Before Donkey Kong, before Asteroids, before Pac Man … heck, before Pong … there was pinball … genesis of mainstream electronic gaming.
Few people are aware of this, but ever since I was a young boy, I played the silver ball. From Soho down to Brighton, I must have played them all. However, I’ve never seen anything like it in any amusement hall — this deaf, dumb, and blind kid I encountered … sure played a mean pinball.
One day, I may write a song about it.
On second thought, maybe not. Nobody wants to hear about that kind of stuff.
I am constantly looking for new and interesting places to check out here in Seatlle. Sometimes I get suggestions or tips, and this is exactly what happened a few weeks ago as I was perusing the Seattleites Group on Facebook.
“You should check out the Pinball Museum”, came a suggestion from Eric, and yesterday, I did exactly this.
Shortly after noon, my sprog and I strapped on our helmets, jumped on my scooter, and rode two-up through the streets of Downtown Seattle — over to Bruce Lee’s old stomping grounds.
Nestled among the Chinese restaurants and markets of “The ID” (a local designation for the “International District” a/k/a Chinatown) sits a nondescript storefront in an unassuming building. Inside of this storefront, lies the Seattle Pinball Museum.
What is the Pinball Museum?
I’m glad you asked.
Opened in September of 2010, the Pinball Museum is a collection of over 30 different pinball machines from 1960 all the way up to now.
This place is, however, more than just a simple “museum”.
Unlike most museums where you are hushed and admonished in quiet tones not to touch the exhibits, the Pinball Museum is a decidedly hands-on affair.
The machines are arranged in chronological order from oldest to newest, and you get to play every, single, one of them. Unlimited times. As you play each machine and proceed to your right, you get a feel for the progression of the pinball machine as both a game and a work of art.
While I think it’s more interesting to play them in chronological order, this is not necessary. Visitors have free reign of the museum and are encouraged to play whichever machine strikes their fancy for as long as they wish. It’s the ultimate pinball arcade with a selection you cannot find anywhere else.
While all of the machines are entertaining in their own way, everyone will, of course, find a handful of machines that draw them back for replays.
My favorite machine is called “Galactic Girl”. Assembled in 2010, this machine was made out of spare parts cannibalized from other pinball games and is thus completely unique. The table is made of wood, and the graphics are that of a girl, a galactic girl at that, in a bikini. For a homemade game, this machine is surprisingly smooth, and the knowledge that you are playing a one-of-a-kind really ups the entertainment value.
My second favorite is called “Attila the Hun”. This one sort of straddles the old machine/new machine paradigm, and has the smoothest gameplay without giving the player a seizure with blinking lights overkill.
My third favorite is “Bally Wizard”. Technically, this machine doesn’t have much going for it, but it’s based on the “Tommy” phenomenon, and I remember playing it as a youngster. Sometimes nostalgia is its own reward.
For nearly two hours, I played every “exhibit” in the house, from the 60’s era Jolly Roger to the machines of the last decade.
I noticed that, in general, I was more attracted to the older machines than the newer games. In my opinion, the old machines are more tactile and are more “organic”. The mushy flippers require more effort, and they feel more like table games than video games. Also, they don’t insult your intelligence by awarding you 1,000,000 points for a bumper hit.
The newest machine in the museum is the just-released Rolling Stones Pinball Machine, and of the “new” machines, I think it is the most fun. I spent a solid 15 minutes yesterday trying to hit Mick Jagger with my big steel balls. I also played pinball (rimshot).
In any event, I had a blast. It had been almost 20 years since I last played pinball, and I had almost forgotten how fun these games were.
In the age of Xboxes, iPads, and Gameboys, these video games of yesteryear have been forgotten to a large extent, but I think they may be poised to make a comeback. Especially now that “retro” is highly in fashion.
If you have yet to visit the Seattle Pinball Museum, I highly recommend it.
They charge visitors $7/each for unlimited play which is, if anything, underpriced. It’s easily worth $10 or $15. Hurry in before they realize this.
The Seattle Pinball Museum
508 Maynard Avenue South