This is some thing I think about when I write about a game. How do I contribute to the community with an opinion? This isn’t some sort of a purity test, it’s a matter of how do I stay true to the game that I love, myself and my fellow pinheads?
When I watch his videos, I believe that this is who he is. I also believe that his intentions are not to be overly pessimistic. But he is also frustrated because he knows that things can be done better. It’s a basic conflict between his expectations and business decisions that are made without his desired outcomes. Are these expectations unwarranted? That’s a book right there... But I can also say that his respective, especially as a tech (btw, is he a real tech? I have no idea. But for the sake of this post, I will assume he is) is not the same as most pinheads because he sees the effect of those decisions. He has to fix what doesn’t work because of those choices. It is conflicting for many when businesses will do what they can to be profitable. Some people called cutting corners, Other people will call it a matter of survivability.
Most recreational end-users in the pinball community do not realize how precarious the pinball business is. Most collectors just want to play pinball. The amount of talent, resources, funds and RISK is staggering. Making pinball games is not an easy task and there are many things that can go wrong. Not too long ago, Stern closed at stores at the end of the year. Fortunately some holiday magic happened and an investor was found. That’s right, for a while. For a few brief weeks. There was no one in the world making pinball. This wasn’t too long ago. Jersey Jack nearly went out of business and was saved by another investor recently as well. There are numerous other examples of less successful stories out there. Interestingly enough, Spooky has made a splash but with a much different business plan. Small production runs in slow growth with planned incremental steps that bring more and more of the entire production process and house have made a real difference. Companies like Stern cannot survive if their production line stops. The assembly line is too large and employees to many people. If the sharks stop swimming, it sinks to the bottom of the floor of the ocean. Fortunately, fortunes for the pinball industry are different than they were just a few years ago.
Cultural and business shifts have moved from sales that were almost 100% to distributors and operators to a much higher percentage of collectors and home players. The expectations of these two communities are vastly different. Simply put, if your game doesn’t work for an operator, they can’t put food on their table. You can’t pay your bills. And the distributors that are trying to do the same will fail as well. The home collector has a much different approach. They are looking for fun not a revenue stream and a means to make a living. Just approach any technician or operator on site fixing a game and ask him a question. You can feel the other distain and hate from many of them as you think that what they’re doing is fun while they are taking their work seriously. Please consider this. They’re not being rude. You are being rude by interrupting the, while they fix the game that someone like me and you broke by using it. Give them space, they don’t have time to waste.
I personally invite every pinball collector and player (all the way from the museum curators to the tourney rats who look for any reason to complain about a game that didn’t do them right...) out there to take at least one of their games and put them at their local corner bar. The experience is eye-opening. When you work as a tech, and a game goes down, it needs to get fixed. Now. Depending on your location, you may lose it after the yelling stops. Or it will just sit there and take up space because someone doesn’t really care about it. People spilled beer all over it, cover their initials into the side of it, all sorts of things happen. Queen doors get kicked in. And of course those mechanisms that take the money and always jam up. This is something that I never hear collectors talk about. Street locations and the relationships that are formed with those locations that are looking to make money with pinball. Pat Lawlor talks about this quite a bit during his original podcast with Clay Harrell. They have some audio from him from Chicago expo from years ago and he directly addresses why twilight zone was a failure. Twilight zone is my favorite game of all time and to hear him talk about his own creation like this is fascinating. It also gives you a great deal of insight into the mind of people who make pinball. Check it out here: http://www.pinrepair.com/topcast/past.php
Now how many collectors out there who love to play pinball and have no idea how to fix the games that they collect, hmmmmmmmm? Sometimes a fix is very easy to see and deal with. See that loose bolt, tighten it! At the same time, how many collectors get in brand new game out of the box. What do they do? They play it! They can’t help themselves, they’re like a little kid in the candy store who is just gotten the biggest gobstopper they’ve ever seen in their entire life. It doesn’t occur to them that this game may need some maintenance before the first ball is plunged in it. Most operators I know get a game out of the box before they play a single game they go through the top and the bottom of the entire game and they tighten all the loose screws and nuts they can find. Others have friends come on over and play the game before it is released into the wild so they can find out what is wrong with anything BEFORE they get those calls. And trust me, those gremlins... they’re there. I have never seen a new game come out of the box that didn’t have issues like this. Quality control on a game with thousands of parts is not an easy thing to do. There are many variables even from one copy of a game to the next. It’s a level of seriousness that most collectors never see. Because all they see is what the game can do for them. Not anyone else.
So when you have someone who might know better and doesn’t have the patience for nonsense, it can come off as pessimistic. But if you lived in a world where the thing that you loved caused you a lot of pain and frustration. Because you knew better.... Your point of view might be different as well. Empathetically, it can be difficult to witness. But my impression of this man is that he’s not doing it just to complain, or bitch and moan. He’s telling it as it is from his own point of view. Your choice is, you can take it or leave it, but he’s not doing it without reason. He might just be doing it for his own therapeutic reasons. Cathartic venting works!
I will admit to the fact that I have them too. My recent review of jersey jacks Guns N’ Roses got a lot of down votes because I started out by stating that I wasn’t a fan of Guns N’ Roses. It’s true. I don’t care for their music and while times of changed, Iused to really have a strong dislike for Axl. Slash and Duff are great, but I couldn’t get past the childish rankings of lil’ red. That and I just don’t care for the theme and the music and I am up front about it. Some people didn’t like it. oh well. That particular game (just like all the other Jjp games) has raised the bar on the theater the pinball can bring to the game. The premium and limited edition versions of this game are absolutely stellar pieces of technology. Jersey Jack also has a long history of technical failures that keep many operators from buying their games and putting them on location. Why do you think you see so many stern pros out on the street? They work. And they don’t go down and stay down for long periods of time. They keep making money on the street. That is what they are designed to do and for the most part, that’s what they do.
People have their points of view and personalities. Sometimes these points of view and or personalities conflict. It’s all part of the human equation. Consider your perspective in relation to pinball. Understand his. Or not. If it makes you feel better, there are talking heads I ignore as well. And it isn’t necessarily for their information, it’s because I can’t abide their nonsense. I get it. I do it too. And more than anything else, it’s like The Dude said: “Yeah, well that's just like... you're opinion man.”
I’m gonna go play some pinball now... and maybe find a game I haven’t played and write a review. Maybe even change my mind about a game and update an old piece of information.