Pinball at the Zoo 2017: A Report

Steve Anderson : End Game
Steve Anderson
The Video Store Guy
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Pinball at the Zoo 2017: A Report

It was that special time of year when the annual Pinball at the Zoo event takes place, and once again I was on hand to check out the action. Every year's a little different, and this year was, well, no different. It was indeed different, but it taught many of the same lessons.

Pinball at the Zoo, every year, brings together a host of local pinball machine owners, who put said games on free play to allow visiting players the chance to try out said games. The end result is a room full of pinball machines from pretty much every era of pinball, from the very latest computer-driven machines to the earliest machines with scores that max out in the high four figures.

I personally had the great joy of not only enjoying a Terminator 2: Judgment Day pinball machine, but also getting an eyeful of the newest Alien machine. I, however, missed the appearance of Lethal Weapon 3, a personal favorite that was there last year. Still, when a copy of the Congo game showed up, it was welcome...even at the cost of an appearance of the Twister game. One nineties action movie license for another, I suppose!

Last year was easily one of the best such events, featuring games I hadn't seen in years. This year, however, featured a two-fold problem: more people and fewer games. On the one hand, more people is good news; as more people join in the festivities, the better the chance that the event will keep going. Yet at the same time, with fewer games on hand, more people just reinforces one big problem: long waits and fewer plays of what actually is on hand to begin with.

Yet here, even despite this somewhat lesser show, we have a welcome development: with the appearance of all these pinball machines, we get an intimate look at the nature of gaming. A small microcosm, a look at decades of pinball advancement all in one room, and with it, we get hope for tomorrow. We've seen video games, in just about 30 years, go from pointy-nosed plumbers to open world adventurers, and pinball has had similar advances.

Next year's event, well, that's a different story. Half the appeal of Pinball at the Zoo is that you can never tell what you'll see. But there's one thing you'll always see: a practical retrospective of gaming's history, and a hope for the great future of gaming to come.


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