In June of 2012, my husband and I became pinball machine owners for the first time. I can still remember the day our first machine, Bally’s The Shadow, showed up on our doorstep. We were excited, and very intimidated about the care and feeding of this new beast. Here we are, just a year later, and we now own six machines, but over the course of this single year… we’ve owned twenty. The hobby has taken hold, sunk its teeth into our consciousness in a way we never could have imagined.
There’s just so much to love about pinball. Once you get up to speed on basic maintenance and repair techniques, each new machine becomes a world of possibilities. There’s the gameplay, and constantly improving your performance (which does improve over time, with practice, like any good sport). Beyond that, though, is the excitement in making a particular machine your own. Will you replace all the incandescent bulbs with LEDs? In the expected colors, or something new? Add some purple lighting to a machine that was only red and gold before? Get that mini arcade machine mod for TRON that actually runs an emulator with the code from the original arcade game? The machine doesn’t come that way, you know. Owners add that stuff. Everything down to more visually pleasing custom apron cards. It offers a chance to personalize your machine, to improve it.
It’s in my nature to want to do more than just “have” a hobby. I always want to get involved, to rally others to something I think is cool. I want to have an effect, to make a contribution. It’s no surprise at all, then, that a mere year into this hobby finds me working on a new documentary about it, and dreaming of becoming a small-time pinball operator or opening a barcade of my own just to share this amazing hobby with other people.
Here’s that first machine, sporting our first LED conversion. It’s only been a year, but in that time we have come so far. We don’t need a pre-assembled kit now to do a conversion like this, and we experiment with totally new color choices. I’m not even afraid anymore when I have to take the motherboard out or disassemble a motor for cleaning. I can’t wait to see where the next year takes us, and I’m so glad we finally bit the bullet and dove into pinball ownership. Life will never be the same!