THE POWER OF PINBALL

The Star Trek in the Young Oncology Unit

It’s far from a new phenomenon, but pinball has shown how it can really play a significant role in aiding the recovery and treatment of hospital patients, and in particular youngsters.

Just recently, UK pinball owner Erdinch Degirmenciogl of the Pinball Mill was able to supply a Star Trek pinball to the Young Oncology Unit at Christie Hospital in Manchester.

The Star Trek at The Christie Hospital
The Star Trek at The Christie Hospital

The Unit is run by the Teenage Cancer Trust, the chosen charity of Northern Lights Pinball who supply and run the pinball element at the Play Expo show in Manchester each year.  They have worked with the Teenage Cancer Trust in previous promotions, and at the last Play Expo show the charity asked about getting a pinball into their dedicated hospital unit.

The Young Oncology Unit
The Young Oncology Unit

Lorraine Wright, the Teenage Cancer Trust Youth Support Coordinator at the Christie Ward, told Pinball News how they were looking for something to engage the young male patients and give then something new to occupy their mind during their hospital stay.

She said, “We recognised that something with a competitive edge generally gets their interest and David (another member of my team) suggested a pinball machine. The machine is fabulous.  It is already getting lots of use and everyone seems to love it!  It’s another opportunity for young people to get involved in something when they are here having their treatment – this is invaluable as it stops boredom and low mood and ultimately aids young people through their treatment.

The Star Trek in the Young Oncology Unit
The Star Trek in the Young Oncology Unit

This is probably the first such case of pinball helping with the treatment and recovery for youngsters in the UK, but it’s a well-known aid in the US where charities such as the Pinball Outreach Project and Project Pinball as well as several individuals and pinball suppliers work closely with hospitals and support groups to leverage pinball as a therapeutic and recuperative aid.

Nicole Anne Reik-Dunlap is the founder and Executive Director of the Pinball Outreach Project and is a volunteer at Randall Children’s Hospital in Portland, Oregon.  She told Pinball News how she introduced pinball into the lives of patients at the Hospital and the effect it had on them.

She said, “We had two games at the hospital for almost a year and I came up with an idea for a program called Friday Night Lights. On Friday nights I would go around to the rooms inviting patients and their families to play pinball with me. A lot of the parents were excited for an opportunity to have someone engage with their child as most of them have been staying in the hospital for long periods of time.  There’s also a great physical component that allows patients to get up and out of their beds for a while. It’s a motivator for them.

Playing pinball with their children has brought further benefits beyond the purely therapeutic ones.  Nicole explained how she has seen “…parent’s having the opportunity to bond with their kids over something from their generation, something they can’t do with the video game consoles that you see at every hospital game room.

The remedial effects are easily seen as Jessica Thompson, Child Life Specialist at Randall confirmed.  She said, “Pinball provides a great opportunity for our patients and siblings, especially our older kids and teens, to engage in developmentally appropriate play, get out of their rooms and interact with peers, and forget about being ‘sick’ for a small amount of time.

Lori Mathios from Rady’s Children’s Hospital in San Diego, California, is another beneficiary of the Pinball Outreach Project’s work.  She also expressed how pinball helps both the children and their parents at such a difficult time.  “The pinball machines provided a much needed diversionary for our patients and their siblings, and allowed the parents to relive their own childhoods”, she said.

So if you have a pinball you could spare and maintain, you too could change the lives of countless children at a local hospital or therapy centre.  Pinball is all about having fun, and who needs fun more than children going through such an incredibly tough time?

After all, as Amber Chavez from the Cherese Mari Laulhere Child Life Department at CHOC Children’s Hospital in Orange, California explained, “Patients are able to take their minds off of being in the hospital and enjoy some quality time with their families. Thank you for making that possible and brightening up their day.

 

PINBALL POPULARITY: CLASSIC vs. CURRENT POP CULTURE THEMES

Back in the early 1970s to the early 1990s, you could find pinball machines everywhere. You would see them in your local bars, arcade, restaurants, bowling alleys, and even your corner stores.

