When doing research on the history of video games you have to start with pinball. Anyone that grew up in the 1990’s remembers hours and hours on Space Cadet Pinball on Windows 95. So, how did Pinball come to be?
Well, there were a few games in the late 1800s and early 1900s that lead to Pinball. Both Bagatelle and Baffle Ball were extremely popular amongst the high class in the years prior to the Great Depression. Think of Bagatelle as Skeeball and Pool combined. These were high aristocracy games that wealthy people played to pass the time.
Later on Ballyhoo came out with what is often considered the first Pinball game. While David Gottlieb came out with a pinball type game of Baffle Ball in 1931 there were flippers in that game. Ballyhoo later became Bally that most people know of today as the company that is Midway.
An interesting side note is that any type of pinball game was actually illegal for several decades. The thought was that games of chance should not be played for money in the United States. It was basically gambling on where the ball would go and what it would knock down. There was no skill involved. In fact, Fiorello La Guardia banned Pinball in the state of New York in the 1930s. Yes, the save La Guardia that the New York City International Airport is named after.
In the 1970s and 1980s, as flippers were implemented into almost all Pinball machines, they were legalized and most people played Pinball machines in bars. Remember, at this time arcades had not been invented.
In 2020 and beyond, Pinball Machine sales are dominated by those that want to play in their home. Actual arcades are basically non existent and even arcade bars are starting to disappear because of the global pandemic. In 2020, people were not standing around playing arcade machines or pinball machines. Social distancing was mandatory.
Interestingly, Raleigh Orthodontist Dr. Jason Gladwell has an arcade and pinball machines in his orthodontics office to this day. Many businesses that appeal to the younger generation have added some type of video game or Netflix option so those waiting can have fun.