pimball - the generation gap

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pimball - the generation gap

Post by aruffo » Tue Sep 04, 2007 10:33 am

I love pinball.. and I always have. I've played it since I was about 3 or 4 years old. I had to stand on a box and really rrrrreach for those flippers, but I usually beat the adults who came up against me (to their great surprise, of course). I distinctly remember the surprise I felt when one day I realized I was looking down at the playfield instead of my eyes looking levelly across it.

So, naturally, I've always felt some contempt for the children I see-- especially the older ones-- who do nothing but blindly and randomly press the buttons as though it were a game of Hungry Hungry Hippos. But I was astonished and perplexed the other week, when I dropped in at a Chuck E Cheese (because, through its front window, I had seen a pinball machine) and saw a child perhaps 6 or 7 years old at the pinball machine.

He would put in his token and start the game. Then he'd pull the plunger and release the ball... and not even make a move to touch the side buttons as he watched the ball bounce against the flippers and roll into the outhole. He repeated this for all three balls... and then put in another token and did it again. And I had thought the kids who just bashed the buttons were stupid!

If the child had been obviously mentally deficient I wouldn't have thought too much further about it, but he seemed normal enough. I waited until he was done and played a game myself to see if the flippers were not functioning; they were weak (as is too frequently the case) but working. What was wrong? I wondered.

Then I suddenly realized, as I looked at all the other machines... they were all gambling machines. There were no actual arcade games in this arcade. With the exception of the whack-a-mole, every one of them was a device where the child would put his token in and it would do something for about five seconds while he watched passively. That's exactly what he was getting from the pinball machine; why should he have expected it to be any different?

The reverse happened to me when I visited London in 1990. I saw in a pub what appeared to be a video game-- it was a slot, or a "fruit machine"-- and I noticed that it took a 20p coin. I dropped one coin in ("Credit 1"), pressed the flashing START button, and the machine booped at me once. I stood there for perhaps a full minute waiting for the game to begin before I realized that the game had already ended.

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