How it all began
During the Golden Age of pinball in the early 1990s, I wasn't even old enough to know what a pinball machine was, let alone play one. I spent most of my childhood playing games on the PC rather than slinging coins at the arcade. I had no idea about the wonderful world of pinball. I threw coins into the odd machine at the arcade or bowling alley, but I never understood how to play. So, like most people, I lost interest in the game of pinball quickly.
Fast forward to 2014. Still into PC gaming, I downloaded a copy of Pinball FX2 on a whim, followed soon after by Pinball Arcade. Little did I know how these two games would eventually introduce me to real pinball. I played these games like most people new to pinball would. That is, I would bash the flippers whenever the ball came near them and hope that it didn't drain. Shooting for specific objectives or starting game modes was a totally foreign concept to me.
After a while, I started to wonder what it really took to get a high score. I read some gameplay guides and watched some tutorial videos. Soon enough, things started to make more sense. I learned how to start multiball, score jackpots, and accrue massive bonuses. Over time, I began to understand ways in which to get through the game's objectives. It was a massive eye-opener.
Learning how to play was one thing, but playing pinball on the PC just didn't feel quite right. Digital emulation wasn't enough; I had to play the real thing.
The bug bit
I visited a few locations near me that had pinball machines to play. Unfortunately, playing them was a lot less fun than I had hoped. Most of them were poorly maintained. Not satisfied with the few machines I could find "out in the wild", I started browsing the internet to see what the pinball market was like. Eventually, I got in touch with someone who wanted to sell their pinball machine collection. Soon afterwards I was the proud owner of my first pinball machine: Demolition Man (Williams, 1994). Knowing nothing about pinball machines or how they work, Fiona and I dove right into restoring it. It turned out to be a lot of fun and we learned a lot about pinball along the way. We played the hell out of that machine for the next few months.
Our collection started to grow pretty quickly after that. Our next machine was a High Speed II: The Getaway (Williams, 1992). That was followed soon after by a Stars (Stern, 1978). The next thing I know, Fiona and I were driving a 16-hour round trip to collect eight games at once.
Since then, we have been repairing and playing pinball machines almost non-stop. Pinball is not only about the game; it has become a fantastic way to learn about electronics, engineering, woodworking, painting, and most importantly, patience and effective problem solving. We put these skills to use in every restoration we do, and learn something new with each machine we work on. Nothing feels better than restoring a game to its former glory and playing the heck out of it. That's what pinball is all about!