(No stats this week because we’re not concentrating on a single game, but the above, as stated below, is Tales of the Arabian Nights played via Pinball Arcade on Steam, controlled with a keyboard.)
This week is a special week here on RGotW as we are including a ton of games in one week, beating our previous record of three. In fact, we’re just going to go ahead and celebrate an entire type of gaming, retro and non, because really, they are all good.
Ladies and gentlemen, may I present to you: pinball.
The above example is from a very nice game available for Steam called Pinball Arcade: it very faithfully replicates a ton of pinball tables from throughout the entire history of pinball. While getting all of the tables is a bit on the pricey side, you at least get the table I demonstrated above (Tales of the Arabian Nights) for free, and can play others for free for a limited time.
But let’s talk about pinball itself. Unlike other videogames, pinball is a very mechanical and real-world entity that has a definite feel and charm to it. Sure, playing pinball on the PC through means like the above Pinball Arcade is well and good if you have no other way, but honestly, if you’re going to enjoy pinball, go out and find a real machine at a reputable arcade that keeps their tables well-maintained and in working order. There’s really no substitute for the feel and the sound of a moving ball rolling around on an inclined surface colliding with obstacles and being bounced around, while you try to prevent it from escaping to the bottom of the table with the flippers, controlled by side buttons almost as if you are embracing the table, inviting it to become a part of you, and of you, it. If this all seems almost sensual, you are right. It is a very involved, wonderful dance of skill and perception that requires one to sense everything going on. And in this way, computer pinball simulations don’t really do it justice, but again, it’s better than nothing at all.
You can find many old pinball machines that are all mechanical, with no electronic components, and modern ones that integrate many electrical, crazy components in it, including a scoreboard that can be interactive, elements that can control and change the table, speech, graphics, and so on. Both are absolutely wonderful and I’m not sure if some people have their preference, but I have none. I adore tables like Royal Flush just as much as I do, say, Theatre of Magic. It doesn’t matter how much or little the game adds with electronic wizardry; the game is still about a physical ball rolling around in a physical space, and as long as you have that, you have pinball.
Go out and find some pinball games out in the wild. Enjoy them. Love them. Maybe even bring them back. We’ve brought electronic videogames into the home to stay, but pinball needs to be experienced in its purest form. I’d love to see an arcade today full of tables from all eras. On second thought, maybe I wouldn’t, because I would go there and never leave.