• Justin Kelly

How I developed an addiction to the "Silver Ball"

LIke I said in my last blog post I was always a gamer. I enjoyed playing all types of video games. Whether it was an adventure game like Final Fantasy, a realistic racing simulator like Gran Turismo, or an intense fighting platform like Mortal Kombat, they each had their own unique strategy. You had to practice, learn, and adapt to overcome each level as they got harder in difficulty. Eventually you would find a way to master the game and complete it. You would beat the hardest boss, race the fastest lap time, or complete every quest in the game until you hit 100%. This was always so satisfying and gave a great sense of accomplishment upon completion.

I would go to the arcade and play tons of different arcade games. Each one was so unique and fun. I remember pumping endless amounts of quarters into Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and The Simpsons with my friends. All 4 of us could play at the same time and, if we had enough money, we could generally beat the game. Every now and then I would throw a quarter or two into this game called “pinball.” It was a “world under glass” they said. It was a very physical game where anything could happen and no two machines ever played the same way. Well, it wasn’t very magical for me. I didn’t get it. Hit the ball around, *ding ding ding* get a score, lose ball, and it was over. What a dumb pointless game. Flash forward to 8 years later in my brothers basement…

My brother had moved to Ohio as Chief Meteorologist of their local news station. He bought a house with a HUGE basement (I have always been jealous we don’t have these in California). He made it his man cave. It was fully carpeted and climate controlled. He bought the house with a wet bar, air hockey, and pool table already in place. He then added two arcade machines with him he had purchased back in Sacramento, a Ms. Pac-Man arcade game and a Jurassic Park pinball machine. I went out to visit my brother and was downstairs playing games one night. I was pretty much playing Ms. Pac-Man non-stop trying to beat my brothers High Score. This was going to take awhile since he was really good, lol. My brother came down and fired up the Jurassic Park pinball. He asked me if I wanted to play. I politely said “No, thanks”. He then asked me if I knew how to play? Ummm… Ya? Hit the ball, get a score, who cares?! He simply smiled and said “let me show you”. My world changed that night…

He proceeded to show me all the shots in the game and what each shot accomplished. You had to hit a shot called the “Power Shed” to light the “Control Room” shot. Upon shooting that shot it would start one of 12 missions listed in the middle of the playfield. These missions were anything from “Save Timmy on the Electric Fence” to “Feed T-Rex” where the giant T-Rex head actually comes down and eats the ball! If, and only IF you can finish all 12 missions in a 3 ball game, you get to what they called the “Wizard Mode.” It was called SYSTEM SHUTDOWN and the machine would go crazy. Lights would flash in your face, while coils would fire everywhere and 6 balls were launched at you simultaneously. All of a sudden, pinball…. WAS A GAME! There was goals, strategy, and skill involved. I couldn’t get enough. I played all night to get to the wizard mode. I never did. We left the next day, and it left me wanting more…

I immediately got home, popped open the phone book and started calling amusement places to get my own pinball machine. After a few days I made some connections and someone pointed me to a gentleman who “had” to sell his game ASAP since he had a new one on the way. Ironically enough, it was a Jurassic Park! I called my friend who picked me up in their tiny pick-up truck and we headed over to the sellers house immediately. I handed the guy $1,500 and the machine was mine! I was so excited, yet I also really didn’t know anything about how to transport a pinball machine. We lifted the machine with all 4 legs still on, and the artwork backbox still upright into the back of their truck. (For the record, the correct process is removing the 4 steel legs, and folding the backbox down on top of the game so it looks more like a casket.) I threw one crappy ratchet strap over the top of the game and proceeded to drive home using back roads at 5mph with my emergency blinkers on. Honestly to this day, I have no idea how that game didn’t topple off the side into a ditch.

I enjoyed my Jurassic Park game for many years until I one day I decided to “go fishing” on Craigslist. I listed my game for sale for $2,500 and had a buyer within a few days. He gave me full asking price and as I watched it drive away I instantly became sad. The money didn’t matter, I really enjoyed that game and quickly regretted my decision. I started scouring Craigslist and found one available a few hour drive away. I made a deal with the guy and bought another Jurassic Park for $1,400. Now I had my Jurassic Park back and over $1k in my pocket. This got the wheels turning in my head and I began to search Craigslist constantly for pinball machines. A few weeks later I saw an ad where a little old lady needed to clean out her storage shed. Her husband was an arcade operator and had it filled with stuff including 6 pinball machines. She said there was no power available to test the games but she would make me a good deal, just come out and see them. Without hesitation I rented the biggest U-Haul I could find and hit the road with 2 of my friends. We arrived at the storage unit, she rolled up the door and there they were. 6 beautiful looking games. Back to the Future, Dr. Dude, 2x Simpsons machines, Rocky & Bullwinkle, and Terminator 2. I told her I’d take them all and we made my first bulk machine purchase. $1,500 for ALL OF THEM! I felt like I had hit the jackpot. We immediately carried them over and loaded them into the U-Haul. Again, legs on and backboards still up like an idiot DOH! I had a friend stand in the back of the U-Haul and “hold them” while I drove very slowly home. The fact that he didn’t get mangled by pinball machines flying around a moving truck still blows my mind, lol.

I got them home and immediately started cleaning and fixing up all the games. I sold EACH ONE for $1,500 eventually and my “pinball bankroll” was born. Over the next 10 years I would buy, sell, and trade well over 100+ games and end up holding onto the ones I thought were “keepers”. Currently there is 26 pinball machines at my house including several ultra rare 1 of 1 prototype games. Sometimes I wish I didn’t collect games the size of refrigerators, but then I come to my senses, and look for the next deal....

The Addiction Is Real

Poker & Pinball

© 2019 by the Thirst Lounge.

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