Seven Pinball Themes for a Casual Player Named Brad
I’ve been writing for Kineticist for a few months now and I’ve had a blast immersing myself in pinball culture and learning more about what makes a machine great, both figuratively and literally.
Personally, I’m more of a casual pinball player. One of my earliest pinball memories was when I was younger and my friends’ dad brought home Bally’s Playboy pinball machine. I can still picture that backglass and the thing that stood out the most to me on it wasn’t the risque playmates, but the skinny-dipping grandma in the pool in the background.
In hindsight, it makes perfect sense that I appreciated the humor over the sex appeal since years later I came out as gay. Regardless, us kids were always doing four-player tournaments on it, and while I can’t say I became the greatest technical player or even learned any pinball vernacular from it, I had a great time and I was completely entertained.
Since then, if I find myself around pinball machines, I will absolutely indulge, but I don’t think I’ve leveled-up, skillswise. The top two best places to play pinball in LA were actually places I stumbled into for reasons other than pinball. AYCE Gogi is a Korean BBQ spot with a pinball haven in the back that I took advantage of because of a long wait to be seated, and EightyTwo is an arcade with its own pinball hall that a date took me to (it didn’t work out, thanks for bringing it up). Both places offered a huge variety of pinball machines that tickled my fancy and took me back to being a kid playing the Playboy machine.
Writing for Kineticist has inspired me to play more. Embracing my status as a more casual player, we thought it’d be fun to explore some of the pinball themes that might catch my eye walking into an arcade bar or restaurant. What do I look for in a machine as a casual pinball player? Mostly fun IP with a showy backglass, and I’m a sucker for a detailed playfield. And if there are some cool looking toys? Take my money! I went through our very own pinball theme hype index, and picked out a few of the themes that would for sure grab this newer pinball player’s attention.
I’m a huge cinephile and much like any other child of the ‘90s, I am a huge Steven Spielberg fan. I even did a report on him in school and learned about the many problems the production of Jaws had, which makes its success and its place on the best American Movies of All Time even more impressive. Hearing that iconic score play from a Jaws pinball machine would have me rushing over to play faster than Amityville residents vacating the water. Imagine the fear of a shark fin circling the playfield, or, better yet, a full blown great white toy terrorizing players. Let’s just hope it doesn’t sink like the real mechanical shark did when they first put it in the water (source: me and my school report, or read more about that here).
Maybe I’m biased from catching his Farewell Yellow Brick Road tour in the fall, but I want to preserve Elton John and his musical legacy as much as possible, so I would have no problem supporting an Elton John pinball machine that costs me 0.01% of what I paid to see him in concert. Also, if given the choice to pay to play his music on a jukebox or pay to hear his music from a pinball machine while I get to indulge in some EJ-inspired playfield designs - outerspace for Rocket Man, a Yellow Brick road, a literal Crocodile rockin’ - I’m gonna go with the option that keeps me more active. To the friends who will try to get me to sit down and take a break from this machine, I say, “I’m Still Standing.”
I would find seeing this resident of 221B Baker Street’s name on a pinball machine most curious, Watson. I’m a sucker for Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s deducing detective, and I would love to see how Sherlock Holmes comes to life in his very own pinball theme. I love escape rooms and mystery novels, so it would be clever if a Sherlock pinball machine could offer elements of actually solving a case while playing. That might make it tough to replay, but, hey, someone else can worry about that. I’m just saying if this machine existed, I would for sure be the guy playing it in my deerstalker hat while pretending to smoke a pipe.
Little Shop of Horrors
One of my favorite movie musicals, I would feed anyone standing between me and a Little Shop of Horrors pinball machine to my very own Audrey II to get a chance to play it. In case that reference reads like Greek, this movie-turned-off-Broadway-musical-turned-movie-musical is about a lowly plant shop employee whose talking plant commands blood to grow. Seeing Audrey II grow throughout the game would be a selling point, and a really clever way to kick off the game would be to offer a fake pinprick of blood to Audrey II from your finger a la Seymour. With the soundtrack’s catchy songs playing and the goal to stop Audrey II from taking over the world, the Meek Will Inherit a great game should it ever come to light.
Footnote: for any fan of the movie, please check out the insane and EXPENSIVE original ending that was reshot for a happier ending.
As I mentioned earlier, I was a teenager in the ‘90s, and at some point - perhaps when Scream was released in 1996 - I became a huge fan of horror, and it became my mission to rent any and all classic modern horror films. I have major respect for some of the OGs of the genre, which is why I would turn into a scream queen if I ever came across a Friday the 13th or new Nightmare on Elm Street pinball machine. Freddy Krueger and Jason are icons of the genre and to see an Elm Street or Camp Crystal Lake playfield would get me just as excited as I was popping those VHS tapes into my VCR. As much as I love them, don’t even think about cutting corners and giving a Freddy vs. Jason machine, instead. Much like Michael Myers from Halloween, they deserve their own machines.
The Fifth Element
On the heels of my love of horror is my love of sci-fi, and a The Fifth Element pinball theme would get me squealing louder than Ruby Rhod. A callout of Leeloo saying “mul-ti-pass”? Take my money! Collecting all the elements around the futuristic and intergalactic playfield would have me feeling like Korben Dallas. Hopefully, we get a later stage pumping out the Diva’s Dance, or maybe even a Diva toy that performs?! I can dream. The movie has cult status for a reason, so trust in its fans to give it some pinball machine love!