Pinball made game operators a lot of money but required a lot of maintenance. Pinball machines have several moving parts plus over a mile of wire in a single pinball. With more parts in a game, the higher the chance of something going wrong.

In the mid to late ’80s, arcade video games like Pong started taking over at these same commercial locations. They became the product to push since they required less maintenance and game play could be more easily controlled. Timed play made it easier for the venue to make more money.

Pinball machines were slowly phased out at this point and became harder to find for those folks that lived for the game.

The pinball market is having a huge resurgence largely because those who grew up playing it can now purchase machines for their homes. Rather than new games based on popular TVs and movies like Star Wars, it’s the classic, refurbished games that they are willing to pay for.

It is amazing to see so many new companies building great pinball machines again.

While new pinball machines look and play fantastic, there is even a larger demand for the classic games people remember playing when they grew up. They want to face that machine again that they almost mastered before.

Titles like The Addams Family, Attack From Mars, and Twilight Zone are bringing top dollar, with The Addams Family being the top-selling modern pinball machine to date.

The Addams Family
The Addams Family

Pinball collectors want these classic pinball machines refurbished; looking and playing like new games. The top 10 highest rated pinball machines are mostly pinball games from the 1990s.


New vs. Classic Pinball Machines

New pinball sales are also doing great. Most commercial locations buy new machines because of the reliability. Most new pinball machines are license-themed games with current movies, or bands. These new games come with great new features that can capture our attention immediately, whereas, the classic games bring back memories of youth and a desire to own the game they remember.

There are several companies stocking pinball parts and artwork for the classic pinball machines. You can find companies all over the country refurbishing and selling pinball games now. One company, Planetary Pinball, saw the demand for Williams pinball titles and remade one of the best pinball machines ever called Medieval Madness.

The Medieval Madness remake
The Medieval Madness remake

Even with a new version of this game available, folks are willing to pay more for an original Medieval Madness pinball. The new standard version of Medieval Madness retails for around $8,500, while the original retails for almost $10,000.

Medieval Madness
Medieval Madness

Pinball Collectors

The growing retro market has led to a large market for collectors as well. The current pinball manufacturers caught on to that and started offering premium and limited edition versions of their games. These limited games have features that you cannot get in the standard models. Collectors will snatch up a lot of these games, but their game room is also filled with the greatest titles of the past.

Our customers range from pinball collectors to folks just starting in the hobby. There is a sense of pride when showing off your pinball machine to friends and family. They found the game they have been on the hunt for. Folks love seeing older classic pinball machines that look and play like a brand new game. With the older games there is a bit of history that comes with it.

Back in 2003 a brand new, in the box, Stern The Simpsons Pinball Party retailed for $3,695.00. That same game, now, 14 years later is bringing close to $6,000.00 refurbished. The price of well-known and trusted titles keep going up. One of the last titles to come out from Bally/Williams was Cactus Canyon. Less than 1,000 of these games were made and they now can sell for $12,000-$15,000 for restored machines.

New pinball games are keeping pinball current again. That, in itself, is great news for pinball lovers. With the demand for both new and classic pinball machines, these games will become easier to find again.

It does not matter how many times you play the same pinball machine, you will never have the same game twice.

About the Author

Gene Goodman is vice president of M&P Amusement, a distributor of new and quality refurbished used arcade games and pinball machines since 1932, with headquarters in York, Pennsylvania.

RETRO GAMING: A GROWING TREND

Retro gaming is now very popular

Arcades are going retro. Thanks to at-home game consoles, arcade owners are scrambling for ways to draw gamers out of their parents’ basements. They are taking a new approach, aiming to attract gamers of all ages with the flashing lights and pixelated screens of the past.

