Part of me wonders what Ivan Pavlov would have thought if he had lived long enough to see the modern pinball machine. Like so many of his earlier experiments in classical conditioning, I too can’t help feeling my finger twitch towards a quarter every time I hear the bells of a pinball machine. Many people are unaware that in the early 1940’s pinball machines were banned. This is due to the fact that they were used for gambling and were more a game of chance. It wasn’t until 1947 when the first set of flippers were introduced, giving the player an opportunity to use his or her skill and keep the ball in play longer.
So what is it about these electronic boxes on four legs that are addicting enough to spark members of our justice system into prohibition style raids? Everything! These games were designed to keep you wanting more. Everything from the lights, the artwork, the ramps, even the musical little chimes were all orchestrated to keep you coming back. The more you play the more you get to know every shoot and target; every little trick it has waiting for you to discover. Soon you will be addicted to that silver ball flying around like a cat at the mercy of a laser pointer. You’ll want that multi ball like your life depended on it. Instead of scrounging for change to buy your next pack of cigarettes you’ll be using it to light one of these beauties up because you can never play just one game.
Today there are fewer and fewer of these games, but for those who love to play them you can still find some scattered around this great city. Right now the slugger museum has an exhibition called “Pinball to Pixels: Classic Sports Arcade & Video Games”. It will be running through Feb. 28 and the cost is included in your admission to the museum.
My personal favorite spot for the pinball junkie in me is Zanzabar at 2100 S Preston Street. This nocturnal haven is home to an amazing collection of machines. Owners Antz and John keep the rotation interesting with new machines being introduced on the regular. There is nothing like getting to play a new machine and figuring out this electronic puzzle. Pinball is available to play during their regular hours, but I recommend going down on a Tuesday night for their pinball competition around 10 p.m. There you’ll find some terrific pinballers battling it out for the number one spot. All it will cost you to take part in this fierce competition is $5. Regular players are happy to show any newbie some inside secrets, so don’t be scared if you’ve never even pulled a plunger before.
Photos Courtesy of: Zanzabar, PopularMechanics.com, and Louisville Slugger Museum