(Topic ID: 166359)

Pinball Skill: Does it deteriorate as you get older?


By Dooskie

3 years ago



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  • 46 posts
  • 29 Pinsiders participating
  • Latest reply 3 years ago by RJW
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#1 3 years ago

Was having an interesting conversation with a professional pinball player this week. He made a comment that because of his age and the way that new machines are made, he can't be as competitive as he used to be, nor does he have the desire to be, mainly because it takes so long to figure out the rules sets of the modern games.

Now he's not that old of a guy, 45, and I asked him if age really made that much difference in playing ability. He said that his son can watch a modern game once and have it figured out, and combined with the reflexes of a younger person he said there's no way he's a better player than his kid now (who is 12). He said it's not so much being able to hit shots, it's being able to react quickly enough to be able to save missed shots.

We talked a little bit about Roger Sharpe, Lyman Sheats, and his feeling is even though those guys are outstanding players, they can't keep up with the younger guys just because of reflexes. I was a little surprised by his comments. To me, if I've missed a shot and it's coming right back at me sdtm, it doesn't matter who you are, you're not saving that ball.

Any thoughts?

#2 3 years ago

Reaction time is important. I think that you can train that a little bit and improve it.
I'm 31 and I notice that my twitch reaction precision is not what it was, but that is more for computer games. Pinball you don't have to aim the button, just hit it. So only reaction time comes into play.

Quoted from Dooskie:

To me, if I've missed a shot and it's coming right back at me sdtm, it doesn't matter who you are, you're not saving that ball.

I think they were referring to fast movers that are savable if you spot it and react accordingly in time.
I've seen a ball at just the right angle go through the inlane so fast it goes past the flipper and drains if you don't have superior reaction time.

#3 3 years ago

I believe it does and I'm seeing it happen to me. I've been playing competitively since 2009. I'm now 51. I feel like my reaction time and eyesight have started on a slow decline. For example, I've done worse each year for the last three years at Pinburgh. I recently failed to qualify at a PAPA circuit event that I've qualified at the three previous years. I used to dominate in our local league and now I have only won once in the last 3 seasons. I'm still better than most, but certainly not what I used to be.

I don't agree about learning the modern games, though. I just read some rule sheets and/or watch a tutorial and the rules come with practice.

#4 3 years ago

All professional athletes eventually peak and then decline as they get older.

#5 3 years ago

Understanding: That is bunk. A 80 year old can understand a modern pin just as well as a young whipper snapper if they put effort into it. (Though my 90 year old grandmother still doesn't understand that my pins aren't gambling machines!)

Reaction time: For reaction time there have been plenty of studies showing we peak around 25 years old and it is all down hill from there. So all else being equal, yeah, people in their young 20s have an advantage. It is just like any other sport.

#6 3 years ago

As far as reaction time goes, I would compare and older skilled pinball player to an older skilled musician. Chet Atkins and Buddy Rich could outplay anybody up until their dying day.

-Steve

#7 3 years ago
Quoted from VDrums2112:

As far as reaction time goes, I would compare and older skilled pinball player to an older skilled musician. Chet Atkins and Buddy Rich could outplay anybody up until their dying day.
-Steve

There is a major difference with musicians and that is repetition and muscle memory. A song is always structured the same, and its possible to get to a point where you're adept at it without even thinking about it (like typing).

If musical talent is a 10, pinball talent is still about a 1 or 2 on the skill scale but that doesn't remove the random element of pinball that isn't present in music. As a lover of both pinball and guitar, I don't say this to offend pinball players. You can play pinball for a few months a probably be good enough not to embarrass yourself in a league. 3 months of guitar isn't enough to scratch the surface as a player.

As far as rules on the newer games... They're deep which is great, but unless you really read and watch tutorials its often unclear about what you're supposed to do. Wasn't there some kind of loophole in Star Trek where you could get crazy tournament scores by exploiting a code flaw? That is the difference between pure skill (which the player this thread is about my still possess) and memorizing scoring trivia for 20 or 30 different machines commonly used in tournaments.

#8 3 years ago

Elwin is in his fourties and still miles better than everyone else. If/When he starts losing his stride then we'll have a good idea of whether or not a player's skills deteriorate.

#9 3 years ago

At 61, the biggest issue I have is quick changes where there is no lighting. My eyes are unable to rapidly adjust to darkness......or for that matter play in darkness. The "Fade to Black" mode on Metallica is problematic for me, and gives me fits. No quesion about it. Skills erode as one ages.

#10 3 years ago

Everything deteriorates as it ages

#12 3 years ago

Yes. And your wiener gets smaller.

#13 3 years ago
Quoted from beelzeboob:

Yes. And your wiener gets smaller.

In your case I didn't think it possible

#14 3 years ago

Yup, I'm way suckier than I used to be.

#15 3 years ago

In 50 years of playing I think my skills are as sharp as ever.

I have lost the patience for the long drawn out games they are making now though. That is easy enough to overcome as I don't have to buy them or play them.

#16 3 years ago

I have always sucked at it. so can't say for sure...still love it!!!

