My first encounter with pinball was a complete accident. None of my family members had ever even played pinball, with the exception of my Mom, who used to play as a kid at her local skating rink. This was back around 2016, and I was eight or nine years old. I had never seen pinball machine in my life, and my parents didn't allow me to play video games, so I had zero experience with any sort of arcade game.
I had told my Dad that I wanted to go to a performance of "Wind in the Willows" at a local children's theater. The truth was I didn't really want to see the play, but everyone else in my class had said they were going to see it and for fear of being left out, I opted to go with my Dad. Inside the theater there was a side room where tickets were sold, along with the concession stand. In the corner of the room was a 1968 Ding Dong EM. The machine intrigued me. I always liked mechanical things. Light switches to water urns to marble tracks. My dad must have noticed me looking at it, because he asked if I wanted to play a game. I absolutely did. One thing led to another, and I was hooked. I didn't want to see the play at all. I wanted to play more pinball.
It can't have been more than a few weeks afterward that when a retro arcade opened in my town, known as The Machine Shop, which has become a well established arcade since then. With a place nearby to play, I urged my Dad (who typically picked me up from school) to take me there as often, and for as long, as possible. I slowly became better and learned the nuances of the game, and did my own research on youtube for how to play better. I remember the first time I got to enter my initials for a high score was on a Rescue 911 and I was thrilled about it.
Life continued. After a few years we moved across the water of Puget Sound, leaving me in a town with no pinball. I was pretty upset. To take my mind off my struggles to fit in to my new school and make friends, I would draw pinball designs for various themes I thought were cool and imagine that they were real. I still have many of my math books with old pinball designs in them. I decided when I grew up I wanted to be a pinball designer.
Once I reached 8th grade, everyone had to prepare a final project before they graduated, presenting it at the end of the year. Despite knowing nothing of the inner workings of a pinball machine, I wanted to make my own pinball machine for my project. I had no idea what I was taking on, but I was passionate about it so I didn't care. I ended up being graciously donated an old Baby Pacman playfield from a friend who knew all about fixing pinball machines. He agreed to mentor me for the project.
By the end of the year I had sanded off the old artwork, added any mechs missing from the original playfield, and built a custom cabinet thanks to my classmates dad, who is a boat builder and wood worker. I gave it a space theme, giving me lots of creative freedom. It still didn't work when the project was due, but people still seemed to like it.
I continued working on the project into my freshman year (2021), working at a hardware store to fund the parts. The game is now to the point where I consider it finished, excluding some tweaks and additions to the code. I'm fifteen now, and am hoping to build a full size game as soon as possible. My dream is still to work as a pinball designer professionally. I have been told I can't build another game unless I build my own workshop first (ha ha), and I'm working on the plans for that currently. I'll get there :)