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Why It Is Not Called FlipperBall

It's amazing to me how often I have heard that one certain phrase.
I'm pretty sure those who say it aren't really intending to upset me, and if they realized how much their words really sting, they probably wouldn't even say it in the first place. I consider each of them friends, and I'll presume most of them return my opinion, which makes their words just that much more bitter of a pill to swallow. Now, maybe I should correct the next person who says it to me, but I don't want to make anyone feel bad, nor do I want to start a debate when I'm not even sure they would understand my position.

(Clicking on a machine Title will take you to The Incredible Internet
Pinball Machine Database

The phrase I'm referring to is actually a set of slightly differing phrases
which basically all say the same thing. "Well, you do know that Flipperless
PinBall isn't really even PinBall?" Now, anyone who knows me even casually knows that my passion is for all things Flipperless, or why would JPH and I have joined up to create The Magic Of Flipperless? But let's forget how insulting that lousy phrase is to me and other Flipperless authors. The fact is that the phrase simply isn't even remotely true. The truth happens to be that if we examine the word PinBall itself, we can only conclude that the only true form of PinBall is Bagatelle.
Everything else referred to as PinBall is simply a hybrid.

For detailed information on Bagatelle, you can check out our History
section, or even follow our link to the Elliott Avedon Museum and Games Archive. Right now I'm simply going to explain the facts as they are, and you can accept them calmly, or become all bent out of shape and indignant. I'll simply bide my time while you fret and fume and fidget.
While I wait, I'll wonder aloud if hard leather balls were ever used as PinBalls.
Since wood, glass, ceramic, plastic, rubber, and metal were used at various
times, doesn't it seem likely that small, pebble-filled leather bags would have
also been used at some time?

Ready for me to continue proving my case for Bagatelle as the only Pure PinBall? It's really simple as can be, the very name is a combining of the two most important elements of the game, namely the Pin and the Ball. And now if we follow Bagatelle far enough back, to it's kissing cousin Billiards, or Snooker, there isn't much else involved other than the Pins and the Ball. Yes, there once was the Cue, but since that was borrowed from another set of games, we should ignore it.
Now, with anything that humankind creates, we've never been able to keep well enough alone, and for one, I'm glad. Although I do think things got way out of hand decades ago, speaking of our beloved PinBall.

Now, the progression from Bagatelle to Commercial Coin-Op was a quite natural growth of the Coin-Op Amusement Device industry, and yes, Commercial Coin-Op is and should be seen as a pure from of PinBall. The reason is that many of the first Commercial Coin-Op machines employed every element of Bagatelle, which by this time was being called PinBall. Those first Commercial Coin-Op games had the Ball, of course, and the majority had Pins, or Brads as the were once called, as well as scoring holes, and a spring loaded device for launching.
There, I have just described the basics of the glorious game of PinBall. So,
if this is indeed the starting point for the game we love, then you'll have
to agree that Flipperless surely is PinBall. But I?m just getting started. Settle
back and get really comfortable while I explain why the modern game which we also call PinBall . . . really isn't PinBall, at least not from a purely Historical point of view, nor from a Marketing point of view.

This part of my friendly discussion might depress those of you who sincerely
believe this nonsense that Flipperless isn?t really PinBall, since I'm going
to use some black and white facts to prove my case. You can check out all these facts yourself.
The best proof I can offer isn't the first Bagatelle games from the middle 1700s, but instead a unique game from the infancy of the 20th century, a mere hundred years ago, folks. Log Cabin was possible the first really successful commercially manufactured Trade Stimulator, made in the very earliest 1900s by Caille Brothers. You might want to check this simple but challenging game, recreated by druadic, and downloadable from our Download section. So, are you convinced I'm right yet? No, I'm not really surprised, since wrong assumptions can be very difficult to abandon.

Now let me offer you some more facts and figures from this same source, since I doubt you'll read evidence which clearly says that you are wrong. But that's not important, other than the reality that in order for me to be correct, again, as usual, you will have to be incorrect. But I won't rub it in, I promise. Consider that the first two Commercially successful games ever made were 1931s Baffle Ball and Ballyhoo.
Both were marketed as PinBall, and rightly so, since they consisted of Pins
and a Ball, as well as scoring holes or cups. Nothing else than those simple,
basic elements. And note that 1932 saw the first Tilt mechanism, in Williams
Advance, and 1933 brought us the first kicker and bell, in Contact.
Now the first Bumper didn't appear until 1936, which added a new dimension to PinBall, and it was 1947 before we saw the first Flipper on Humpty Dumpty.

