Today, I had a chance to go to the Pennsylvania Coin Operated Gaming Hall of Fame with my son and our Indian Guides nation (aka, all the tribes in our community). While having seen the website, I still wasn’t quite sure what was in store. Sure, video games had been a part of my childhood, but it was mostly in the heyday of the original NES. On occasion, we went to the mall and got to play in the arcade there, but that was the days of Mortal Kombat and NBA JAM, late in the bell curve for arcades and very late for pinball games.
Getting to the Hall of Fame, I found an amazing array of pinball and video games, many older than myself. There were the classics: Donkey Kong, Centipede, Space Invaders, etc. Some were familiar from other platforms, like Super Mario Brothers and Dig Dug (which I knew from the Commodore 64). And then there were about a dozen different variations of Pac-Man. There were also a numerous games I’d never even heard of…
However, I ended up being more drawn to the many pinball machines. As a kid, I was never drawn to the pinball machines…they weren’t flashy, and didn’t have the same draw as many of the video games. However, as I’ve grown older, I’ve come to appreciate the mechanics and creative ways in which they can be made.
At the Hall of Fame, there was a lot of variety and some really interesting approaches. “Hercules” was a huge machine that appeared to use a pool cue ball as the pinball. “Orbiter” was a bland looking case with a martian-surface style, but when I played, I found that the board was controlled by spinning magnets, which made it hard to aim at targets, but made for an interesting game.
However, my favorite was “Haunted House” as pictured above. This one was interested, because it had 3 distinct levels of playing areas and two sets of flipper buttons. There was the main level, which had a lot of your standard pinball elements and layouts. Then there was the upstairs level, which was worth double points, and had it’s own pair of flippers operated by the second set of flipper buttons. From the upstairs, you could drop back down to the main level or roll down the ramp. Then, on the main level, there was a “secret” bumper which would lift up and drop you down into the basement level. In the basement level, it was almost like a mirror image, with it’s own flippers, also operated by the second set of flipper buttons, which would it the ball towards you. If you managed to fall past the flippers, then the ball was launched back up to the main level. It was really interesting to see so much packed into a single machine, and I ended up playing it several more times just to see what else I might find.
Overall, even though it was just a few hours, it was fun, if a little noisy. And not once did I hear my son, who’s grown up with PS3’s and Wii U’s, complain about the games. If anything, he’s astonished at the mechanics of these older games in a world that is now so digital. And it made me appreciate much of the history behind where the industry has come today.