Secret sharing time (no, not this one): my first trip to the United States was to play pinball. I'd played a lot of pinball in my youth and I thought I was pretty good. So I booked a flight to Chicago in the mid-90's (I can't remember exactly when) to compete in the PAPA World Championships ... and promptly got my clock cleaned. Take a look at this Reddit AMA to find out what it takes to be a pinball champion — that, sadly, was not me.
Pinball has declined since its peak in the 60's and 70's (as you can see in the Tableau chart below, by Paul Banoub), and most of the manufacturers had closed up shop by the turn of the century. Nonetheless, pinball has enjoyed a recent resurgence thanks to ageing hipsters (like me) looking to relive their youth, and a younger generation looking for a tactile experience you just can't find in a video game.
That said, pinball is also enjoying a renaissance in the virtual arena. Over the past few years, the Pinball Arcade has reproduced many of the pinball tables of days past (including many of my favourites, like Twilight Zone) for play on tablets and consoles. But my favourite of all is Pro Pinball Timeshock, a completely custom virtual table developed for PCs in the 90's, and now just re-released for iOS:
If you squint closely, there below the left flipper, you can see my name in the playfield credits. My pinball obsession in the mid-90s led me to a small consulting role on this game when it back was released for PC. It was quite a pleasant surprise to see my name there — I haven't done computer game work for 20 years! — but it's made reliving those memories even more fun. If you want to try it yourself you can find Pro Pinball on the App Store. Even better, this digital pinball table will soon be made into a real-life pinball machine -- after playing so many real tables converted to digital games, I can't wait to see how my favourite digital game translates to the real world.
That's it for this week. See you back here on Monday!