#17 3 years ago

In general I don't think so. Most of the top players are over 40 or pushing it. I'm over 40 and playing my best pinball ever (just broke top 85 and probably into the 60s after buffalo). At buffalo summer open circuit event this weekend past guys like Phil B and bob Mathews, older guys, competed at a high level the whole time. Maybe you lose some accuracy or reflexes but guys tend to pick up other skills.

I think what kills you are long layoffs. Motörhead never made a bad album because they never took long breaks like other bands.

#18 3 years ago

Couldn't this be quantified? For example, I'm sure one could take the historical rank of a given player and plot versus age/time. This could all be normalized against the peak ranking and relative age from that peak rank.

I just don't know how to get that raw data, otherwise I would crunch the data.

#19 3 years ago
Quoted from oohlou:

Understanding: That is bunk. A 80 year old can understand a modern pin just as well as a young whipper snapper if they put effort into it. (Though my 90 year old grandmother still doesn't understand that my pins aren't gambling machines!)
Reaction time: For reaction time there have been plenty of studies showing we peak around 25 years old and it is all down hill from there. So all else being equal, yeah, people in their young 20s have an advantage. It is just like any other sport.

The learning part is not bunk. Known scientific fact. You are slower to learn and memorize as you get older. It's why your parents never learned to program the vcr and why most kids have to explain the rules on video games to their parents. It's very easy to explain these things on lack of interest or time to learn, but I know my son now picks up everything faster than I do. There are always exceptions for some people and varying rates of "decline", but like it or not, anyone over the age of 30 is on the downward side of the hill

#20 3 years ago

Another thing to consider is some age much faster than others.

#21 3 years ago

In the context of pinball, my thoughts are any loss of agility caused by aging is probably nominal up unto a point (>80), and likely varies from person to person. Knowledge of the game's rules and strategy is much more important.

#22 3 years ago

I see teenagers the don't have the stamina or reflexes I do. This whole aging thing is a crock of shit.

#23 3 years ago

Not if you play regularly, stay healthy, and remain in good shape. Present generations reflect the current status of society. The urban acronym is commonly known as FLS which many people suffer from overall.

#24 3 years ago
Quoted from KloggMonkey:

Reaction time is important. I think that you can train that a little bit and improve it.
I'm 31 and I notice that my twitch reaction precision is not what it was, but that is more for computer games. Pinball you don't have to aim the button, just hit it. So only reaction time comes into play.

I think they were referring to fast movers that are savable if you spot it and react accordingly in time.
I've seen a ball at just the right angle go through the inlane so fast it goes past the flipper and drains if you don't have superior reaction time.

So his thought was that younger players with better reflexes can see the shot they missed, move the table and react fast enough to save a shot that would otherwise go sdtm or rebound down an outlane. Do players really have THAT fast of reactions?

BTW, I've been testing this theory for the past 5 1/2 hours tonight, and with the aid of a variety of Bud Light, Bud Light Lime, etc., and so far the results of been conclusive. I absolutely cannot respond that quickly, no matter how much I've had to drink.

#25 3 years ago
Quoted from o-din:

I see teenagers the don't have the stamina or reflexes I do. This whole aging thing is a crock of shit.

The acronym is FLS.
It is a complete young generation syndrome, that might as well be medical.

I will give people hints what this means if they do not know:

F = Overall body size
L = Non motivational word
S = Failure of the education system

#26 3 years ago

Of course reflexes improve as you age, everyone knows that. Kept all my scores on my King Kong(s) over the years and they just keep getting better.

#27 3 years ago

I was recently watching the semi finals of table tennis during the Olympics, and the guy from Belarus (Vladimir Samsonov) was holding his own. He is 40, and at that level of table tennis you have to have crazy fast reactions and reflexes. Of course all that stuff differs with each person, but it seems like you would be able to play pinball pretty well into your 50s and still be competitive.

#28 3 years ago

I think as you get older it gets more difficult to maintain optimal health which can translate into a decline in pinball skill. I know for myself, 17 years of working in front of a computer doesn't help matters any. I consider myself physically fit as I diet and exercise often but I do suffer from eye strain and mild carpal tunnel (as a result of my job) which can make it more difficult to play pinball as it can affect your reaction times and ability to deal with flashes of light. I think when you're young you can get away with having bad habits and being relatively unhealthy but when you get older you have to work harder to maintain your health and keep it from limiting you.

#29 3 years ago

Yeah, I think they do. As a totally non-scientific, low data point (just 1): I consider myself a pretty good pinball player (qualified B division at PAPA several times, one point out from qualifying at Pinburgh 2015, etc.) but my 10 year old son regularly beats me, owns most of the high scores at our house and saves balls with slap saves and fast reactions times that I am not so sure that I have anymore. When he pulls a ball up from what seems like under the flippers, I just shake my head.

#30 3 years ago
Quoted from presqueisle:

Of course reflexes improve as you age, everyone knows that. Kept all my scores on my King Kong(s) over the years and they just keep getting better.