Now, if the flipper had remained as it was on Humpty Dumpty, I think PinBall
would be so much more influential than it is today. The triple side-stacked
flippers of Humpty Dumpty actually added some interesting challenges to the
evolving game of PinBall, as did the change from the triple side stacked position to a bottom side position, which Williams presented, along with the first ever Jet Bumper, on Saratoga in 1948. For several decades, highly innovative and competitive manufacturers fought a friendly natured battle for both the hearts and the coins of PinBall fanatics, selling their colorful and entertaining games to amusement parks, pool halls, taverns, dance halls, summer resorts, and assorted other places people used to gather and enjoy their leisure time. From my point of view, as long as each company used their own flipper positioning, size, and even feel, our game of PinBall was creative and healthy. But once everything began to become standardized, the games became stale, with a certain sameness that I feel slowly
dulled the excitement.

As the 60s blended into the 70's, the sameness was beginning to ring an end
to any number of the smaller companies. Standard sizes for flippers and bumpers, and kickers and roll-overs and plungers that played pretty much the same no matter which game by which company you dropped coins into ruined the excitement for the regular player. And with fewer regulars playing fewer games, fewer casual players gave the games a try. But in my estimation, the mid-70s were the period that really changed PinBall for the worse. 1975 brought the microprocessor, inside Spirit of 76, followed in 1977 with Atarians, the very first ever widebody, followed in 1979, with Gorgar, the first talking pin, and then the downhill slide began to pick up speed. So as fewer games were sold, fewer were also being made, which caused more gadgets and toys to be added.

This was the point, probably in 1974, in my opinion, with so many changes about to unfold, when a marketing blunder was made. Older style EM PinBall was losing its appeal, except for the truest of pinheads. With the evolution of Solid State games coming, with more flash and dash to them, someone who knew marketing should have announced the dawning of the age of ArcadeBall. While retaining the best features of PinBall, they should have blended both Solid State and the emerging Video attraction into a new style amusement game that would have possibly stolen some of the thunder from those blipping arcade boxes. Instead, the decreasing number of PinBall companies continued to try breathing new life into their stale games the wrong way, by adding flash. They probably would have had more success
if they instead had looked to the past and studied what had worked . . . once
upon a time.

Interesting and differing layouts, innovative pin placements, and a variety
of bumper types, styles, and reactions. Creative target groupings, working either with or against kickers, and ball traps; these are what helped Bagatelle become Commercial Coin-Op become EM become SS, which eventually became one lonely company struggling to keep the PinBall dream alive. I really do wish them well, but maybe the answer isn't using rehashed themes, even popular rehashed themes, and tons of ramps and toys. Maybe a marriage, or melding of the older, more open layout, using differing sized bumpers and targets with less than traditional response to the ball, and some unexpected uses for kickers, with the occasional ramp or toy. Just maybe the answer really isn't six or eight ramps and brighter lights and louder music and a dozen flippers, where all players do is repeat the same few shots for another 238,000,000,000,000,000,000, points. When does
it begin to get boring? When do you think it might be nice to try a simpler,
less hectic game that may offer a challenge, rather than something that doesn't do much more than give older pinheads like me a headache a headache?

It's OK to admit that modern PinBall really isn't what Pinball was originally
intended to be. This is not called FlipperBall or RampBall, folks. It's still
called PinBall as a tribute to its roots. So, I'll be happy to admit that the
game that should have been renamed ArcadeBall is still basically a form of PinBall, but only if you'll quit saying that Flipperless isn't even PinBall. And let's be fair about all this; I try out most of the modern VP/VPM games, although I much prefer Bagatelle, Commercial Coin-Op, and EMs. So wouldn't the polite thing be for you to do give just a few of the over 170 Flipperless and Novelty tables and games here at Flipperless.com a try? Come on now, are you afraid you might actually enjoy them? And what would be so horrible with that? Come on now, give it a try, it really won?t hurt a bit, and you might actually be pleasantly surprised.


Updated Jul 05, 2004 Written by tiltjlp


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