Tuesday, June 11, 2002

Pinball Inflation is ruining this country.

I am a pinball fiend. The sound of the flippers. The nagging worry that something will break during your all-time high score. The magic but infrequent times that the ball itself smacks the underside of the glass, giving you a momentary rush as the thought flashes through your head that the glass could shatter, lacerating your face and forever scarring you.

But something happened in the world of pinball when I was about 13. The "million shot".

Up until then, we had been playing along in a realistic point scheme. Half a million was a fantastic score. Now all of a sudden, with the advent of the million shot, it only required ONE SHOT! I felt so cheated. The first million-shot game (I'm pretty sure) was Comet, though I may be wrong. Then it only got worse, I remember playing a game called Police Force, which had the laughable "Unlimited Millions" ramp. I sat there and shot the ball up that ramp 46 times in a row. But what did it all mean?

I had lost my innocence.

Gone were the halcyon days of High Speed and Pinbot. Now a new age was being ushered in, with machines like Bride of Pinbot, which offered a Billion Shot. A Billion Shot? I would have laughed if it didn't hurt so bad.

Where does it all end? I'll tell you where: nowheresville. Pinball point inflation was just a pathetic last-ditch effort to sway a new generation of kids who were hooked on video games, that didn't want to feel the thrill of pinball. What pinball inflation failed to take into account wa the subsequent devaluation of pinball. It's like the german Deutschmark before the 2nd world war. If you need a billion pinball points to buy a loaf of bread, does that make the bread inherently more valuable? No. It only makes the points worth less.

These days you get over a million points just for shooting the ball off the plunger.

And now, sadly, Williams, the manufacturer of all the great games I loved, like Earthshaker and Black Night, no longer makes pinball machines.


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