You have King Kong s, wow, I thought like only ten people in the whole world have those

#31 3 years ago
Quoted from nosro:

Couldn't this be quantified? For example, I'm sure one could take the historical rank of a given player and plot versus age/time. This could all be normalized against the peak ranking and relative age from that peak rank.
I just don't know how to get that raw data, otherwise I would crunch the data.

I think you could quantify it, but you would somehow have to factor in the game(s) being used as well.

#32 3 years ago
Quoted from Dooskie:

I think you could quantify it, but you would somehow have to factor in the game(s) being used as well.

I would think this is all factored into the rankings. If age matters, ranks should worsen after some age. If age doesn't matter, ranks should be maintained.

#33 3 years ago
Quoted from nosro:

I would think this is all factored into the rankings. If age matters, ranks should worsen after some age. If age doesn't matter, ranks should be maintained.

Age should be factored into rankings.

I got my ass kicked by a 12-year-old girl at Pinburgh.

Totally unfair.

#34 3 years ago

Why does PAPA have a seniors division?

#35 3 years ago

I was at the top of my game when I was 0.

#36 3 years ago
Quoted from Euchrid:

Why does PAPA have a seniors division?

Follow the money.

#37 3 years ago

In less than a year I will be able to order off the "seniors menu".

While my daughter still gets away with ordering off the "kids menu".

#38 3 years ago
Quoted from o-din:

In less than a year I will be able to order off the "seniors menu".
While my daughter still gets away with ordering off the "kids menu".

Some places offer it at 50. Many more at 55 but most at 60. When the economy went to hell, many lowered it to 50. Once it picked up and the bean COuNters figured things out; up to 55 or 60 it went.

#39 3 years ago
Quoted from Euchrid:

Why does PAPA have a seniors division?

very good point

#40 3 years ago
Quoted from beelzeboob:

Yes. And your wiener gets smaller.

As a urologist, I can tell you that this is not true. It may appear smaller if you gain weight (lose a visible inch for every 30 lbs or so), but the wiener itself doesn't get much smaller.

#41 3 years ago
Quoted from zsciaeount:

As a urologist, I can tell you that this is not true. It may appear smaller if you gain weight (lose a visible inch for every 30 lbs or so), but the wiener itself doesn't get much smaller.

Well, I don't know what to tell you, but my dick looks like a frightened turtle since I hit 50.

#42 3 years ago

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#43 3 years ago

Everyone pretty much accepts that age is a factor in sports, mostly due to decreased endurance, slower healing, and the like. I'm not sure if this applies in lower-amplitude types of competition. Bowlers can do well into older age, as can golfers. I can tell you that at 39, my reaction time is still very fast. I'm not as good as I used to be, but this is less a function of my age or coordination, and more a function of not having the time to invest in playing like I used to.

Pinball is perhaps unique in that age does generally predict experience and game knowledge. Escher Lefkoff has amazing raw talent, and has probably played a crapton of games, but it's unlikely he's seen as many games at his age than Keith has in the 30-40 years he's been playing; as such, a player like Keith might have the advantage at an event like Pinburgh, where there is only 1 game in each bank less than 20 years old, and most games coming from the late 70's and early 80's.

I think that if one were to study it closely, I'd wager you'd find that skills don't deteriorate until you develop some degree of cognitive impairment, or you start to have physical limitations that make it difficult to stand. That's why players like Keith Elwin, Trent Augenstein, and Bob Matthews remain competitive despite being in their 40s-60s.

The younger players may seem formidable, because they have more opportunities to play on location than I did, since location play was practically non-existent from my late teens to early thirties. Younger generations also probably benefit from growing up consuming information much more readily that can help play. These kids who have played modern video games have grown up learning complex rules and inputs and have likely had more opportunity to learn how to deconstruct a ruleset and then figure out ways to achieve those goals. After all, Pac-Man was largely about escaping ghosts and eating dots. Sure, there was a pattern to learn, but it was a fairly singular task. A kid who cut their teeth on Metal Gear Solid or Minecraft had to employ a much more complex memory and thought process to succeed. I think that's why there are so many good young players these days.

All in all, I'm not sure anyone will know for sure unless it's studied in a truly academic fashion, but looking at the top 20 in the IFPA rankings, most of the players are older than 35...

#44 3 years ago
Quoted from zsciaeount:

Pinball is perhaps unique in that age does generally predict experience and game knowledge.

That is not unique at all.

Quoted from zsciaeount:

The younger players may seem formidable, because they have more opportunities to play on location than I did, since location play was practically non-existent from my late teens to early thirties. .

No, the younger players are playing more at home and not having to spend monies...that's their "advantage." WE are basically the same age and I had TONS of more places to play back then then people do now...it's not even close.

#45 3 years ago

I had no places to play until 2007.

#46 3 years ago

Pinball is a reactionary game, it requires reflexes to play and an ability to accurately predict the path of the ball.

Comparing it to bowling, golfing or playing an instrument etc makes no sense. It's not like the bowling pins or the golf ball move and you have to react to it.

Throwing a strike in bowling can be achieved by repeating the same motion over and over again. Barring some sort of physical ailment that prevents you from doing that, age shouldn't have an impact on that.

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