Pinball Wizard

Project pinball logo

Pinball is such an interesting game to play. While video games are predictable - when you do X, Y will always happen - pinball is different because it’s a physical game and can react differently based on little things like how worn the balls or rubbers are, how much power the coils get, or even how you nudge the machine, something that can’t be simulated in software.

I’d like to say that I’ve been a pinball guy all my life, but that’s not really the case. I remember watching my dad play pinball a bit when I was a kid, but I have no specific memories. My first memory is really seeing a Revenge From Mars machine in a local Buffalo Wild Wings and Weck (back when they were called BW3) and being in awe of the combination of computer game and pinball machine. Since then, I always had an itch to own a machine or two, but never had the room.

That changed when we moved into our new house a few years ago and I turned the basement into an entertainment area for sports, movies, and games. In addition to building a MAME machine with a Raspberry Pi (maybe a topic for a future post?), I also put a Terminator 2 pinball machine down there.

I thought I was good, until something strange happened. It had a baby, and before I knew it, I had a Terminator 2 and a Metallica machine. Ok, two is good.

Wrong again. Another one magically appeared in the summer of 2018, this time an Iron Maiden.

I found that I grew tired of Terminator 2, so sold it to a friend of mine, bringing my total back down to two. But then the magic happened again, and in 2019 The Walking Dead and Simpsons Pinball Party showed up.

Row of four pinball machines

Luckily for me, there’s been no other movement, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the new Avengers machine makes its way into the lineup at some point…

Unlike a video game, pinball machines require quite a bit of maintenance. Since you have a steel ball flying around at high speeds, and coils firing to make it bounce around, quite a bit of dirt and metal shavings makes its way to the playfield. I find that playing some music (or watching a football game in the background) while cleaning them out is a pretty relaxing way to spend an hour or two. This probably won’t interest anybody, but this is my method for cleaning:

As you can see, it’s pretty involved, and this is just the cleaning. I’ve had to learn how to solder some pieces that came apart, have had to replace some circuit boards, and the like, but overall they work really well, all things considered.

So if you’ve read this far, you’re probably wondering about what pinball has to do with helping kids. I’m a big supporter of a charity called Project Pinball. From their website, they are a “non-profit charity organization that places pinball machines in Children’s Hospitals and Ronald McDonald Houses to introduce therapeutic benefits to kids of all ages.” While many charities try to find cures to diseases, I love how Project Pinball is trying to give kids a little joy in their darkest times.

If you’d like to help out, you can donate money to individual hospitals, or, if you might want a pinball machine yourself, you can enter a raffle to win a machine of your choosing.