We stopped into a Florida pinball machine dealer. He said that he went into the business as a labor of love, but has recently been making more money than he ever dreamed possible. “Prices for new machines are up 30 percent compared to 2020,” he said, “and the used machines have pretty much followed the new prices.”
New or old? “The new machines are much more engaging for home use,” he responded. “You could play one for an hour and not finish every mission. People get bored quickly with the older machines.”
How about the super wide super complex Jersey Jack machines? (Dialed-In is a prescient 2016 design about a city under attack.) “Remember the Fisker Karma? It looked great, but hardly any were made. Tesla, on the other hand, is still here.” (He wasn’t a believer in the maintainability of the Jersey Jack machines.) What company is the Tesla of pinball? “Stern.”
What if you’re not good enough to complete these complex games with 3 balls? “You can set them to up to 10 balls per game,” the expert responded, and explained that it was also possible to customize the amount of time within which the machine would provide a replacement ball for one that drained.
The Dialed-In game, above, made me think that a Coronapanic machine could be a lot of fun. The player would have to spell out R0, PCR, mRNA, Fauci, Wuhan, and WHO. The history section of the game would feature Robert Malone inventing the idea of an mRNA medication, being interviewed by Joe Rogan, and then being memory-holed by the New York Times. A wheel-o-masks would spin to bandana, cloth, surgical, and N95 locations. The virus would start spreading and the player would have to hit targets and ramps to #StopTheSpread. The successful player would shut down commercial airline flights, quarantine cities, order the general public to wear masks (slowing down the spread imperceptibly), order schools shut, etc. Hit the 14 Days to Flatten the Curve spinner once and then it inexplicably would continue to spin until the machine was powered down.
The Canadian Freedom Convoy would get its own subsection. The player would take on the role of Justin Trudeau. Don Blackface would be the first level. No matter how many times the player hit the trucks that converted in the center of the playing field, they wouldn’t break up. It would then be time to Invoke Emergency Powers and freeze the bank accounts of anyone who donated $20 to the truckers.
Separately, I wondered why pinball machines aren’t made in China. Everything else electronic is. You wouldn’t buy a smartphone assembled by clumsy Americans, right? It turns out that Homepin set up a factor in Shenzhen (factory tour video; the machine gets terrible reviews, but mostly because of its rules and layout, not because of the way it is built).