For a while, the biggest controversy in the arcade game industry was whether or not arcade games were dead. As any pinball expert knows, there is in fact a passion to master the game despite the popularity of at-home game consoles and Internet games. Families are creating spaces in their homes just to add pinball machines and other games. In addition, hobbyists are taking pride in repairing old machines to work like new.

Arcade games definitely aren’t dead. Technology has made it possible for gamers to enjoy gaming experiences that didn’t exist before, and while the latest and greatest arcade games are still sought after, there’s a shift within the industry that pinball manufacturers and retailers are noticing: consumers want the classics.

From Pac-Man to Medieval Madness to Mortal Kombat, these quarter guzzlers are once again taking control of arcade-goers and hobbyists. Hiding in the corners of many of today’s retro arcades and home game rooms are the under-appreciated, 1980s and 1990s pinball machines blinking anxiously to grab the attention of anyone who passes by.

The unique clink of the tiny metal ball against the plastic flippers, the tinkering of bells as the ball bounces around the board, the sparks in everyone’s eyes when they conquer the game. This is what collectors and gamers want to experience, and what game distributors and retailers are looking to recreate.

But many consumers do not want to settle for newer models of this beloved arcade classic. It’s clear they want old school, but the question is, why do they prefer retro games?


Nostalgia Responsible for Retro Revival

People simply like the pinball games they played as a child. While manufacturers look to add the latest, flashiest technology to machines, consumers’ prefer the less lavish, but equally entertaining games of their childhoods; the machines of the ’80s and ’90s.

There is something real about having a game from one’s youth, but it’s also about the context in which these classic games were played. Adults want to experience again the feeling they had when they first played them; a feeling that can’t be captured in other forms of entertainment. An article from The Atlantic discussed nostalgia and video games, “Players aren’t remembering the time they watched a hero defeat a bad guy (as in a movie) – they’re remembering the time they beat the bad guy.” The same sentiment holds true with pinball machines and other games. They bring back a familiar experience that gamers want to relive.

Retro games are also associated with a sense of community and social aspect. Adults think back to playing pinball at the arcade after school or on the weekends. The community feeling is partially attributable to the popularity of retro gaming. Modern online gaming attempts to recreate the social aspect, but it doesn’t have the same feeling of physically being together with friends and family playing. Part of the appeal of retro gaming was that it was truly a hobby that people shared with others.

Nostalgia, community and fun all contribute to gamers’ desires to relive the past. From reminiscing baby boomers to classic gaming millennials, the pinball industry is driven mostly by collectors purchasing machines to liven up their homes.

Pinball machines are not meant to sit quietly in bedrooms, garages, or family rooms. The passion for retro gaming is so strong that avid collectors have specific areas of their homes dedicated to arcade games, where they and their family members can enjoy the classics with fewer interruptions. Whether it is a spare room or a refurbished basement, pinball lovers know how to create the ultimate gaming atmosphere, the true gamer’s home away from home.

What this Means for the Pinball Industry

The growing trend of retro over modern has impacted the pinball industry positively. While modern games with all the bells and whistles will still be sought after, manufacturers, distributors and others in the industry are keeping retro in mind. Restoration and repair account for a large portion of businesses, with many businesses selling parts of machines to collectors as well.

And those who attempt to create modern games that replicate the look and feel of retro games will likely not have success, as these games can’t conjure up the same feelings associated with classic arcade games.

The popularity of retro games isn’t just affecting residential customers either. Many bars, restaurants, and other businesses are purchasing retro games. Some restaurants have themes entirely devoted to retro arcade gaming.

The shift to retro arcade games is all about basic human psychology. People like the enjoyment they had as kids in the ’80s and ’90s playing the games they love. Because of this, the arcade industry is trying to recapture those feelings gamers had while playing.

It’s really more than selling a game; it’s about the feelings and memories associated with these beloved games.

About the Author

Gene Goodman is vice president of M&P Amusement, a distributor of new and quality refurbished used arcade games and pinball machines since 1932, with headquarters in York, Pennsylvania.