I was 14 when my family moved to the Las Vegas area. We’d been traveling through on a regular basis for many years, almost always stopping for a day or two. This was long before the place had grown it’s Disneyesque side. So, a night on this town always meant I was essentially along for the ride.
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Sooner or later, I knew Mom & Dad would head out onto the casino floor. What this meant for me was time in the arcade. Just about every casino had them, and back in the day, that was just about all they had for the under-age crowd. Sometimes I enjoyed this and sometimes I didn’t, but for many years I experienced Vegas largely through the the video games of the day. So, you can imagine my pleasure at discovering the Pin Ball Hall of Fame!
It’s a funny thing how nostalgia seems to carry it’s own kind of contagion. A visit to the past never quite sticks to the themes one starts with. Walking through the aisles of this place makes me think of music heard in decades; people I haven’t seen in ages, and buildings long since torn down or remodeled till they can no longer be recognized. It’s a funny thing to count Vegas as your home, even if it’s one you’ve been away from most of your adult life. But this place takes me back to the early years in Vegas. I couldn’t possibly feel more like I belong in Vegas than I do as I hit the play button on a game of Asteroids. I hadn’t seen that game in I don’t know how long. Yet here it sits, along with countless memories!
But that’s just me. The Pinball Hall of Fame (PBHoF) could probably stir some memories up for most of us old enough to remember these old games.
If you want to see a labor of love just come to 1610 E. Tropicana Avenue. The building houses countless pinball machines and arcade games stretching back for decades. yes, you can play the games. In most cases you can play them for a quarter, and by ‘a quarter’, I actually mean ‘a quarter.’ I most certainly do NOT mean tokens. Some of the more modern games take 50 to 75 cents, but for the most part, a game that would have cost you 25 cents in 1980 will cost you that now at this establishment.
The PBHoF is a non-profit run by Tim Arnold, and that helps the experience a great deal. He always appears hard at work, doing his best to keep the machines up and running, and he seems to do so for the sake of the games themselves. I can only imagine the many ways a business could milk this experience for more cash, and probably ruin the experience in the process. As it is today, you’ll find yourself walking around with a few quarters in your pocket looking for the right game to play the, just as you might have when some of these machines were shiny and new.
My favorite game is still Asteroids, though a few dollars were enough to prove I no longer possess the ability to roll the score over. As I recall, a good player back in the 80s could fill hours of time on a single quarter. My best was a little over one hour. Today, it’s a few minutes.
I also enjoyed trying a number of the old pin ball games, taking in the art-work and the narrative themes used to sell them. Several of these old gems included a information telling us a little about who designed and manufactured it and what made the game distinctive as it came out.
I particularly enjoyed some of the oldest games in the place, the ones that didn’t fit into a common paradigm. Game designers tried many different things over the years, and quite a few of them can be found here. This old baseball game is a great example. It seems simple enough, but it was quite hard to play. What fascinates me about it is the way it sets up the challenge. It’s a unique approach, one that hasn’t found its way into any of the popular game themes of the last few decades.
Of course the site also includes vintage bubble-gum and candy dispensers and an odd leg massage machine that I wouldn’t quite describe as relaxing. (It wasn’t exactly unpleasant, but well, I really can’t describe it.) You can even watch an old flip card movie of a Joe Lewis fight. You could test your romantic side for a quarter or prove your strength for the same. One of the more amusing features of the old games would have to be the extra instructions needed to explain some of the old coin intakes. I suppose they are necessary now, and that too makes me smile.
I couldn’t pretend that I found all the treasures of this place in my two visits. That’s okay though, because I plan to go back.
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