I find it's great that there a new manufacturers out there to make all pinballs better.

Maybe this will be the start of a collection, who knows !
10 days ago
Welcome,Nice-thoughtful write up and story !!
2 days ago
Great Story, I am also newer to the hobby. Welcome!

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