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    Generation X and Pinball

    written by Agent 86

    Being a member of "Generation-X" myself - I'm 20 - its rather heart wrenching to be a member of a group that is considered partly responsible for "killing" something I enjoy - pinball. All over the news you hear things rumblings of how pinball is dying off, how kids have lost interest, how its a game for the older generation but after this past Friday I can't help but start to question all of that.

    Allow me to bring you up to speed. On Friday I was out on a date and mentioned to her that I was excited that my first pinball machine was coming in sometime this week (its a CFTBL, my favorite pin, for those curious minds out there) and she came back with "what's pinball?". It was then that I asked her if she would like to see what it is. She agreed, and I whisked her off to the only place I know of that has any pins in my area - a pool hall / arcade. Being a Friday night, I wasn't surprised to see a whole bunch of kids my age there, but what shocked me was what they were doing.

    My travels there after work on weekdays have made me grow accustomed to a rather barren playscape. Among various vids, he has three pins there, a SW:EP1, No Good Gofers, and a South Park. Generally when I am there they are open and free. I play a game or two of SW:EP1 (its 75 cents, so I tend to shy away from it because I always end up with a lone quarter in the end), a game or two of South Park (which annoys me because "Match" isn't on even though I never win anyway, and it just seems to drain all to easy), and a whole lot of No Good Gofers (I'm developing an addiction to that machine even though he has it set a little steep). But regardless, its usually a "free for all" for me - but not so this night - kids were playing pinball!

    South Park was by far the biggest earner for the period of time I was there. SW:EP1 drew in a decent number of people. Sadly, No Good Gofers had no one visit it but me and my lady (I attribute that to being across the room from the other two). Don't get me wrong, people were still playing vids (basically the sit down driving games), but the pins were sure holding their own. The air hockey machine cleaned house over all of them, but that's beyond the scope of this story :).

    This warms my heart because it shows that, at least in this particular place, pinball is still alive and well with kids my age. I don't think they would miss it if all of a sudden it disappeared - like I would - but they enjoy it being there. It shows that pinball can indeed survive with my generation given the proper setting and machine type.

    But being as curious as I am, I decided to ask various friends of mine what they thought of the various machines at that location. Sarah liked No Good Gofers the best. Not only did it give her a free game, but she found it more enjoyable overall - and she's a first timer! She thought SW:EP1 was ok, and didn't care for South Park much (the flashing lights which were almost constant bothered her). My other friend, Tom, loved the SW:EP1 machine. He's a Star Wars nut, and loved the whole video on the playfield trick. He then rated South Park above No Good Gofers for no reason other then he just "liked it more" - so basically he just likes South Park more then golf.

    Personally, I like No Good Gofers the best. It didn't grab me at first, but the more I play the more I "understand" it. I just get better and better with every game. I can't do anything besides getting and restarting multiball consistently with that machine, but I learn a little more each time I play. Beyond that, I like the South Park machine over SW:EP1. South Park is an "ok" machine in my book - nothing special by any means - but the problem with SW:EP1 is that I find it rather "bland" (for lack of a better word). When I play the SW:EP1 machine it seems like I am trying to do three things. Start the video mode, hit the small targets next to the vid screen, or run the ramps. Granted I am not the greatest pinball player in the world, I wouldn't call myself good by any stretch of the word, and I attribute that to part of why I find the game so "simple". Although its a cool toy, I don't think the vid screen can carry a pin like it seems to attempt in SW:EP1. I don't know if this is something with PB2k in general - as I have not been able to locate a Revenge from Mars to try - but it struck me as I was playing none the less. I think in the hands of a master, as Lawlor was rumored to have the third PB2k game in development, it would have been highly beneficial.

    I guess what this boils down to is that pinball *can* exist and thrive in my generation, but it needs to be the right machine in the right place. You can't just stick a clunker in the middle of some store and expect it to gather money. Given that some of the best machines of all time are "licenses" (TZ, IJ, AF to name a few) it doesn't surprise me that SW:EP1 and especially South Park attract more kids my age. So exploiting a good license with a decent machine, and putting in a good place, is probably the best bet in getting kids my age. The judge is still out in regards to PB2k, and without more of them coming I don't know if we'll ever know for sure how that would have effected the pinball world.

    Anyway, I'm sorry for the long post - it just kept growing and growing. It kind of resembles my pinball addiction, and I'm only 20 :).

    -- Adam D. Ligas [Agent 86]
    - We now return you to your regularly scheduled RGP discussion...
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