Can you remember your first love? I do, and her name was Earthshaker.
I was in my first year of college back in 1989 when I first laid eyes on her. I did not live on campus since I had a good job in my hometown almost an hour away. I often found myself waiting long periods of time in between classes at the college food bar. One day as I sat down to some work, a flash of light caught my eye. I looked up and saw a beautiful new pinball machine tucked into the corner. A jumbled and crumbling EARTHSHAKER was printed on the side. The head had a beautifully mirrored finish. I could see an enticing array of flashing lights, illuminating the otherwise darkened corner. I was intrigued since I hadn’t recalled seeing her the day before. I immediately got out of my chair to investigate. As I walked over, light patterns on the playfield began to emerge. They were swirling left to right, up and down, with reds, greens and yellows scattered throughout. “One Quarter = One Play” was on a card. Without taking my eyes off of the shiny playfield, I fumbled into my pockets and pulled out a quarter. I eagerly inserted the coin into the slot and pressed the start button. “It’s sunny drive time!” bellowed out of the speakers. Not really sure what I was doing, I gave the ball a plunge. The ball whipped around and down and immediately drained. “Let’s try this again,” I said to myself. I plunged again and this time flipped it around for a bit before it drained again. The third ball came to life and was able to hit a narrow hole to the right of the ramp. Suddenly the machine leapt up and shook violently. My pulse quickened as adrenaline took over. I’m not sure what happened next but when the dust had settled, I had gone through all the quarters I had. I was in love. The kind of love that stays with you all day long, and even after closing your eyes and drifting off to sleep.
I must have spent an entire semesters worth of book money that fall. I quickly became skilled enough to achieve every high score. I remember rushing out of classes to see if my score had been beaten. I played every day. But the love was short lived, since it moved on to a different location and other pinball machines took her place. Sure, I loved many of the others that came around. Whirlwind, Funhouse, and Diner were a few I remember fondly. But my first love has always stayed with me, in the strongest part of my heart.