Why pinball bridges the gap between analog and digital.

Pinball is a strange arcade game. It’s played with physical objects, yet scores everything digitally. And it’s really hard to get good at. The new games criticism site, Bit Creature, published Ryan Winslett’s experience of playing pinball at a tournment.

I stepped up to The Twilight Zone table and felt my fingertips start to sweat. Before attending this APPL [Arizona Pinball Players League] event, I had only been playing pinball on physical tables for a couple of months, and even then only during a few specially planned trips. I had started lurking on pinball forums and browsing random top 10 lists, and many tend to agree that The Twilight Zone is one of the best experiences you can have with a ball and two flippers. I also happen to be a huge fan of the show, so seeing Rob Sterling and all of his wonderfully twisted tales represented on a beautiful playing field set my heart aflutter. This was the one table I desperately wanted to play, and I only had three balls to make my time with the machine count.

I did poorly. Other than my half-decent run on Elvis, that was actually par for the course on the day. I had played a few tables during warm-ups and done alright, but things just weren’t going my way during tournament play.

Keep in mind that I have no business playing in a pinball tournament in the first place. I was there for fun and, despite how many times I groaned as I watched the ball make a beeline for the drain on Monopoly, Dirty Harry and Dracula, I was still having a wonderful time. I was surrounded by like-minded, easy-going people who just wanted to play some pinball.

While physical pinball tables are hard to come by, digital versions let you keep your quarters, though they don’t have quite the same susceptibility to tilts.